Why are some leaders better and more productive than others? While some people believe that you're either born a great leader or you're not, that's not really the case at all. Anyone can learn to be a better and more effective leader. Great leadership is all about doing a handful of things with the members of your team, consistently and well. Learn and apply these daily habits of exceptionally productive leaders.

1. Set clear goals and expectations

All performance begins with clear goals and expectations. Every employee needs to know what is expected of them. The best goals are few in number and specific in focus, and they encourage people to stretch to achieve them. Not too difficult, not too simple, but somewhere in between.

2. Involve your team in the decision-making process

The days of telling people what to do are over. No more "my way or the highway." To be effective, managers and employees must work together collaboratively to determine the goals to be achieved, and the deadlines and milestones on the path to completion. Actively involve the members of your team in these decisions, and in their execution and implementation.

3. Interact positively with the members of your team

Numerous studies point to the fact that the most important relationship for employees is the one they have with their immediate manager or supervisor. In a Gallup survey of more than 4 million workers, the No. 1 reason people left their jobs was because they didn't feel appreciated. Because of the important role they play in the lives of their employees--both on and off the job--it is critical for leaders to foster positive interactions with their people rather than negative ones.

4. Provide visibility to senior management

Although employees' direct interactions with their direct managers have the greatest impact on motivation and performance, their interactions with an organization's senior managers also have a significant impact. According to Bill Emerson, CEO of Quicken Loans, when a company's senior team commits to their employees, the employees will respond in kind. Says Emerson, "At the end of the day, what matters is that we are a company of people. We treat people with respect. We listen and respond with care. We realize that everyone has an innate, human need to be recognized and appreciated. The end result is that we have 3,500 people who are passionate about the work they do and about taking care of our clients."

5. Facilitate interactions with co-workers

Interactions with co-workers and team members can have a significant impact on employee engagement. In a survey of U.S. workers conducted by the Gallup Management Journal, researchers found that 61 percent of engaged workers surveyed strongly agreed with the statement "I feed off the creativity of my colleagues." Only 9 percent of actively disengaged employees agreed with the statement. These findings tend to indicate that engagement can be infectious--the more engaged employees are, the more they want to share their creativity and good ideas with others in the organization. Conversely, disengaged employees tend to check out when it comes to sharing their creativity and ideas with co-workers--creating a downward spiral of performance that can be difficult to overcome.

6. Live your core values

Every business has core values--do you know what yours are? Do you live them every day of the week? You should. Automobile manufacturer Ferrari SpA of Maranello, Italy has 12 core values, which correspond to the 12 cylinders in the company's top-of-the-line racecar engines. They are:

  • Tradition and innovation
  • Individual and team
  • Passion and sports spirit
  • Territoriality and internationality
  • Ethics and profit
  • Excellence and speed

7. Communicate and provide feedback

To be as effective as they can possibly be, your people need to know what your expectations are for them on the job, and how they're doing. Keep your employees in the company-information loop by following these tips:

  • Customize messages for each audience group, including senior leaders, front-line employees, and customers.
  • Some questions you can answer easily; others you cannot. But you must listen and say that you will share what you know when you know it, and when you can share it.
  • Person-to-person communication is more important than ever. Leaders should visit employees on their own turf and conduct more frequent small-group and individual meetings to provide continued reassurance and coaching.