The 7 Secret Habits of High-Impact Leaders

Written by: Kelly McSparran
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High-impact leaders leverage their strengths, empower others to reach strategic goals, grow their influence, and refine their character. Instead of being driven by the frenetic (and often unproductive) rush of society, these leaders understand how to invest their time in meaningful work that leaves a lasting impact.

While the world wonders how these leaders seem to “do it all,” the truth is these high-impact leaders have spent years cultivating habits for success behind the scenes. Here are seven habits that impactful leaders practice when no one else is watching.

1. Learn Always

The most impactful leaders are humble enough to recognize what they don’t know—and to seek out experts to help them grow. Most leaders read books in their areas of expertise and across a wide range of other topics. Bill Gates, Microsoft’s cofounder, reads roughly fifty books per year.

Instead of being defensive over difficult feedback, leaders listen to constructive criticism to learn how to improve. They invest time and money into personal development, coaching, and resources for ongoing development. Many spend time with a trusted mentor or a cohort of like-minded leaders on a regular basis.

2. Empower Other Leaders

High-impact leaders not only lead their direct reports but also cultivate pathways for the development of many in their organizations. By creating development programs and training additional coaches, their impact is multiplied as they maximize the strengths of those on their teams and across their organizations.

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. (Jack Welch)

Top-level leaders spend their time nurturing, developing, and coaching. Jesus, the ultimate servant leader, modeled this for us during his time on earth. He invested deeply in his inner circle so they could be released to share the gospel with the waiting world.

3. Think Strategically

Instead of focusing on short-term tasks, leaders consistently block time to think strategically about where they are going and where they are leading others. This includes weekly evaluation meetings, quarterly reviews of their team’s priorities, and setting the vision and goals for the next year and beyond.

According to a recent Forbes article, “success is no longer measured over hours and days, but rather by weeks, months, and years. The non-sexy stuff takes a long time to yield results, and it can take a long time for your success to feel tangible.”

The tyranny of the urgent does not drive the most influential leaders. They delegate meetings, tasks, and decisions so that they can spend their time focused on strategic decisions.

4. Create Systems

Well-thought-through processes and systems help leaders set the tone of their organizations. Instead of finding solutions to each individual issue, the best leaders take a higher-level approach to adjusting the underlying processes.

Because most high-level leaders are excellent listeners and strategic thinkers, they take the time to evaluate and reevaluate their processes in order to highlight the strengths of their teams and remove the barriers to productivity. This approach allows them to set plans that empower others to manage the day-to-day operations better so that the leaders can shift their attention back to long-term thinking.

5. Remember the “Why”

Hitting your quarterly goals or making a sale will only partially satisfy. Instead, leaders consistently remember their “why,” their deeper purpose for life and work. The average worker will spend ninety thousand hours at work over their lifetime. By connecting purpose to each of their actions, they understand that this significant investment of time can have an eternal impact.

Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23–24 CSB)

Because Christian leaders see their office as a mission field, they can endure the problematic outcomes, have integrity in each interaction, and find meaning in their careers.

6. Give Affirmation

Unlike a manager, whose job is to ensure that you stay on track or complete your tasks, a leader should inspire others to reach their full potential. Leaders remember names and birthdays. They practice gratitude with public words of affirmation and take time to handwrite a card of appreciation. They celebrate when your kids make the baseball team and grieve with you in your losses.

The Harvard Business Review writes, “executives who can effectively focus on others emerge as natural leaders regardless of organizational or social rank.”

Because leaders are deeply invested in individual relationships, they know how to provide meaningful encouragement and are quick to recognize and praise the strengths of others.

7. Develop Character

Leaders know that the most important way to grow is to develop their character consistently.

You rejoice in this,[a] even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7 CSB)

Christian leaders spend time in prayer, in Scripture, and with other believers. Many have daily habits of rising early to spend time with the Lord and of making sure that they attend weekly worship services. These habits, unseen by most of the world, are the bedrock of their character development. They submit to the work of the Holy Spirit to grow in wisdom and discernment.

Consider taking Trochia’s free Character Led Leader Course and grow in your leadership today.