There are certain personality traits that make it easier to become a great leader, but the fact is that anyone can ascend to that level through commitment and discipline. Only through experience can you start to acquire the key knowledge and characteristics that facilitate leadership, but as long as you're dedicated to improving yourself as a leader, you'll constantly move closer to that ideal.

Even though there are no shortcuts to leadership, there are a handful of daily habits that all great leaders share, and adopting those habits can get you closer to your ultimate goals.

1. Learning Something New. You can never learn everything, so there's always something new to learn. Surround yourself by potential sources for new learning--to some, that might mean a bookshelf full of new material, to others that could mean a playlist of new podcasts, and to still others that could mean a bench of mentors and advisors to meet with. How you learn doesn't matter, as long as you're learning something, and no matter how busy you are, that process of learning needs to take priority.

It also doesn't always matter what you learn. Obviously, reading news and stories related to your industry is a good idea, but don't be afraid to brand out to new subjects that you wouldn't ordinarily consider. Seeing things from a new perspective might just give you the creative boost you need to solve that difficult problem.

2. Sticking to a Routine. Routines are sometimes a difficult balancing act. If you're too strict with your routine, you'll never try anything new and you won't be able to grow much as an individual or as a leader. On the other hand, having some grounding with a stable routine can open your efforts to be better spent on more complex tasks. For example, Mark Zuckerberg wears the same gray T-shirt every day in order to rid his life of complexity and reduce decision fatigue.

You don't have to wear the same clothes every day to see the same benefits. All you have to do is consolidate some of your less important tasks and processes into single, simple routines that you can do without expending any mental energy. That way, you can better focus on the more complex, demanding tasks that the day will inevitably offer.

3. Improving Something. Whether it's something in your routine, something in your office, or something in your business, find something to improve upon every day. Great leaders aren't content with their surroundings; instead, they're constantly challenging the status quo and finding new ways to innovate. If you make it a point to improve something on a daily basis, you'll learn to look for critical areas of improvement naturally, and before you know it, you'll be on a constant rotation of improving things in your life.

How you improve things doesn't matter as much as the fact that you are improving them. You could make a task faster to complete by making it less complicated, or make your desk better adapted for productivity by clearing off the clutter. As long as you're making progress, your improvement will count.

4. Taking Time to Decompress. Hyper-successful tech entrepreneurs have, on occasion, glorified the idea of working nonstop. For example, Marissa Mayer traditionally worked 130 hours a week during her time with Google, occasionally sleeping under her desk. To be sure, Mayer worked very hard and made a huge impact for her company, but that kind of work schedule will wreak havoc on you if you attempt it without taking critical time to decompress.

Though you may find it hard to incorporate at first, break time is important for your productivity as well as your mental health. Take small breaks throughout the day, and don't be afraid to take some vacation time during the year. If you constantly put your nose to the grindstone, eventually your abilities as a leader will wane.

5. Connecting With the Team. By definition, as a leader, you have people to lead. Those people are ultimately going to be the foundation for your success; if they are successful, you can consider yourself successful as a leader. Don't neglect them.

Take time every day to connect with your team, preferably on an individual basis. Talk to them. Ask them about their challenges and their ideas. Get to know them, and learn their strengths and weaknesses. It will strengthen your team's bonds and make you a better leader.

Incorporate these daily habits into your regular routine, and reflect on how they affect your capacity as a leader. Don't be discouraged if you don't see progress overnight; most leaders only become great after years or decades of unsteady progress. Your priority shouldn't be on achieving a particular result, but rather on creating a specific environment that will allow you to thrive.

Published on: Mar 24, 2015
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