January is a magical time. We've all got our resolutions on the brain, and hopefully, we're still honoring them. I really enjoy the tradition of making resolutions, but I like to treat them less as big, overarching goals, and more as habits that I can actively work toward incorporating into my everyday life.
It only takes 28 days to form a habit. If that habit is, say, not eating chocolate, 28 days can feel like a lifetime. But in reality, it's less than one-twelfth of the year, that could potentially result in a lifetime of self-improvement and inner peace. That being said, here are five surprising habits that you should form this year, in order to become a better leader.
1. Be A Follower
We're conditioned to think that in order to be successful, you must be a leader. Realistically speaking, of course, not everyone can be the leader.
I skipped multiple grades growing up, which meant being constantly surrounded by older kids. Instead of vying to be the leader in class, I settled into my role as the "kid." This made my peers see me as an equal (and okay, sometimes a little less), rather than competition, which in turn made them relax around me.
When you choose to "follow," your employees will feel comfortable around you, and they'll often share their most honest ideas and feedback.
2. Get Overwhelmed
With a new year, people tend to focus on clarity and stability, and I'm not saying that's wrong. But every now and then, being in over your head can be a great thing.
Take my company, Kiip. When we first started out, we were a new company with a new idea - rewards-based advertising - surrounded by big names like Apple and Google. But we dove in head first, and not only did we figure out how to swim, but in some cases, we observed how to sink, before it happened to us.
Sometimes, it takes being in over your head find out what you're capable of. When you do find out, it'll serve as a great source of inspiration for your co-workers. As T.S. Eliot once said, "If you aren't in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?"
3. Focus On Your Appearance
Glamour magazine's January 2017 cover featured a messy handful of typefaces in white, pink and black and a very prominent photo of Felicity Jones. I'm certainly not the target audience, but I didn't find it very visually appealing.
The January 2018 cover features one cool, handwriting-esque typeface, in all black, and more negative space. The placement of everything is much neater, and seems more reminiscent of the vibes today's young women are attracted to.
Vanity may be considered a sin by some, but at the world's current pace, chances are your company is constantly growing and evolving. It's important that your brand reflects that.
4. Avoid Eye Contact
Have you ever worked incredibly hard to maintain eye contact with someone you're speaking with, only to notice that you're making them uncomfortable? Listen, eye contact does convey respect and engagement, but sometimes, it can get creepy.
A 2016 study by Royal Open Science revealed that the average participant made eye contact for about three seconds at a time, before looking away. I personally can't stand when someone uses eye contact as a weapon -- it tells me that they care more about gamesmanship than genuine connection.
So don't stare at the floor, but don't stare into anyone's soul, either. Show them that they don't need to develop dry-eye to be taken seriously by you.
5. Be Ignorant
...To the right things. Being ignorant to your employees' needs, your company's goals, or your daily calendar? Not a great idea. But concepts like the fear of disappointment and the possibility of failure are good things to be ignorant of. Neither is grounded in 100 percent certainty, so there's no need for you to treat it as such.
I began my search for investors shortly after the economic crash of 2008, and I was somewhat ignorant to what was at stake for many of them. Because I wasn't weighed down by that panic, I was able to focus on my genuine passion for my product, and it worked.
Ignorance can breed confidence. Great leadership is comprised of knowledge of reality and just enough ignorance to sometimes disregard that reality, in favor or a new idea or way of thinking.