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20 Habits of Highly Successful and Effective Leaders

According to habit-forming studies, about 40 percent of our daily activities are performed in almost the same way. Habit allows us to perform a task automatically, which lessens our cognitive load. That's why if you want to make good decisions, especially if your choices affect employees and teams, it's important to create healthy habits.

Creating Healthy Habits

So, what are some remote leadership habits that you can implement in your daily routine? We've curated a list of 20 habits of highly successful and effective leaders—everything from starting your day to building better relationships at work, to creative journaling, to ending your day in the best way.

Wake up at 5 a.m. 🌅 Robin Sharma

Ugh. Wake up at 5 a.m.? Is that even possible? In your search for habits of highly effective leaders, you may have come across the advice of waking up extra early. Robin Sharma, author and leadership expert, popularized this tried and true habit through his book, 'The 5 AM Club'. Once you wake up at 5 a.m., your goal is to dedicate the first hour to exercise, plan, study, or learn a new skill. The goal is to invest time in your well-being and self-improvement before the chaos of the day starts. Other famous people known to be early risers are Tim Cook, Michelle Obama, and Jack Dorsey.

Listen to podcasts or audiobooks 🎧 Laura Roeder

Don't have the time in the morning to learn a new skill? A good alternative is listening to a podcast or an audiobook. Laura Roeder, Edgar founder, and mom entrepreneur kickstarts her day by listening to podcasts while preparing her breakfast or when she's doing the dishes. It's the perfect way to consume content while doing something mundane, such as waiting in line or doing the laundry.

While it might seem like a passive activity for your brain, a 2016 study from UC Berkeley reported that listening to narrative stories like podcasts can stimulate multiple parts of your brain. Listening to podcasts is a perfect learning method, especially for auditory learners. Just make sure to take action on new information after listening, to reinforce what you've soaked in. For example, did you learn a new way to post content on social media? Try it out the next time you schedule your post.

Start the day with meditation 🧘‍♂️ Euan Cameron

Starting your day with meditation is another highly recommended early-morning habit. Euan Cameron, Willo Co-founder, always starts his day with a quick meditation using Headspace. Headspace is an app that teaches mindfulness meditation through short bursts—even as short as three minutes—of quiet time with yourself. You don't necessarily need to meditate in the morning. You can even do it while waiting in line in the supermarket or when you're stuck in traffic. Mindfulness meditation helps lower stress, improve sleep, and can even help reduce chronic pain.

Shower with cold water 🚿 Tony Robbins

You're up, and you've done your meditation. Now, you're ready to take a cold shower. Why a cold shower? Tony Robbins, author, and personal development coach, swears by the power of cold showers. According to Tony Robbins, "Cold showers help your nervous system manage stress better and help you build your willpower."

Managing stress and building willpower are two critical skills that every successful leader needs to master. Taking a cold shower as a successful habit of great leaders is not just a weird Tony Robbins thing. Many studies have been published exploring its effect, and according to a peer-reviewed PLoS One study, people who take cold showers are 29% less likely to call in sick. If you're interested in learning more about the benefits of cold showers or how to implement them into your day-to-day, you'll want to check out what Wim Hof, aka, The Iceman has to say about them.

Write a five-minute journal ✍️ Melanie Perkins

If you'd like to take a less radical approach to kickstart your morning, a five-minute journaling exercise might just be your thing. Melanie Perkins, the Australian Canva Co-founder, starts her day with five minutes of journaling. In an article with Balance the Grind, she shared, “It’s a lovely way to start the day and helps to ensure I’m proactively shaping my day ahead." A five-minute journal exercise helps you focus on what you're grateful for, while at the same time, shaping your day for success. Some books and apps can guide you with gratitude exercises and affirmations, but essentially, a morning journaling exercise usually asks two main questions: What are you grateful for, and how can you make today great?

Write a gratitude list 🙏 Hillel Fuld

If a five-minute journal practice sounds restrictive, you can adopt Israel's rockstar tech blogger and startup advisor, Hillel Fuld's, daily gratitude list. Fuld lists ten things he is grateful for, a practice he started at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. He even goes a step further and publishes his gratitude list on his Facebook profile and encourages his followers to share one thing for which they are grateful.

Exercise for at least 30 minutes 🏃‍♀️ Molly Mahoney

Meditation and journaling are great ways to keep the mind in shape, but to live a balanced life as a highly successful leader, you also need to nurture your body. Molly Mahoney, a career coach and digital growth strategist, commits to at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Whether it's dancing in the studio or just going for a walk in her home, it's a daily habit that she sticks to. Even though exercise is a physical activity, plenty of research proves people who work out regularly have better mental well-being. If you can't commit to a 30-minute exercise, try to do it for 10 minutes. Remember, consistency is key when it comes to building the successful habits of great leaders.

Carve space for self-care 💆‍♀️ Laurel Farrer

You've got the meditation and exercise down. What are other habits of successful leaders who work remotely? The habit of self-care is one that you should carve space out for in your weekly schedule. Laurel Farrer, CEO and Founder of Distribute Consulting, swears by the benefits of self-care. Her self-care routine involves eating a healthy breakfast and going outside for some fresh air. Self-care doesn't need to be an elaborate weekend spa; it can be as simple as sitting alone for 30 minutes and drinking your favorite coffee. What does self-care look like to you? Try a bunch of things, and schedule them in advance of everything else, to make sure they make it into your day.

Provide a personalized well-being program for employees 😊Jamie North

And of course, for highly successful remote leaders, self-care should not only be encouraged; it should be planned out carefully. Companies throw in a monthly gym pass most of the time, but not everyone wants to go to the gym. Jamie North, Few Co-founder, is a big believer that well-being programs need to be personalized. He suggests that employers can top up an employee's wellness budget and choose from the service that suits them best. For example, instead of a gym membership, employees can spend their wellness budget on a Headspace subscription.

Ask people what they need help with 🙋‍♀️ Aaron Krall

What is another powerful habit of highly effective leaders? Every entrepreneur and leader needs to get into a habit of asking people this question: What’s the biggest thing you need the most help with right now? Aaron Krall, a SaaS conversion strategist and Founder of SaaS Visionaries, believes that this should be a staple habit of successful great leaders. This is a powerful open-ended question that can help leaders understand their employees’ and customers' needs on a deeper level.

Be the last to speak 🗣️ Simon Sinek

What are other habits of commitments in your life that help you grow personally and professionally as a leader? Simon Sinek has the best answer. The author, known for his book 'Start With Why' advises leaders to "Be the last to speak." The skill requires you to hold your opinions to yourself until everyone else in the room has already spoken. Doing this makes sure that people feel heard before you speak your opinion.

Set up virtual coffee time ☕ Lavinia Iosub

Keeping remote teams connected and engaged can be a huge challenge. That's why it's essential to set up activities that bring people together outside of Zoom meetings. Lavinia Iosub, Future of Work Advocate and Founder of Remote Skills Academy, sets up regular coffee meetings with her team every other week. They use an app called Donut, which randomly pairs two people together for a virtual coffee. The one rule is that the coffee call shouldn't be centered around work.

Schedule regular check-ins with your employees ✔️ Marleen Reininger

So far, we've covered 12 habits of successful young leaders. Now, we dive deeper into habits that answer the question: What is highly effective leadership? For starters, it's making sure to have the time to check in with your employees. Marleen Reininger, Senior Business Manager at Microsoft UK, ensures to leave space for check-ins on her calendar. She shared in our Accomplished Peeps interview:

"I also believe in the power of checking in with people on a regular basis, whether that means a virtual get together, more regular 1:1, unscheduled calls with colleagues you have not spoken to for a while of making time for walking meetings, or fun team get-togethers, like a virtual quiz."

Arranging 1:1 meetings with your direct reports, whether they be via video or conducted asynchronously, is a must. You can save time (without sacrificing a personalized meeting agenda) by using 1:1 meeting templates that you can easily edit for each employee.

Help your team make their dreams come true 🌟 Marie Forleo

Turning a vision into a reality is one of the habits of highly effective leaders. Marie Forleo, the author of 'Everything is Figureoutable', does a simple yet powerful mental exercise with her team. She asks the question: Wouldn't it be great if...? She regularly holds this fun and creative brainstorming session with her team, which has resulted in many breakthroughs, including traveling around the world to film their client, a campaign called the Live Your Dream Campaign. There's no limit as to which questions you could ask, but here are some examples:

  • Wouldn't it be great if we only work 6 hours per day?
  • Wouldn't it be great if we eliminate most of our Zoom meetings?
  • Wouldn't it be great if we don't have to work on a Friday?

The more questions you ask, the more you can have some mind-blowing realizations that you can then put into action.

Create a daily writing practice 📓 Ann Handley

Carve space and time each day to write content that matters. Writers are not born. They are made. Ann Handley, author of 'Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content', recommends spending 15 minutes each day creating "micro-content" such as a TikTok video, YouTube Shorts, or a short social media post. Once you get into the habit of content creation, you'll infinitely improve your writing, which is a handy skill that every successful leader must possess.

Post consistently on LinkedIn 📝 Mike Weiss

Another micro-content that you can create consistently is LinkedIn posts, especially if you only have 15 minutes. Mike Weiss, Founder of Client Engagement Academy, recommends posting on LinkedIn 3-4 times a week where you share nuggets of wisdom. These posts not only improves your online clout, but it is also a solid lead generation strategy. Content on LinkedIn can create tons of opportunities for you and your business.

Commit to one thing (such as video creation) each day 🎥 Goldie Chan

Goldie Chan's content is one of the best examples of how LinkedIn content can become a huge long-term success. If you've been browsing LinkedIn, you'll most likely have seen a video from this green-haired content creator. She started by committing to creating one video about personal branding and marketing and posting it on LinkedIn. She now has more than 800 videos and is considered as one of LinkedIn's Top Voices. Which type of content are you committing to for the long haul? It doesn't need to be a video; it just needs to be genuinely you.

Schedule writing by energy ⚡ Neil Patel

So, when do you schedule your writing time? Neil Patel, digital marketer and Co-founder of Crazy Egg, recommends, "Instead of writing at a particular time, it’s better to write during your “peak performance period.” Most writing advice encourages you to write early in the morning. But what if you're not a morning person? Patel recommends writing when you're feeling most energized and mentally focused.

Try a “one spot, one goal” ritual ⛳ Ali Green

Distractions are often plentiful when you're trying to commit to a daily content creation practice, whether you're working in the office or at home. Ali Green, Co-founder & Co-author of Remote Works, recommends assigning one spot for a specific task. For example, you might want to choose a place solely for content creation or for any other deep work.

It also doesn't have to be a physical space. You can assign specific gadgets for certain types of tasks. For example, your desktop is for content creation while the iPad is mainly for content consumption, such as reading Kindle books or listening to podcasts.

Have a wind-down routine after work 🐢 Corine Tan

Most leaders invest in a morning routine, but a wind-down routine is just as important. Corine Tan, Co-Founder of Kona, shared in our Accomplish Peeps interview:

"At the end of my day, I need to cook or schedule something with a friend so I have a hard stop on work. It's really easy for me to lose myself in this office space, so having that end-of-day activity really helps separate work from life."

Brendon Burchard, productivity expert and author of 'High Performance Habits' is also big on wind-down routines and encourages every leader to set up this routine to signal your brain that it's time to stop thinking about work and start preparing for rest. A wind-down routine can be as simple as dimming the lights and playing calming music.

Successful Habits of Great Leaders

There you have it, 6 additional habits of successful people, bringing our total to 20 habits of highly successful and effective leaders! You don't have to do all of them in order to be successful, but if you're struggling to find the routines or habits that blend best with your day, the mentioned habits are worth testing out! The next step is to pick one that resonates with you and try it out for a couple of weeks. For example, have you always been drawn to the idea of waking up at 5 a.m.? Try it out for the next three days and see what happens. You can constantly adjust once you have more data about your experience.

The best way to get in the flow and create solid habits is to make a conscious effort and to know your why around implementing them. With these two things, you'll be well on your way to strengthening yourself as a leader, whether you manage a remote, hybrid, or distributed team.