3 Powerful Habits Every Leader Needs to Excel

Plus 17 More That Will Give You a Significant Edge

When you think about leadership, what’s one word that matters more than almost any others? In his new book, H3 Leadership: Be Humble, Stay Hungry, Always Hustle, Brad Lomenick says “habit” is the key.

More than 40 percent of the things we do throughout the day aren’t the result of decisions, he says. They’re habits. “When you rise in the morning, nearly half of your day will be determined by the pattern you’ve either intentionally created or passively allowed.”

That’s critically important for leaders. Why? “The path to being a better leader is paved with the asphalt of the habits we develop,” Brad explains. And as the longtime president of Catalyst, he can validate the observation. I’ve certainly seen that in my own life and leadership.

Whether it’s my fitness regimen, my morning and evening routines, or how I handle my schedule, my success has been heavily influenced by how well I’ve cultivated helpful habits and outgrown bad ones. And that’s true for every successful leader I know, including Brad.

What I like about H3 Leadership is Brad’s willingness to hit the reset button and rethink his leadership—the book starts with his realization that he needs a sabbatical. But what I love about the book is his willingness to share what he discovers about himself and leadership in general over the course of his break.

Brad came back from his time off with a list of twenty key habits that have the power to transform and elevate our leadership. Here are just three that have been especially powerful for me.

  1. Curiosity. Brad tells the story of a round table with Andy Stanley, Erwin McManus, and John Maxwell at the first Catalyst conference. At one point McManus said something, and Maxwell motioned for someone offstage to bring his notebook. He didn’t want to forget the insight. He was going to jot it down right then and there.

    Curiosity is vital for leaders because learning is vital for leaders. I’m constantly reading, experimenting, and playing with new ideas and fresh approaches. Without curiosity, my leadership would have stagnated decades ago. Without the habit of curiosity, yours will too.

  2. Self-discovery. One place to be especially curious is your own mind and heart. But as Brad points out leaders can be so mission minded they forget about the person executing the plan. That happened to him, and it’s helpful to see how he found his way back.

    This has been a key area for me over the years. The more I understand about not only what drives me but how I drive, the better I am at pursuing my own goals and leading the individual members of my team.

  3. Innovation. Our economy thrives on innovation. Solutions that didn’t exist just a couple of years ago become essential to our ongoing success. We can resist that—or we can lead by cultivating creativity, taking risks, investing in innovation. Will it always work? Nope. But innovation is about scoring in the averages.

    I’m always looking for what’s next. My family thinks it’s a little pathological. It’s a bit of a joke around here. But it’s keeps me excited, engaged in what I do, and able to grow personally and professionally.

There are so many more key insights and learnings from H3 Leadership. Brad’s chapter on margin, for instance, is essential. It’s a tough lesson to learn. A couple of weeks ago BMW’s CEO passed out on stage during a major event. He wasn’t feeling well but decided to keep going anyway.

Leaders are so used to burning out and burning up, we sometimes think it’s just part of the routine. It’s not. It’s actually just crazy. And as leaders we can set a different pattern for our colleagues and team members.

Along with these habits, Brad covers ambition, generosity, inspiration, team-building, execution, and many others—all of which can make a major difference in our effectiveness as leaders.

Having stepped out of the day-to-day of Catalyst, Brad ends H3 Leadership rejuvenated and ready for the next big thing. “What a difference a year makes,” he says. I can’t wait to see what a difference his book makes in the lives of leaders committed to winning at both work and life.

Question: What one habit do you think is most essential for leaders to develop?