Develop the Leader Habit

Master the Skills to Lead

We generally don’t think of leadership as a habit, but it’s time that we do.  How we get things done at work, and how we manage people, is the result of habits – and those habits can be purposefully changed.

Martin Lanik is an organizational psychologist and the CEO of Pinsight®, a global leadership software-as-service company known for its disruptive HR technology.  His new book, THE LEADER HABIT:  Master the Skills You Need to Lead in Just Minutes a Day, shares the science behind how people develop habits and shows you how to develop key leadership skills through simple, daily exercises.

 

“Any leadership skill starts as a weakness.” -Martin Lanik

 

Why Most Leadership Programs Fail

Why do most leadership development programs fail?

There are two main reasons why most leadership development programs fail. First, they rely mainly on classroom training and workshops that focus on acquisition of knowledge. Not only do we forget 85% of what we learn within one week, but knowledge also doesn’t equal skill. Knowledge doesn’t make us better at actually doing things.  One of the examples I use in THE LEADER HABIT comes from music education: You can take classes on proper piano-playing techniques and watch YouTube videos, but that won’t make you a concert pianist. You must actually touch the keyboard and practice every day. But even more importantly, traditional leadership development fails to take into account the overwhelming influence that habits have on our daily behavior. It assumes that we rationally decide how we behave at work and in life. But research suggests that almost half of our everyday behavior is actually unconscious and automatic. No amount of classroom instruction alone can build effective leadership habits.

 

“What cannot habit accomplish?” -Herman Melville

 

Tell us more about the latest science on learning and the development of the Leader Habit Formula.

Leadership, at its core, is a set of habits. How we interact with coworkers, customers, how we answer the phone, make decisions, plan and delegate work, or empower our employees are all to some degree influenced by habits. Positive habits make us better leaders, while negative habits hinder our performance.  In the research we did for THE LEADER HABIT and for our online leadership training platform, we identified the 22 core leadership skills and the underlying micro-behaviors that effective leaders possess. By associating each micro-behavior with a natural cue and then deliberately practicing this pairing every day for 66 days, anyone can turn these effective leadership behaviors into habits. Once the new habits take root, people perform these effective leadership behaviors automatically, without having to rely on reminders, or even thinking about them. They just happen as seamlessly as making your bed in the morning.

 

“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” -Vince Lombardi

 

What are some ways to incorporate this science into today’s training programs?

Training professionals should think about what happens after the class or workshop. What will happen with the concepts? How can you help learners turn these concepts into habits, so that they stick? The Leader Habit Formula tells us to distill the main concepts into specific actions or thoughts, associate them with a cue, and then ask learners to practice the pairing once per day for 66 days. For example, if you are teaching leaders how to delegate better, distill the knowledge about effective delegation into one actionable behavior. For example, we found that effective leaders tell employees what to do but not how to do it when they delegate projects and tasks (otherwise it’s micromanagement). Then associate the action with a specific cue, such as when the learner decides to delegate a project or task. And there you have a Leader Habit exercise that anyone can practice: After deciding to delegate a project or task, describe what needs to be accomplished but let the employee figure out how to do it. If the learners practice this exercise for 66 days, they form a new habit and become better at delegating. It’s that simple.

 

“Habit is stronger than reason.” -George Santayana

 

22 Core Skills of Successful Leaders

Leaders: Choose Your Season

Time to Pause

This morning I went for a walk in the woods behind my house. It’s that time of year when winter’s line is blurring into spring, and spring is beginning to win. The trees remain leafless, and yet, if you look closely enough, you can see the tiniest hints of green scattered here and there. Days are beginning to shift and I feel the restlessness of nature. A slight wind is at first cold and biting before it shifts to a warm, teasing breeze. Walking to the back of the house, I glance up and watch quietly as a small bird ducks under the deck, carrying twigs to make a nest. Spring, undoubtedly, is on the way.

The changing of the seasons. I’m not sure why, but it makes me stop and think more. It’s time for a pause, a look back and a look ahead.  Spring is an exciting time, filled with new possibilities.  To fully take advantage of its hope, we need to discard what we are carrying to free us to take on new opportunities.

 

“You cannot change the seasons, but you can change yourself.” –Jim Rohn

 

Behind us, let’s leave:

  • The ideas of yesterday that didn’t work.
  • The insults and criticisms that others launched, still clawing at us.
  • The clutter of our lives. Yes, spring cleaning allows us to remove the physical clutter. But don’t stop there. It’s the spring cleaning of our thoughts that will yield a great future.
  • The missed goals of what we didn’t do. Holding onto them will only weigh us down.
  • The negative people who don’t believe in us and don’t join our vision.
  • The regrets of yesterday that we continue to allow to rule over today.

 

“Each of us is imbued with the power to choose to the season of our mind.” -Skip Prichard

Leadership Tip: Leave behind the negative people who don’t join your vision.

 

Ahead of us, let’s grab onto:

  • The dream that we shoved into the drawer, but hold onto.
  • The new idea that may prove to be the catalyst of our future.
  • The untried, the experiment, the positive.
  • The new friends who inspire us and push us out of our comfort zone.
  • The wisdom of the past that whispers its undeniable truth.
  • The happiness that trembles just beneath the surface, wanting to inspire.

“Leadership is a choice, not a position.” -Stephen Covey

Leadership Tip: Embrace friends who inspire and push you out of your comfort zone.

 

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