4 universal habits of great leaders

Though leadership can seem like a vague concept, there are a few habits that great leaders consistently share, Carolyn Sun writes for Entrepreneur.

She points to a recent study suggesting that a small subset of habits are the key to leadership success, even across different kinds of organizations and roles.

Sun identifies the four habits that senior leaders share—and how to build them.

1: Delegate

A good leader can sift through an ever-growing to-do list to focus on the tasks that truly matter, Sun writes.

But the best leaders recognize that delegating the right tasks will free up their own time to lead. Leaders should pass on the tasks that they enjoy least or that they struggle with, suggest two sociology professors at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

2: Set clear goals

An effective leader can clearly articulate both what success looks like and how it is measured, Sun notes. If employees don't understand the vision, different teams may develop misaligned goals, she writes.

In higher ed, strong leaders translate campus-wide performance objectives into specific operational goals at the department level to encourage department engagement.

One way leaders can rally departments around institution-wide goals is to give them the autonomy to select their own performance metrics and explore how their work connects to broader goals. 

The wrong way to measure departmental performance

3: Support the team

A true leader is supportive and empathetic, Sun writes. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson is one example of leader who's earned a reputation for empathizing with and encouraging staff during the challenges that arise, she notes.

A good higher ed leader understands that an empathetic attitude is the key to winning campus-wide support for student success initiatives. EAB research shows that while faculty have tremendous potential for helping improve student success rates, that potential will never be realized unless leadership is willing to meet them where they are, with empathy for their concerns and competing priorities.

Read more: 3 strategies to engage faculty in your student success initiatives

4: Emphasize diversity

If you operate in an echo chamber, you won't be able to close the knowledge and perspective gaps necessary to make the best informed decision, Sun writes.

In many organizations, leaders neglect the type of diversity that impacts success most: cognitive diversity. Although achieving this kind of diversity is difficult, cognitively diverse teams can solve problems faster and offer innovative solutions, according to research by two leadership experts (Sun, Entrepreneur, 10/16).


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