5 Really Small Habits That Produce Big Results

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Sometimes leadership can seem so overwhelming.

In reality, though, leadership is simpler than it first appears.

In many ways, great leaders master some very basic habits that other people miss. The advice in this post is so simple you might think, “Well, my mother used to tell me to do that.”

Maybe that’s the point.

You can have a Ph.D. in leadership and read everything there is on leadership and still not be effective.

And yet some leaders have little formal education but lead powerfully and effectively daily.

Often, these leaders gain influence because they’ve mastered a few basic skills others miss.

Here are 5 of my absolute favorite basic leadership skills that are far too easy to overlook.

Habitually own them, and you’ll become a much more effective leader.

1. Make someone else the hero

Few of us have a healthy relationship with ourselves.

The narcissists make it all about them.

Insecure people focus on themselves because they can’t bear to give anyone else air time.

And even people who lack confidence can end up being selfish because their lack of self-esteem means no one else gets attention.

How do you escape the trap of narcissism, insecurity, or low self-confidence?

Just make someone else the hero.

If you’re a preacher, like me, make sure you point to God, not to yourself, when you speak. Worry more about whether people connect with God than whether they connect with you.

What else does this principle look like?

Well, if you’re a writer, make your reader the hero. The filter through which I try to run every post I write on this blog is what I call a “helpful” filter. I want the post to help you as a reader. I want you to win.

Think about it. You and I love leaders who point beyond themselves to someone else. Why not be that leader?

So when you struggle with narcissism, insecurity, or low self-confidence (and we all do…me too), step aside and make someone else the hero.

It works. Every time.

You and I love leaders who point beyond themselves to someone else. Why not be that leader? Click To Tweet

2. Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it

If there’s one piece of advice I want my sons to remember, other than everything I taught them about Jesus, it’s this:

Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it.

It puts you ahead of about 99% of the planet.

Think back on your last week. Who frustrated you most? Probably the people who didn’t do what they said they were going to do when they said they were going to do it.

Now picture the people you lead. Who are you most likely to promote, reward, or even want to hang out with? The people who do what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it.

Doing what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it is the basis of trust. It’s also the basis for confidence.

Hey…sometimes I’m still the guy who didn’t do what he said he was going to do when he said he would do it. But I try so hard not to be that guy.

So what do you do if you struggle in this area? Just stop promising and start delivering.

When your walk catches up to what your talk would have been, reintroduce your talk.

Want to get ahead? Do what you say you're going to do when you say you're going to do it. Click To Tweet

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3. Focus on outcomes

Also, in the ‘please stop driving me nuts’ category are people who focus on process, not outcomes.

I realize it’s axiomatic these days to say the journey is more important than the destination. But not always. Really. Come on. What fun is the journey if you end up nowhere with any meaning?

It’s frustrating when you ask someone if something is done, and they tell you:

  • Well, I emailed him.
  • She never got back to me.
  • I’ve called 5 times.
  • I think they must have changed their address or something.

And they feel like the project is complete because they tried.

Trying isn’t the same as doing.

Often, I feel like saying, “You didn’t hear the question. The question is, Is it done?

A few years ago, I started encouraging the leaders I work with to stop focusing on the process and start focusing on outcomes.

When you focus on outcomes, you eventually stop emailing someone who never returns emails, and you text them instead, or call them, or go to their office, or release them and find someone who will help you get the project done.

If you focus on outcomes, you’ll also have a shot at mastering #2. If you don’t, you never will.

And getting things done actually makes the journey more enjoyable, at least in my view.

Trying isn't the same as doing. Click To Tweet

4. Look people in the eye

Sure, this is an “I don’t need a blog post to remind me of this.” (So is the next point, by the way.)

But do you ever notice how hard it is to actually look someone in the eye—to make them the sole focus of your attention?

I’m pretty sure I’m ADD, and it’s hard not to get distracted by shiny objects, moving parts, or anything else in the room. Or my phone, for that matter.

But the most effective leaders always look someone in the eye.

Sometimes I’m in a conversation with someone, and I’ll create a voice in my head that just keeps repeating, “Look them in the eye…look them in the eye.” It helps.

I’ll even position myself in a restaurant or coffee shop to face a blank wall, not the door or a TV. Otherwise, I just instinctively look at whatever is moving.

Watch for it…the very best leaders look you in the eye and make you the sole focus of their attention.

Practice that this week.

The best leaders make you the sole focus of their attention. Click To Tweet

5. Smile

Everyone has a default expression. It’s hard to know what yours is because you never see yourself as others see you.

I learned years ago that my default facial expression is…uptight. If I’m having a good time, I apparently forgot to tell my face.  I’m also a fast walker, so I tend to look uptight and annoyed.

How’s that for a guy who’s leading you?

People have given me very helpful advice, like walk slowly across the room and smile. 

I know that’s so basic, but remember, you’re programming against your default here, so it’s not easy.

I have to remind myself to smile when I teach, to smile when I greet people, and to smile in conversations.

It makes a huge difference.

Apparently, Michael Hyatt has a similar issue and, in this post, outlined 5 positive impacts of smiling more as a leader.

So smile. 🙂

Do what your mama told you. Smile more. Click To Tweet

Make 2023 Your Most Productive Year Yet.

If as a church leader you have ever wondered...

  • “How can I become a far more effective leader?” 
  • “How do some leaders get so much done?”
  • “How do I get ahead?”
  • “How can I realize a dream I’ve been holding onto for way too long?”

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Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is a best-selling leadership author, speaker, podcaster, former attorney, and church planter. He hosts one of today’s most influential leadership podcasts, and his online content is accessed by leaders over 1.5 million times a month. He speaks to leaders around the world about leadership, change, and personal growth.

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