Five habits to adopt to become a great leader

Some believe great leaders are born, and some believe they are made. Wherever you stand in that great debate, Christabel Khumalo believes that these five habits will work for all types of leaders

This is an edited version of an article which originally appeared on About Leaders

Write it down

My greatest ideas are born between 4:00AM – 8:00AM. Sometimes I’ll be half asleep or fast asleep – the first thing I do is wake up and write it down. Now this is not to advise you to wake up at dawn; this is just a practical example of what writing thoughts and ideas down means for me.

Whenever you have an idea, whether the idea is attainable today or five years from now, whether it’s too large for your resources, whether it’s complex and unrelatable, write it down.

Keeping a journal handy for your thoughts allows you the ability to revisit those thoughts. You would be surprised at the amount of tangible ideas you have that you could implement today or in the future.

Your mind is full of some of the best kept secrets and they will always remain a secret if you keep them hidden.

Read, read, read

Don’t like reading books? That’s fine – maybe you prefer reading short stories or articles. Either way, keeping informed is a habit all leaders should harness.

The purposes of reading, and learning what is out there, is not to have the answer to all questions; it’s a number of things put together – it:

  • raises awareness;
  • stimulates your mind;
  • gives you a new perspective.

Personal mission statement

What is your personal mission statement? If someone had asked me that question a few years ago I probably would’ve rambled on bouncing off some powerful mission statements I have heard in the past. This is a unique habit to get into.

Having a personal mission statement cultivates your uniqueness. It is founded on who you are as a person, not a leader or any corporate label you’ve been stuck with.

This is a time to reflect on what you value and what you stand for as an individual. Being able to do this will enable you, as a leader, to strive for something that will benefit you and your followers as well.

Challenge yourself

How often do you find yourself in a room full of icons? As leaders, you’re most likely trying to answer questions or solve problems and you end up forgetting to challenge yourself by surrounding yourself with people you admire and look up to. There are opportunities for growth when you sit and talk with people you aspire to be like, people who align with your personal mission statement.

Challenging yourself can also take the form of trying something that you have never tried before. Stepping away from activities you excel at, and into those that you might possibly fail at, gives you the opportunity to have a practical personal development lesson.

I bought a sewing machine about a year ago. I had never sewn in my life. After watching a few YouTube videos I took on the challenge and sewed two skirts for my daughters. They were flawed, but I was very happy. There were lessons that I learned from that experience that I couldn’t have learned otherwise.

Yes, I already knew that sewing takes skill and patience but having that practical experience gave me a new perspective. Challenging yourself will keep you grounded and enable you to gain new perspectives.


This is my favourite. Your followers look to you to see the impossible become a possibility. If you, as a leader, cease to dream of the impossible who will see the possibilities? For this last habit, I’ll leave you with a quote from poet Langston Hughes:

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”

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