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3 Key Habits Of Successful Leaders
Discover how to build leadership excellence by adopting 3 key habits of successful leaders, and how to integrate them into your daily routine to achieve success.
The right habits, build solid foundations. And solid foundations, build effective leaders.
Successful leaders and managers owe their success to the decisions they make. They are very selective in what they choose to do, and just as importantly, what they choose not to do. Good leaders use their time wisely to ensure they have enough time to focus on their core habits. In this article, I will walk you through the three habits that make successful leaders: reading, writing, and pondering.
Reading increases awareness.
Our brains are like a large filing cabinet. Whenever we read something, we are condensing information from words and sentences and storing it away. It is important to store information from different subjects and domains to build a broader understanding. Leaders invest a lot of their time reading about a variety of topics. You should too.
Your reading sources could be anything - books (fiction, non-fiction), newspaper columns, blogs, periodicals, etc. The key is to read and to read consistently.
Reading can be difficult if you're not into it. It can be frustrating and may even put you to sleep. However, a simple hack is to treat pages of books like blog posts. Read them as articles. If you're in a flow, move on to the next one. There's no deadline and no rule that you have to read books cover to cover. It's absolutely fine if you can't finish a book; feel free to move on to other books.
You can start with one page a day or one article a day. As you read, try and make notes or highlights the best way you can. Usually, authors try to emphasize a single point over and over again. If you have understood what the author is trying to say, move on.
Just like you get stronger with consistent exercise, the more you read, the better you get at it.
Reading provides the foundation for understanding. When we read, we open ourselves up to the author's perspective. We may disagree or agree, but this exercise helps us learn something valuable. There are good books and bad books. If a book doesn't resonate with you, don't waste your time; move on to something else. It's also worth re-reading good books. Naval Ravikant (entrepreneur and investor) talks about his reading habit on Joe Rogan’s podcast (a must watch):
I read to satisfy my genuine intellectual curiosity and it can be anything. It could be nonsense, it could be history, could be fiction, it could be science it could be sci-fi. …..I'm looking for ideas, things that I don't understand and when I find something really interesting I'll reflect on it, I'll research it and then when I'm bored of it I'll drop it or I'll flip to another book.
When asked, I advise my friends and teams that it's perfectly acceptable to collect books. You don't need to wait to purchase them; if you think you'll read it, buy it or borrow it from the library. Keep it nearby; you may pick it up and read it, and in doing so, you will have learned something. One of my mentors pointed me to this tweet:
If you don’t read daily, start today. Start with one page.
Writing brings clarity.
We are constantly amassing data when we read, when we interact with others, from our experiences, from what we learn, etc. While reading adds more files to our brain’s filing cabinet, think of writing as someone who will organize it.
Writing helps us organize our thoughts and bring order to our lives. Leaders, in particular, benefit from being organized internally so they can bring order to the external world. Writing can take many forms, but many find the most effective way to write is as if no one is watching—in a journal.
Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way, discusses the power of Morning Pages—writing every day about whatever comes to mind with no filter. The goal is not to read what you write later, but simply to write.
Writing every day, especially first thing in the morning, helps provide the necessary clarity of thought for the rest of the day. The seminal book on Stoic philosophy, Meditations, is actually a private journal of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor, where he would make notes of his thoughts every day.
There are many other forms of writing, such as newsletters, blogs, essays, articles, book summaries, short stories, poems, work journal, answering questions on platforms like Quora and more. The aim is to write.
You can start with one sentence. When you put the full stop at the end of the sentence, ask yourself whether you have another sentence within you to get to the next full stop. And keep going.
Doodling is also a form of writing. Keep a blank sheet of paper next to you everyday. Throughout the day your mind will be racing with different thoughts. Anytime you feel that a thought is interrupting your current flow, write down a word or sentence describing that thought on the paper next to you. Write in bullet points if that works for you.
Some like making lists. My father was a big fan of lists. His diaries and notebooks were filled with lists around different topics he wanted to build clarity on. It was his way to simplify his thoughts.
Don’t get blocked on deciding where to write. Use what works for you. A physical notebook, a piece of paper, a diary, a Google Document, Notion, Word Document, etc. Pick one and write.
Writing is a form of a weed remover for your mind. It will allow you to retain what is most important and also bring in more clarity.
If you don’t write daily, start today. Start with one sentence.
Pondering develops wisdom.
With reading you are adding files to your brain’s filing cabinet and with writing you are organizing it. Now it is time to derive insights from it, by pondering/reflecting.
Pondering is a state of stillness. It allows your mind to process the information you have gathered and organized. You are now making connections between the pieces. Your brain's filing cabinet is forming relationships between its contents. This is the stage where you gain wisdom.
Pondering, or the act of sitting and doing nothing (some may even call it daydreaming), gives your brain the much-needed time to develop thoughts and let them graduate to your mind. You form perceptions, draw conclusions, generate ideas, create visions, and start planting the seeds of action. You start building your own mental models. These models will surface as needed when you need to apply them in different situations. You will develop intuitions.
Pondering allows you to realize how much more there is to know. It helps you develop curiosity. Don’t be a miser when it comes to the time you dedicate to pondering. Allow your mind to be in this important filtering phase, it will pay dividends. Life is not all about hustling.
Set aside time to do nothing, so that your mind can do its work.
The 3 habits of reading, writing and pondering is a system. This system is used by successful leaders and managers to lead and manage with confidence and clarity. Now it is your turn!.
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