“I believe that if you don’t disrupt yourself, you will be disrupted by someone else.” — Mindy Grossman, CEO & President of WW (formerly Weight Watchers)
Leadership excellence is not acquired overnight. Like a fine wine, it develops more character and a polished finish with each passing year and experience. It can be coached, strengthened, and improved, but ultimately it comes down to our core behaviors — those that we recognize and understand, and those that sneak in undetected during those critical moments.
Learning to understand our behaviors, identify where we want to make changes, and sharpen the skills needed to be prepared to navigate critical moments — while in the moment — is an ongoing challenge for some of today’s most prolific leaders. It starts with knowing what to prioritize, what to focus on less, and where you can make the biggest impact.
In working with some of the country’s top C-suite executives across various industries, I’ve identified four behaviors that separate the good leaders from the great ones.
- Embrace your own style. People are constantly discussing how to be a great female leader (especially, and perhaps conveniently, during Women’s History Month), but there isn’t just one box that you need to try and fit into. The best leaders embrace what makes them different and lead in a way that is authentic to them. Emulating the traits and methods of other great leaders is a great starting point, but it can only get you so far. It’s important to build on your core strengths and seek to understand your weaknesses. Know what works for you, what doesn’t, and where you need support. In behavior-change terms, identity is core to motivation. If you can’t be yourself, you’ll always struggle to motivate others.
- Lean into your EQ. Your emotional quotient, also called your emotional intelligence or EQ, is the skill of recognizing your own and others’ emotions and knowing how to manage, influence, or understand them in ever-evolving environments. From understanding the way people absorb information to how they like to make decisions, having a strong EQ and leaning into your emotional compass is one of the most critical leadership behaviors when it comes to progressing and thriving in one’s career. At the end of the day, you are dealing with people — many of whom are less rational than they like to think they are.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Great leaders embrace directness. Empowering your team and fostering collaboration are important qualities of beloved leaders, but knowing when clarity and direction are needed to save time, money, and resources is an invaluable trait. It requires understanding what you need, articulating who is accountable for the result, and crystallizing your expectations. It might mean making a decision people don’t like in the moment, but ultimately respect in the end. Behavior-change is all about motivation and momentum in the moments that matter. Being clear about exactly what action you are seeking will drive momentum and expedite success — while making it all the sweeter.
- Trust your gut. In this day and age, there is no shortage of available data, proving or disproving any theory or situation that may arise. Having a wealth of data can be an incredible resource, but it can also tell a misleading or partial story and weaken leaders’ instincts. Over the last year, everything we thought we knew was flipped on its head and baselines were disrupted. During this precarious time, only the best leaders who leaned into the uncertainty in order to pivot and follow their instincts were able to strive toward growth and find success despite the odds. Knowing how and when to trust your gut, once you thoughtfully evaluate the information available from various angles, is the difference between good leaders and great leaders. All business is inspired by behavior change, and people are key to furthering any agenda.
Undeniably, there is more than one definition of what makes a great leader. However, they all have at least one thing in common: great leaders have identified and manifested the approach that works best for them, while possessing a deep understanding of the behaviors that will lead teams, and their company, to create a lasting impact.
Written by Morgan Kelly.