A few months ago I facilitated a training session (tailored by myself) for team leads centered around “Useful Habits of a Leader.”. I believe that this theme could be of interest not only for team leads in IT companies but also for anyone with a leader-like approach in all facets of life. I want to stress that I’m going to put an emphasis not on the position (e.g., development team lead or testing team lead) but on the personal attitude towards the environment – a kind of “informal” leadership, if you like.
Before we start talking about habits, let’s answer some questions – why habits and not the personal traits of a leader?
Personal traits represent a set of all socially and biologically conditioned components of a person that predetermine the person’s stable behavior in the social and natural environment. In other words, traits are something inherent, determined by upbringing and environment.
Habit is a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior, which in certain circumstances becomes a kind of need. Habits may form spontaneously, be a product of conscious upbringing, become stable character traits, turn into automatic behavior, etc.
To put it differently, if you already possess all the required qualities of a leader, it means that you were very lucky with your upbringing and environment when growing up. If not, you are still capable of developing habits that will help you become more efficient as a leader, and maybe later they will turn into qualities and traits of your character. Habits therefore form your personality traits. Remember the ancient saying: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
So I will try to sow a thought by telling you about the 10 useful habits of a leader that will help you achieve more in life.
1. Set Priorities
“You can do everything, it’s a question of priorities.” If you look at your life from outside, you can notice that you take some problems and solve them, while you let others take care of themselves. Sometimes we are stubborn and try to solve a problem even if we realize that it is impossible. Maybe you should give on up such a problem?
Priority... In our world view, one problem is more urgent than others, and yet another is not worth our attention. It is an ideal situation when our world view is always up to date and priorities are set correctly. But sometimes we just pay no attention to the priority of our tasks and solve them based on the principle of “because it is the next one in line”, forgetting that their urgency may change. My solution is to take a small break after each task, and think what task should be next in order of importance. In Agile development we have “Backlog Grooming”, when at the end of an iteration the team members review the priorities of their tasks for the next iteration. I would also recommend after completing your tasks (or a certain set of tasks) to look at what you have in your Backlog and set priorities for subsequent steps... The world view is constantly building up, new tasks appear, and their urgency will change.
2. Plan Your Time
I think there is no point telling you that our life is becoming more and more dynamic. I’m not going to describe now all the approaches of time management, as it may take a lot of time and lead us away from the main theme. Take some Time Management training. Select the most suitable methods of optimizing time management and apply them. Then try to implement time management not only in your work process but also outside it, as it is rather difficult to develop a habit of being efficient in one place and remain inefficient in another. It is difficult to be a highly efficient leader at work while remaining an apathetic time killer at home.
3. Think Strategically
When was the last time you took a breath and looked ahead? No, I don’t mean at the beautiful landscapes around you. I mean the excellent habit of pausing your daily routine and asking yourself some simple questions: Where am I going? Am I doing it right? What am I doing it for? Does everything satisfy me? And so on... Quite often, by being fascinated with the idea of hurrying forward, we forget to assess intermediate results and correct the direction we are moving in. It is, by the way, extremely important, because it helps you save resources on unneeded expenses, and focus on what is driving you to your goal, and reject working on unnecessary tasks.
And again, you should look ahead not only when you are engaged in some big projects but also when solving day-to-day tasks. Once a week, or once every two days, pause and think how efficient you are performing a task, and whether the conditions and objectives have changed. If you believe it is difficult for you to do this and your work is quite dynamic, include an hour of this activity into your work process. Plan it in your calendar in the morning, and do it before reading emails and before reviewing tasks that remained from the previous evening…