There is no single trait responsible for an exceptional leader’s success. Generally, it’s a combination of talent, intelligence, creativity and integrity. Though it’s difficult to mirror anyone’s innate characteristics, there are a few simple habits that will align your daily routine with that of a successful leader.
Of course, we’re not suggesting you start micro-sleeping and running back-to-back marathons every day. There are many incremental changes that can promote your leadership skills however, and help you follow in the footsteps of those you admire.
It’s no secret that getting up early in the morning is a productive habit, but the key is spending this time wisely. CEOs are notorious early-risers, but people tend to pay less attention to what they actually accomplish at the crack of dawn.
For example, Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) wakes up at 4am every day. If you’re the kind of person who struggles to get into bed before 4am, you might want to scroll straight down to the next section- ‘sleep’.
The first hour of Tim’s day is spent religiously combing through user comments about Apple. This is swiftly followed by a strict morning exercise routine. Interestingly, global leaders such as Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson are all morning exercise evangelists.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have Jeff Bezos, Founder & CEO of Amazon. Rather than waking pre-sunrise to fit in an hour of intense exercise (like his successful counterparts), Jeff touts the benefits of waking naturally every morning. He eschews the alarm clock, and begins his day sipping coffee while reading the newspaper- he also enjoys spending time with his children before school. Jeff believes this is what sets him up for a good day’s work- good rest, quality sleep and plenty of family time.
For the majority of night-owls, waking naturally is likely to appear the more attractive option. In truth, everyone is different, and it’s important to discover which routine works best for your lifestyle.
When it comes to emulating successful leaders, sleep is paramount. If you are attempting to follow the morning routine of Tim Cook or Richard Branson, you need to be nodding off between 8-9pm to ensure you’re getting your recommended 7-9 hours. It is crucial that your sleep patterns stay regular, and remain uninterrupted sleep-inhibitors such as alcohol or sugary foods.
If the thought of missing out on your favourite binge-worthy TV drama breaks you out in a cold sweat, you may want to take a more lenient approach, like Jeff Bezos. You should focus your efforts on quality, and aim to pass through all the sedative sleep cycles. In order to drift off into REM sleep and the ‘deep zones’ of slumber, it’s important to set an identical bedtime routine each evening. Take a bath, avoid artificial light and remove yourself from work and stressful conversations. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool and create an environment restricted from external stimuli.
Diets come in many complex varieties. From Caveman, Carnivore, and Atkins to Keto, Vegetarian, Vegan, Five-two, and Whole-thirty- there are too many to list. Each come with a plethora of advantages and benefits, but it depends what you prioritise. The self-discipline required to maintain a restricted diet, or the specific outcome on your personal health?
Steve Jobs was arguably one of the greatest visionaries of our time. He founded Apple, then was axed by the board. Jobs returned to Apple, and soon elevated them into one of the most valuable brands worldwide- with a trillion dollar price tag. Whatever he eats, we eat… right?
Interestingly, Steve Jobs was known for experimenting with his food. He swung from extremely restrictive diets, to euphoric fasting. Jobs would eat only apples and carrots for weeks on end, and undertake prolonged periods of fruitarianism. As unappealing this might seem, if we wish to emulate Jobs, we best get on with it.
But is it safe? Although both diets contain some very healthy foods, Elisa Zied (author of “Nutrition at Your Fingertips”) suggests that when abiding by such restricted eating habits, you are missing out on the essential amino acids which are vital in supporting growth and maintenance of your bodily tissues. If there’s one thing we do know we should avoid, it’s processed foods and sugar- so maybe begin eliminating these groups before you start attacking your shrubs with a knife and fork.
Don’t worry! I’m not about to start rambling on about how you need to find your inner-self, or delve deep into your psyche. Meditation is about switching off, and finding the time to relax without distraction. Practicing mindfulness reduces stress, increases focus and improves work related performance. Meditation is an art that has been practised for thousands of years through various religions by gnostics. Of course, mindfulness has hit the mainstream in the past 50 years, but how do we leverage it to improve our attitude to success?
Oprah Winfrey cites meditation as the secret to building her billion-dollar empire. She claims that mindfulness allows her to appeal to a higher being and explains that it guides her as she moves within a chaotic world.
Jeff Weiner, Yahoo Executive turned Linkedin CEO swears by daily meditation. Unlike Oprah however, he uses it simply “just to think.” He claims that this helps expand his emotional intellect and improve his productivity. It seems like there are a multitude of benefits when practising the art meditating, with most people tending to get out of it what they first sort to resolve.
If you quiver at the thought of silence then headspace for beginners is a good place to start your tranquil journey.
Work hard, play hard
Wundamail’s Victoria is a firm fan of the “work hard, play hard” strategy (as evidenced upon completion of her GCSEs), and she’s certainly not alone. This philosophy is epitomised by myriad leaders and great thinkers across the globe.
And no, this isn’t permission for you to go and party through every weekend, it’s all about finding a balance- it’s mindset just as much as it is activity. For some, playing hard could be drinking overly priced champagne in a nightclub. For others, it could diving out of a plane over the United Arab Emirates’ skyline or extreme off-piste skiing across the swiss alps.
In order to reward yourself, it is vitally important that you are able to recognise which of your achievements deserve compensating. Set goals. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Having a goal promotes progress, it gives you something to strive for and work towards everyday. Kaizen, which translates to ‘Continuous improvement’ in layman, Is a business philosophy that is replicated in business strategy across the globe’s most dominant enterprises. By operating this philosophy in your life and adding checkpoints where you can collect your remuneration, you will provide guidance and structure to your self-reward programme.
So you’ve hit 85% of your goals this quarter, you’re ready to reward yourself but you don’t know how? Well Richard Branson indulges in many extreme sports such as kite surfing and has a habit of setting world records, FOR FUN. Oprah Winfrey is known to jet off to the canadian mountains for weekend trips of skiing or touring through the African safari to live amongst the wildlife. Even Elon Musk finds time to pursue his extracurricular pleasures. After purchasing the Lotus Esprit submarine car from “James Bond: The Spy Who Loved Me” he was underwhelmed to discover it doesn’t transform into an underwater vessel. So of course, he spends his time and money on rectifying his misconception by replicating the extraordinary.
So there you have it, 5 great habits for you to implement in your quest to become a successful leader... Good luck.