18 Habits of Extraordinary Leaders and High Achievers

happy_business_womanThere’s a quote by John C. Maxwell that I love, he says “You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret to your success is found in your daily routine.”. I agree with these words a 100%. Over the years I’ve worked with some very powerful and successful C-Suite executives. I’ve watched, listened and noticed patterns emerge. If you want to be an extraordinary leader then first you need to develop the habits of an extraordinary leader.

First I want to differentiate between habits and characteristics because many people get the two confused. My definition of a habit is an action or approach that you take on a regular basis. It’s a tangible that you can change given the desire and willpower to see it through. That’s not the same as a personality trait or characteristic. Having said that your habits often become your character. It all starts here. This article is meant to give you practical tools, so you can read it and immediately implement at least one habit to improve your professional life.

I know this article is a little longer than my others, so grab a cup of coffee or tea and let’s explore each habit together:

1. Get Up Early.

This one I learnt from leadership guru and bestselling author of ‘The Leader Who Had No Title’ Robin Sharma. Which is a great book by the way. I’m a morning person anyway so I like this habit. Start waking up earlier and carve out a ‘power hour’ early in the morning before the insanity of the day begins and see how much you accomplish. We all have 24-hours in the day. What you need isn’t more time, you just need to use it more efficiently.

2. Set BHAG Goals.

For years people have been teaching us to set SMART goals. I’m telling you to put those aside and set some BHAG ones! Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Goals that challenge your logic and force you and your organization to grow just to achieve them.

Set Big Hairy Audacious Goals that have deep meaning and inspire you to the very core of your being. ~ Narges Nirumvala

3. Organize and Prioritize.

This should happen in your ‘power hour’. Think about what you need to accomplish, what you can delegate and what is the most important on the list. Without priorities you cannot be a high achiever.

4. Make Time for Your Family.

I’m married with a family and the only way I manage to spend quality time with them is by making it a priority and blocking off time in my schedule. In fact when I see business leaders who attend events every day I know they must be single (or soon will be…lol). You’re family has to come first. For me it’s a core value and a habit.

5. Visualize Success.

I’m fascinated by the movement towards doing vision boards. I have a vision board and it’s inside my mind. Everyday I visualize what success looks like to me. Where will my company be in 5-years? Who will my clients be? What will it FEEL LIKE to be that person? It becomes real to me and imprints in my mind. As a result I have achieved so many of the things I set out to years ago.

6. Start With a Positive Attitude.

EVERYTHING starts with your attitude and very successful people ‘renew’ their attitude every day. Being a positive person also means that as a leader you lift other people up and inspire those around you.

High achievers have a positive ‘I can do anything’ mindset and just keep moving forward regardless of the obstacles they encounter. Their optimism helps them tunnel through even the most difficult tasks. ~ Narges Nirumvala

7. Meditate.

Now by meditate I don’t mean you need to buy some super tight way too expensive yoga wear and sit like a pretzel on a fancy cushion! I mean take some time everyday to clear your mind and be still. You could do that through yoga or even something more ‘active’ like painting (see point #15) or walking.

8. Workout and Eat To Stay Healthy.

Had to put this one in even though it should be obvious. Powerful people go to a lot of events. Most of these events have 3-course meals. So if it’s so obvious why is it that 9 times out of 10 when I see executives at these events they are eating the sinful dessert in front of them? It’s full of sugar, fat and nothing else. If you go to 5-10 events a month like I do, it can really add up over the year. I almost always pre-order fruit instead, but I’m usually the only one at the table that does. Start taking your health seriously, one dessert at a time.

9. Begin With The End in Mind.

This one is directly from the master himself Dr. Stephen R. Covey from his classic book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. I highly recommend that if you haven’t read it you go out and buy it today. If you have read it before but it’s been a while then maybe it’s time to reread it. Yes it’s that good.

10. Say NO A Lot.

You must cultivate the habit of saying no without flinching and without guilt. One good way is to stand in front of the mirror in the bathroom (no I’m not kidding) and say the words out loud in your own way.

The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost anything. ~ Warren Buffet

11. Send Clear Concise Emails.

People at the top of the food chain are just too busy to read and reply to long emails. They are concise and clear in their email communications almost without exception. If it’s a subject matter that needs more explaining, then they pickup the phone.

12. Run Efficient Meetings.

Successful leaders have fewer meetings and the ones they do have are hyper efficient. They always have an agenda and they stick to it. They don’t veer off track or let anyone at the meeting derail them. There’s only one problem with this habit, they become annoyed when people waste their time, so if you’re working with a high achiever please be patient.

13. Focus.

The importance of focus to your success as a leader cannot be overstated. Personally I believe that multitasking is highly overrated and I don’t know why we all take pride in it so much.

High achievers are not dabblers; they laser right in to a subject, take apart and put it back together again like a Picasso painting during his cubist period, in their own unique way. That’s what makes them brilliant. ~ Narges Nirumvala

14. Give First.

This one I learnt from my Father. He can’t go into any situation without adding value and giving of his time and energy. He’s a great business man, but also has a generous heart and manages to balance both. You give first and without expecting anything in return. Now remember these same leaders and high achievers are ruthless with their time and say no to almost everything. It’s when they actually say YES that they give first. Make sense?

15. Have a Creative Outlet.

By a creative outlet I mean something low cost that uses your hands and engages your right brain. Some good examples include cooking, gardening, painting or writing poetry. It should be something with no right and wrong, no spreadsheets or reports. Lose yourself in the daydream and let your imagination flow. 

16. Read.

My most powerful clients all love reading and professional development.  Now I’m not talking about trashy tabloid magazines. I mean books by established thought leaders and quality articles. Another reason to read more is because you can’t improve the quality of your writing unless you do.

I doesn’t matter how busy you are, you MUST find the time everyday or almost everyday to read something of substance and make a lifelong commitment to learning. ~ Narges Nirumvala

17. Obsess Over Quality.

This habit isn’t always a good one unfortunately, but almost all high achievers have it. They obsess to the point of madness over their work and particularly the quality of the work their organization turns out. The problem with that habit is that it feeds into perfectionism and can result in procrastination. In my opinion it’s better to aim for excellence and have things done at a 95% quality level and on time, than expect perfection, because it’s never going to reach 100%.

Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected. ~ Steve Jobs

18. Reflect with Gratitude.

At the end of each day spend just 5-minutes to reflect on your day and think about how much you and your team have accomplished and what you have to be thankful for.

Gratitude is a powerful force in the universe that helps you attract more abundance into your life. ~ Narges Nirumvala

Habits are so fundamental to the success of any individual, but for some reason they seem ‘too small and trivial’ to give serious consideration. It’s probably because they don’t inspire a huge emotional response. I hope this article in some small way changes that for you. It’s simple, change your habits and you change your destiny. 


IMG_6424Lo_croppedNarges Nirumvala is the CEO of ExecutiveSpeak Coaching International and a world-renowned leadership communication expert. Dubbed ‘The Secret Weapon’ by one journalist, she is an international keynote speaker, award winning entrepreneur, executive speech coach and author of the public speaking and presentation skills book “Capture the Spotlight”.  Her clients include executives and leadership teams from Fortune 500 and FT 500 companies. She was selected one of the Top 100 Leadership Experts to Follow on Twitter and is a featured writer on the LinkedIn ‘Leadership & Management’ Channel. Inquire about her services here.