Leaders need habits not resolutions – here are 5 simple habits to cultivate that will build leadership credibility

What you do is far more important than what you say. If you are a leader then you are being watched and how you behave shapes not only how people respond to you, but also influences the way things are done in your area. If you want change to occur in your organisation, function or department, then I suggest you start the process by looking in the mirror and ask what changes in behaviour do you need to make to show the way?

Leaders need credibility if they are to lead effectively and here are five simple habits that I have noticed successful leaders cultivate to invest in their credibility bank:

Turn up on time, ready to go!This sends a positive message to all and can have a dramatic effect on the underlying productivity of the people around you. I notice that if a leader turns up to a meeting on time, prepared and ready to go then everyone else magically finds the time to be present and correct too. The opposite is also true, if the leader is late and full of apologies then this becomes the norm for all, and productivity, focus and effectivity takes a huge hit.

Do what you say. A leader needs to be true to their word. This is a credibility accelerator and requires the leader to focus on the things that count and talk in terms of achievements rather than tasks. When a leader is totally dependable then it raises the bar for all and change becomes easier to achieve. It breeds better quality conversations and decisions, as everyone knows what they promise to do can be assumed to be done and this dramatically reduces the inevitable uncertainty that surrounds any change process.   

Ask don’t assume – Curiosity is one of the key leadership characteristics to deploy as it has the power to expose underlying assumptions, create new thinking and develop new ideas and actions. Most leaders ask too many questions that simply require recall and comprehension to answer. It is far better to ask questions that require intelligence, insight and wisdom to respond to. For example – ‘Did we hit our target last quarter?’ can be improved to ‘what does last quarters results tell us about our underlying performance?’ A simple rephrase that can lead to a far better quality conversation. 

Practise courtesy – Leaders who are courteous gain credibility fast. The ability to show you care and taking the time to look after the personal needs of others pays huge dividends. The skill here is to be outward focused and recognise the emotional state others are in before you embark on your agenda. There is a big difference between people who are in ‘the right state’ and people who are in ‘a right state’ and leaders need to be conscious of this. These are really simple habits to adopt it is amazing how far actions such as holding open the door for others, smiling and making people feel comfortable and welcome before embarking on the business of the day, can take you.

Provide stretch and opportunity-  One of the key role of all leaders is to stretch and grow the people who work for them. A combination of positive recognition for a job well done and a relentless desire to go for yet more, is what is needed here. Paradoxically leaders need to create a safe working environment, one where it is OK to stretch and fall short and then recognise how far people have moved and at the same time disrupt the status quo. A great leader will comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

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