8 Habits of Famous Leaders that You Should Try
Being a leader comes with a huge amount of responsibility and, in order to be successful at managing responsibilities and being an effective leader, one thing they all have in common and attribute their success to is having certain habits and rituals that empower them to get the most out of every day.
Some of these habits can be a bit off-the-wall, like Benjamin Franklin who spent 2 hours every morning in his birthday suit “airing” his body, Bill Gates who sits in a rocking chair when he needs to focus, and Voltaire who drank 50 cups of coffee a day and lived to the ripe old age of 83.
Successful leaders understand that success is a process, not something that happens to you. Success is cultivated by incorporating habits into your daily routine that provide you with a foundation from which you can lead others with purpose and conviction. Here are 8 habits that many famous leaders have in common.
1. Read, read, and read some more
Reading is a habit that is most common in famous leaders. Billionaire investor Warren Buffet spends up to 6 hours a day reading books and newspapers. Not only does reading keep you abreast of the latest news and developments and increase your knowledge, but it also exercises your brain and relaxes you at the same time.
Reading enlightens you, improves your vocabulary, hones your power of reasoning, improves your memory, improves concentration, and because it is exercising the most underutilized muscle in the body, your brain, it makes you smarter. Elon Musk learned to build rockets through reading books. Need help with which books to start with? We’ve listed some of the best ones here.
2. Take care of their health
Famous leaders will always put themselves first. This isn’t because they’re narcissistic ego-maniacs, but because they understand that in order to be able to lead and nurture others, they have to be healthy and strong. This is not just physical health we are talking about but emotional, spiritual, and mental health as well.
Great leaders understand that their overall health and well-being is essential to productivity and success. Developing healthy habits include exercise, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and meditation or me-time. Oprah Winfrey, for example, starts her morning by preparing a packed lunch and meditates between 10- and 30-minutes before she starts her day.
3. Practise gratitude
Exceptional leaders make a point of reminding themselves what they have to be grateful for. Gratitude grounds you. It makes you aware of the present and helps you appreciate the here-and-now rather than living in the past or worrying about the future. Gratitude makes you healthier, happier and improves your energy levels.
This is another one that Oprah advocates, but tech entrepreneur Faisal Hoque goes further. Hoque, once named “One of the Top 100 Thought Leaders”, believes that gratitude is what makes the difference between success and failure. He also believes that it makes it easier to spot opportunities because you are unfettered by worry and keeps you firmly in the present. Writing a daily gratitude list or sending thank you notes to your team are two of the many ways famous leaders practice gratitude.
4. Face your fears
Fear is one of mankind’s natural survival instincts and can be completely debilitating at the same time. All too often we avoid the unknown because, even though there may be a possibility of outstanding success, or learning something new, we are fearful that changing the status quo may not turn out as we expected. We fear failure and losing what we have. It’s much easier to stay in our comfort zone even though we may be bored or unhappy because it’s familiar and thus, safer.
Famous leaders make it a habit to face their fears instead of avoiding them. They understand that risks need to be taken in order for there to be growth and change. They understand that even if they fail, they will have succeeded because they will be able to learn from their failure. Richard Branson is one of the most renowned risk-takers. He took on the soft drink giant Coca-Cola when he launched Virgin Cola. It was a risk that did not end well but Branson says “Although the business ultimately failed, it was a great learning experience.”
Make taking (calculated) risks a habit, make that phone call you’ve been avoiding, or challenge yourself to try doing something you’re afraid of, like skydiving. You’ll find that once you face a fear head-on you are empowered no matter whether it leads to success or not.
5. Plan your day the night before
Another common habit amongst famous leaders is planning for the following day before they go to sleep. If you do not have clarity about what it is you want to achieve every day you are not going to be as successful as you want to be. This isn’t to say that you won’t get things done or be productive but it is likely that you may end up focusing on things that aren’t that important or increasing your stress levels because you aren’t organized. Planning your day the night before will help you sleep better, feel more in control, and be better prepared to carry on your tasks full of confidence.
Whether you write a simple To Do list, block off time in your diary, or decide what you’re going to wear the following day, planning before you go to sleep will improve your productivity tenfold. Geoff Colvin, Senior Editor of Fortune magazine, is a firm believer in To Do lists. He also marks off which are the most important items and tackles them first.
6. Make your morning routine a ritual
This is another habit that successful leaders have in common, a morning routine that becomes a ritual they practice every day no matter whether they’re at home or traveling. The activities that make up each individual’s ritual may differ but the habit of preparing for the day is to what many attribute their success as a leader.
Getting into a good routine in the morning boosts productivity, and consistency creates stability. Barak Obama heads to the gym and has breakfast with his family to start his day. Winston Churchill would read the newspapers, eat breakfast, and dictate correspondence from his bed before getting up each morning. So, even if you’re not a morning person you should still create a series of things you do each morning before you start your working day.
7. Do something for others
There is nothing that makes you feel quite as good as helping others. Famous leaders make a habit out of volunteering. This may sound like an odd habit for a leader to have as they are generally giving to others on a daily basis simply by being a leader but, by making time to volunteer in an environment not directly connected to their day to day business, they give themselves the opportunity to feel gratitude through community. It also reminds them that there is a larger purpose to life than the sphere in which they lead.
One of America’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin helped form the Union Fire Company as a volunteer. In addition to running the country, he found the time to bring together 30 volunteers to form the Union Fire Company in 1736 to help fight the extensive fires in Philadelphia. No matter how busy you are, schedule time to help others.
8. Revisit your goals
Many famous leaders make a habit of revisiting their goals on a daily basis. They write them down and re-write them to make sure they are top-of-mind. This increases the capacity for goals to be achieved because you can never lose sight of what it is you’re aiming for. It also ensures that you stay on the right path for achieving your goals and the opportunity to rethink and adjust your goals if need be.
It is easy to lose sight of your goals, especially as a leader when you get caught up in daily events. When you take time to focus on your goals each day you will be able to lead rather than react which will make you more likely to succeed.
Leaders are driven by a desire to succeed and to lead others to success. They spend a large amount of their time and energy leading others to be more successful in order to accomplish a mission or make a vision a reality. In order to do this, they need to inspire and motivate. This is only possible if they are in the habit of making sure they are clear in their vision and know where they’re headed.
RECAP: 8 Habits of Famous Leaders that You Should Try
- Read, read, and read some more
- Take care of their health
- Practise gratitude
- Face your fears
- Plan your day the night before
- Make your morning routine a ritual
- Do something for others
- Revisit your goals