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We all look forward to the possibilities that a new year can bring. It’s an exciting time of renewal, and we have the opportunity to start fresh and make the most of the year. The habits we set and practice can impact the leader we become.

What habits are you focusing on this year to bring your best self to the world? What actions and behaviours will you role model for your team.

Here are seven leadership habits to help you become a better leader.

1. Reflect Regularly

It’s important for leaders to regularly reflect on their decisions, actions, and goals. In fact, reflection has been found to be a key habit that separates extraordinary leaders from average ones.

Reflection helps you better understand yourself as a leader and how you are impacting those around you. Taking the time to think about how your actions impact others helps you become more self-aware and guides you in making better decisions in the future.

It’s such a simple habit but a tough one for leaders to start and practice. So where to start! Here’s some prompts. Professor Martin Seligman gives us a great one – what went well today and why? After a day, week or even just a meeting, write down some notes about what happened, what did you do and how did you react in the moment, what does that tell you about yourself and what’s important to you, what did you learn and what would you do differently in the future.

2. Connect with Awe

Connecting with awe is often overlooked as important for leaders.

Awe is the feeling we get when we are exposed to the vastness of life. It challenges our understanding of the world. It evokes wonder, amazement and helps us to transcend the everyday.

Awe is an important feeling because it stirs something in us, it inspires creativity and ideas, it connects us with others and inspires compassion, it lowers our stress, and helps us think more clearly and cultivates our curiosity. Research has shown that connecting with awe also helps our ability to think clearly and critically.

How can you tap into your sense of awe more often? Well, this is the fun part because there are so many ways to experience awe – nature, music, stories or an activity that fully immerses you! Even remembering or retelling a moment of awe can get us in the mode!

What gives you a sense of awe and wonder in life?

3. Be a Reader

The best leaders are lifelong learners, reading books, articles and blogs that relate to your field of work or interests. Not only does reading give leaders insight into new ideas and perspectives but it also increases knowledge and understanding of what they are doing or hoping to accomplish.

Is it time to kick up your reading game? According to the inaugural Australian National Reading Survey in 2021, 75% of Australians read or listen to at least one book in a year, with half of this, reading a book every 4 months or so.

You can read anything – fiction or nonfiction. Any type of reading helps our attention, stimulates our thinking, builds our perspective and empathy and helps our well-being.

Want more time to read? Make it a habit, find a time when you can read every day. It might be before bed, over breakfast or lunch or on the bus to work! Even 10 minutes a day will help you read 12 books a year!

4. Listen Avidly

Listening is an important leadership skill for leaders.

Good listening skills involve being present when engaging with teammates or colleagues and actively listening instead of just hearing what someone has said. Listening avidly allows leaders to ask more questions and gain perspectives from different angles that might foster better collaboration and lead to creative solutions nobody would have thought of before!

To supercharge this habit by going out of your way to listen to more diverse voices. What voices and stories don’t you hear often? Go to events or seek out podcasts or TEDx talks that challenge your perspectives. Meet with people outside of your current network and ask good questions that invite learning and curiosity.

5. Recognise others

As humans, we have a strong need to be seen, heard and appreciated by others for what we do. And yet, we forget we all have a powerful opportunity to do this for each other. Make it a habit to see, recognise and appreciate others for what they do, whether it’s your team, your family members or the employee emptying the bins at your local shops.

Recognising and appreciating others makes a huge difference for them, but it’s also powerful for you too. It fosters our own sense of gratitude and humility, realising that we depend on each other for our success and fulfillment.

6. Inspire hope

Inspiring hope is an essential part of being a leader. It helps us imagine a better future and nurture the energy of a group to achieve it!

Hope is simply a belief that our future will be better than our present. It involves three components; goals that excite you, the belief and power to achieve these goals and the options (lots of options) to get there.

Now hope is not about putting on the rose coloured glasses and thinking everything is glorious all the time. In fact, positive psychology research tells us that it’s healthy to acknowledge the obstacles that will challenge yourself. That’s why a key part to hope is being able to come up with lots of options to reach your goals. Plan A doesn’t work, go for Plan B or Plan C or let’s face it, Plan XYZ! Hope fuels us in the tough times and helps us support our team to see the way forward.

So what inspiring futures are you painting for the people around you? And when those challenges come up, acknowledge them as part of the process and inspire creativity to come up with the solutions to move your forward.

7. Rest more

Last but not least, don’t forget about rest! We can often fall into the trap that the most successful are the ones that work the longest or the hardest, which is simply not true. Smart leaders know managing our energy is the secret to making things happen.

In fact, to reach our best performance, rest is a vital component of this. Our body, mind and spirit all need regular opportunities to rest, recover and re-energise.

Our four sources of energy sources that need rest and renewal include our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. So rest is not just about getting enough sleep (although that can be integral!) but it might also look like connecting with friends, reading a novel, solitude and reflection, regular technology detoxes, fun hobbies like painting, cooking or cultural activities, talking with friends or meditation! Find something fun to allow yourself the time to recharge and bring your best self to your leadership goals.

What habits are you practicing?

Every new year is a new opportunity — the chance to start afresh by embracing habits that can help us show up as our best selves! Reflecting regularly, connecting with awe, being readers and avid listeners, recognising others, inspiring hope as well as taking time out rest are all invaluable practices for modern leaders to thrive in a competitive world!

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