Let’s start with what it is not: Successful leaders do NOT need to wake up at 4am. I know for like 30 seconds that was all the rage. Can we put that to rest please? (See what I did there?) At the end of this post, I’ll tell you the 10 habits of people who wake up in the morning.

Over my professional career I’ve had quite a number of bosses. I’ve had a chance to learn the good and the not so good from a wide range of leaders. I have no clue what time they woke up in the morning but I do know what their actions taught me.

Let me introduce you to Gary, Joan and Zohar and what each taught me about successful leadership.

Successful Leader I: GARY

Gary owned an international clothing export business. When I started working in his warehouse, I was the shlepper– taking clothes out of boxes to fill orders, managing inventory, keeping the place tidy.

But Gary was someone who liked to move talented people up the ranks. Gary actually talked with me, listened to my ideas regarding connections I had and offered me the chance to do additional work in the sales department.

While working in sales, Gary started picking my brain about marketing strategy for his company. And that’s how I made my way to VP of marketing.

Takeaways from Gary:

  1. Don’t box employees into their roles. Let them express their ideas and thoughts for the betterment of the overall operation.
  2. No employee is too “lowly” to talk to. We all know that boss who’s snobby and refuses to converse with anyone below C-level. Sad.
  3. Move employees up in the ranks. If an employee demonstrates how talented they are, start moving them up the chain to where they belong. It can be gradual but employees who know there’s a track will stick around longer.
Successful leaders ask for feedback from employees

Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

Successful Leader II: JOAN

Joan founded and managed Israel’s first inclusive nursery, where children with and without disabilities learned together. After 20 years, Joan decided to take some time off from managing the entire operation.

I was hired as interim CEO and head fundraiser. During my tenure, Joan was my boss and took on an advisory role. She taught me how to lead an organization of 60 employees and how to manage the overall operations. Joan was a constant source of positive feedback, allowed me to implement new ideas and motivated me to push forward.

Though her title said so, Joan never acted as my boss. She was a mentor, guide, teacher, gave me space to do my thing and most important, she was a friend. This is important for me to point out: Twelve years later, I can say that she is still a friend. And a guide. And a teacher.

Takeaways from Joan:

  1. Mentor your employees. You have wisdom, knowledge and experience. Share it!
  2. Deliver positive feedback. Your employees will be happy to hear they’re doing a good job. Happy employees are more motivated, have higher job satisfaction and will produce more.
  3. Be a friend. Yes- it’s important to maintain the boss-employee standing. But that doesn’t preclude a boss from becoming friends with everyone on staff.

Successful Leader III: ZOHAR

Zohar was the CEO of a brand new hi-tech start up. I was hired as the CMO.

For the first time in my career, I had a budget to work with and a boss who told me: Go to work. And then he actually…let me do my thing!

Zohar was not afraid of trying and failing. He asked questions and challenged new ideas I was implementing. But once he was satisfied with my reasoning, he told me to continue. If idea A failed, he encouraged me to try B, C, D and E. He gave me room to maneuver and spend the budget as I saw fit.

One other thing: Zohar believed that EVERYTHING is measurable. Almost literally. I learned about effective use and interpretation of data. Sure, we were working with an Excel spreadsheet that had 45 columns and close to 3,000 lines. (For those scoring at home, that’s over 10,000 individual data points to work with.) But I absolutely loved that we were making decisions based on numbers and not just because a boss decided on a whim to go in a new direction.

Takeaways from Zohar:

  1. Give employees room to maneuver.
  2. Allowing employees to try implementing new ideas. It is beneficial to an organization.
  3. Failure is not something to be afraid of! Embrace your failures, learn from them and then go try again.

Gary, Joan and Zohar taught me how successful leaders become successful. And it has nothing to do with an alarm clock.

P.S. As promised and thanks to Kate for the assist!

The Top 10 Habits of People Who Wake Up in the Morning. They…

  1. Go back to bed
  2. Curse at their alarm clock
  3. Open one eye and look to see if it’s really, actually time to get up
  4. Wonder why they feel so tired and only got 4 hours of sleep
  5. Then remember they were on Amazon till 2am product browsing and may or may not have purchased a zucchini peeler
  6. Drink a cup of coffee before they’re able to open both eyes
  7. Consider exercising before showering and heading to work. They don’t.
  8. Try to find a matching pair of socks and give up after realizing they work at home and it doesn’t matter
  9. Are on their fourth cup of coffee by 9am
  10. Check Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Email, Pinterest, Messenger, Texts, the news and scores from last night before they even begin figuring out what they have to do for work that day. By that point, it’s time to break for lunch.

Hey nonprofit pro! I publish an e-newsletter Monday-Thursday which delivers to your Inbox relevant content for any nonprofit role you fill. Expand horizons with one click. Subscribe today!