Highly Effective Habits of Great Leaders

I’ll be the first to tell you that leading others is no easy task. It requires a unique set of skills, characteristics, and habits that separate great leaders from the rest. Visionary thinking, empathy and compassion, resilience in the face of adversity, and effective communication—these are a few of the skills that form the foundation upon which good leadership is built.

Join me as I take a look at some of the leadership habits that have propelled great leaders to achieve extraordinary results and leave a lasting impact on their team members, future generations, and the world.

Visionary Thinking

Teddy Roosevelt said, “Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.”

As an effective leader, it is imperative to think big, dream big, and keep your sights set high. However, I can show you a dozen examples of big thinkers who sit around accomplishing nothing but their big thoughts.

When you keep your eyes on the stars and aim for ambitious goals, you have to remain grounded and focused on the practical steps needed to turn those visions into reality. Life is about balance, and so is great leadership.

I always ask people to think about what they could do in the next ten minutes that would help them accomplish their goals for the next ten years. Each action, no matter how small, sets the tone for how the future will unfold. Your long-term success is a direct result of your short-term actions and habits.

So, while you dream of all the lofty things you want to achieve, successful leaders focus and act on each step along the way to their ultimate goal.

Empathy and Compassion

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

You’ve probably learned by now that I am a big fan of servant leadership. That’s because I’ve seen its power in practice.

Gandhi believed that by empathizing with others and serving their needs, leaders can not only connect with folks on a deeper level but also inspire positive change and unity within their communities, and I agree.

I have seen leaders who stand at the front of the room shouting at people about what needs to be done, this and that. Folks scurry around, all stressed out like lunatics, just trying to check off the next task. People are so focused on building up their leaders that they have no time to build up themselves.

This total lack of compassion and empathy leads to employees who feel frustration, resentment, and, ultimately, burnout.

Servant leaders, however, display their emotional intelligence by working alongside their team, supporting their needs, and filling in where possible. They are the bolster to the cause and a lighthouse to guide the focus home. Employees of servant leaders feel seen, appreciated, and like they are contributing to a common goal.

Good leaders don’t need to know how to do it all, but they do need to know how to get it all done.

Resilience in the Face of Adversity

My personal hero, Winston Churchill, famously stated, “Never give in—never, never, never, never, except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

As a great man who shaped the face of the world today (for the better), he believed in the power of resilience in the face of adversity, and perseverance and tenacity in overcoming obstacles to achieve one’s objectives.

It’s not easy, I’ll tell you that much. When you are staring up at a brick wall in front of you that doesn’t want to move, you’ve got to find some way to keep pushing, keep going, and never give in. Sometimes this requires a little creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. If a door closes, find a window.

Effective Communication

It may sound obvious to say that effective communication in great leadership goes without saying, but the truth is it does.

American author, historian, and presidential speechwriter James Humes was known for his work with five U.S. Presidents, including Ronald Reagan. A brilliant, witty, and eloquent guy, he played a significant role in drafting some of the most memorable speeches that have shaped the course of American history.

One of his most famous quotes reads: “The art of communication is the language of leadership.”

Great leaders understand that clear, persuasive communication is essential for inspiring and mobilizing others toward a common vision. By mastering the art of communication, leaders can articulate their ideas with clarity, influence others with conviction, and foster trust and collaboration within their teams.

Effective communication also enables leaders to navigate complex challenges, build consensus, and resolve conflicts diplomatically. It is the means through which they can convey their vision compellingly, instill confidence in their followers, and rally support for ambitious goals.

By fostering open dialogue, actively listening to diverse perspectives, and adapting their communication style to different audiences, leaders can cultivate an environment of transparency, engagement, and mutual respect.

James Humes’ quote serves as a timeless reminder that communication is not just a skill; it is the cornerstone of effective leadership.

Lasting Change

The habits and skills of highly effective leaders are not necessarily traits they are born with, but deliberate, learned practices that shape how they impact the world around them.

By embracing visionary thinking, empathizing with others, displaying resilience in the face of adversity, and mastering the art of effective communication, leaders can inspire and empower everyone in their midst.

These exceptional leadership skills allow leaders to not only navigate challenges and drive performance but also create a positive and inclusive work environment where individuals can thrive and contribute their best efforts.

As we strive to become better leaders ourselves, let us adopt these habits and make a lasting difference in the lives of those we lead.

I’ll see you at the top!

P.S. Check out my free program, Mission Leadership, for tips, tricks, and exercises to help you build the good habits of great leaders.


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“The scarcest resource in the world is not oil, it’s leadership.”

As Co-CEO of the largest independent financal services company in North America, John Addison’s skill as a leader was tested and honed daily. He retired in 2015 after taking the company and it’s people to massive heights. He’s just not done helping people get to the top. Today, he’s at the helm of Addison Leadership Group, INC working daily to mentor and educate new leaders.