Ten Surprising Habits That Make Successful Leaders Different

Closing the Open Door Policy: Successful leaders understand that open door policies, though well-intentioned, can inadvertently hinder productivity and strategic thinking. Research indicates that half of all employees refrain from approaching open doors due to fear of repercussions. Instead, leaders are now closing their office doors and embracing proactive communication through recurring one-on-one meetings and scheduled “office hours.”

No Smartphones in Meetings: Research from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business reveals that using smartphones during meetings is perceived as rude and unprofessional by colleagues. Furthermore, handwriting notes has been proven to enhance comprehension and memory. To maintain focus, leaders are leaving their smartphones at their desks and returning to traditional pen-and-paper note-taking during meetings.

Replacing Rules with Standards: Successful leaders understand that rigid rules stifle decision-making and individual choices. Instead, they opt for standards and guardrails firmly rooted in company values, fostering conversations around these standards throughout the employee life cycle. This approach aligns more with Netflix’s culture of freedom with accountability.

Being Likable vs. Needing to Be Liked: While it’s natural to want to be liked, the need for universal approval can lead to withholding constructive feedback and indecisiveness. Leaders aim to be likable but prioritize their role as coaches, decision-makers, and protectors of their teams, realizing that being liked by family and close friends is sufficient.

Leading with Love: Leaders are encouraged to genuinely care for their team members, fostering warmth and connection without expecting passionate love. This approach not only enhances employee engagement but also drives positive business outcomes.

Meticulous Calendar Management: Great leaders appreciate the value of every minute and prioritize their tasks by scheduling them. They focus on their most important task early in the morning, pre-schedule leadership activities, and even allocate time for downtime and reflection.

Playing Favorites Intelligently: Rather than treating all team members the same, leaders individualize their approach by considering factors such as talent, experience, attitudes, strengths, and goals. They play favorites based on merit, not personal preference.

Embracing Radical Transparency: Modern organizations understand that knowledge sharing trumps hoarding information. Leaders strive for radical transparency, sharing all necessary financial information and insights to empower informed decision-making.

Revealing Vulnerability: Authenticity and vulnerability are celebrated by contemporary leaders. They share past failures as learning experiences and communicate both good and bad news. This openness fosters trust, which, as Stephen M.R. Covey highlights, is a transformative force.

Leadership as Unavoidable Influence: Great leaders recognize that leadership is synonymous with influence, a constant force that shapes outcomes. They are mindful of their influence in all aspects of life, embracing the responsibility to lead with intention.

Whether you find yourself as a front-line supervisor, middle manager, or senior executive, these ten principles can guide you towards becoming the sought-after leader who balances effectiveness with approachability, all while avoiding unnecessary stress and excessive office hours.

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