Few world leaders or Fortune 500 CEOs knew from the beginning that they were going to be successful. Instead, they learned their craft and surrounded themselves with key advisors and role models and set actionable goals. Some attended world-renowned universities and others taught themselves at home or in their garage.
No matter how you started your career, these four habits of successful leaders will help you improve your life at work, no matter if you're looking to improve how you run your team as a manager or how to become a strong member of your team as an entry-level employee.
1. Take an interest in people
Great leaders don’t like to hear themselves talk. They know that you can learn the most by listening to people, including asking their peers or teams for feedback and encouraging them to ask questions.
And when you're listening to someone, make eye contact, it’s a powerful and yet overlooked way to connect. With all of the distractions today, the extra effort to show that you’re actively listening to someone and connecting with what they’re saying goes a long way. Try this in your next meeting you'll find that you internalize more with this small adjustment.
2. Continue learning
Warren Buffett read between 600 and 1000 pages per day when he was beginning his investing career. Books are a great way to expand your vocabulary and knowledge and you can choose topics that interest you. Craft your “education” to fit the career you want. Interested in moving into a management role? Pick up the latest title on developing good leadership skills. Want to become the best financial analyst on your floor? Read up on future financial trends and how to prepare for them. Challenge yourself by trying a new genre or joining a book club, and you'll be surprised with what you can learn.
3. Show up
We live in the age of distractions, multitasking and missed connections. Successful mentors make an effort to keep in touch, especially if they haven’t heard from a mentee or someone they care about in a while. An email with a link to an article of interest and a line asking how they’re doing is a thoughtful and easy way to reach out. If you prefer to meet in person, send an email or text proposing a quick coffee. Relationships are built on trust, which takes time so make time for other people and you’ll find it pays off in the long run.
4. Ask questions
Steven Spielberg said, “the delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” The best way to help mentees can be to ask questions, rather than answer them. Help them work their way through a problem or issue, asking “why” and “what if you look at it this way.” Use your experience to guide them to the choice that’s best for them.
If you're not managing others, you can still apply this to your work life. Ask questions when you don’t understand something or need to clarify instructions. Also, feel empowered to innovate and question processes that might be inefficient. Questions show that you’re actively listening and are not afraid to ask for help, all skills that future leaders should develop early in their careers.
You don’t need to learn all of these habits in a day but they can act as a guide to slowly adjusting how you interact with your colleagues at work and how you spend your free time. You can also apply them to your personal life, helping you strengthen friendships, maximize your free time, and create a fuller life.
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