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The leadership habits that make the difference

Behind, under, and before every perception, every feeling, every decision and every action, there are habits. Habits of mind, habits of perception, habits of feeling, habits of action and reaction.

“The world” about which we speak so loosely does not “inform” us. We are “informed” by our own thinking and feelings about what that world is like and what is going on in it.

In short, the first and last leadership lesson is this:

  • We are led by our habits – of feeling, of thinking, of perceiving, and of understanding.
  • Get those right, and everything beyond becomes possible.
  • Get those wrong, and the outcomes will always be something you didn’t choose.

A leader’s perceptions, thinking, and feelings about the world inside or outside are informed by that leader’s cause in life. Most people believe that the world around them is a given, that when they look at it they are seeing what’s there. That what people say about it constitutes reality. The true leader knows that a perception or an interpretation of something is never more than just that.

Reality is not obligated by what we say or fail to say about it.

The leader also knows that people do not choose their trajectories through life. How we live and maneuver through life is not something we can have simply by choosing it. It is our habits that drive the way we think, and feel, and have, and do, and see, and say.

We cannot choose our ways of being and doing. But what we can choose, within our capabilities for doing so, are the habits that inform our perceptions, our thinking, and our feelings.

What makes the leader different is that he or she depends upon the habits chosen and developed to drive the direction and the outcomes of life. Not upon “hope.” Or “intention.” Or “desire.” We necessarily go in the direction our habits take us. You can’t get what you “want.” You can only get what your habits can deliver.

What characterizes the leader is his or her mental models, the heuristics used to assess the world and the strategies for undertaking his or her cause in that world. It is the unique, unconventional habits of thought, feeling, and action that underwrite the leader’s success in his or her endeavor.

  • You do not acquire those habits of thinking merely by reading about them. Like all habits, they have to be developed.
  • Nor do you acquire them by reading what celebrities tell us was their recipe for success.
  • You get those by working backward from your cause and laboriously building into your thinking and feeling and doing those habits that are going to propel you in the direction of your cause. It is your cause that prescribes the habits you need.

Thinking. First things first. It is how you think that determines what you do. Habits of thinking produce habits of seeing and doing.

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