10 strong leadership habits all business owners should have

Some leaders seem so…together. They have strong leadership habits and always having energy, look well rested, and generally appear calm, have high performance, and confident. So what’s the secret potion they’re drinking every morning? And where can we get some?

After digging around, we found that, unfortunately, there is no magic potion. But great leaders do keep certain routines and demonstrate leadership habits that make them successful. They do simple things each day that improve their lives (and that research shows are actually quite helpful for anyone.)

leadership habitsThese leadership habits are so simple, in fact, you could easily adopt them, too. So let’s take a look at what it is they’re doing.

1. Get the heart pumping

exercise leadership habits

Exercise is an easy way to get your blood flowing and your body fully awake before work. Heart-pumping exercise blasts through those groggy, gooey-eyed mornings when all you can think is, “Please! 5 more minutes of sleep!”

This study showed that memory function in young men was significantly better in those who had just participated in a strenuous stationary bike exercise than those who sat still for the same amount of time. The men who exercised showed higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that helps the health of nerve cells.

15-30 minutes of exercise in the morning can make a big difference. And it’s good for your brain. So why not get up a few minutes earlier and give it a try?

2. Eat a healthy breakfast

While you’re sleeping, you’re fasting. So when you wake up in the morning, you’ll want to break that fast with something easy on the stomach (since it’s probably empty.) This means skipping the sugary cinnamon roll or greasy breakfast skillet.

Stacy Nelson, a Senior Clinical Nutritionalist, recommends eating whole grain toast, a muffin, or a waffle topped with peanut butter and paired with a glass of low-fat milk.

The same article discussed how research at Tufts University showed that when children ate cereal or oatmeal with equal levels of sugar content, the oatmeal eaters didn’t experience a blood sugar crash mid-morning like the cereal eaters did. Who knew altering your breakfast menu could be on a list of leadership habits?

3. Drink coffee…in moderation

Coffee is a wonderful thing. There’s a certain cozy, familiar feeling associated with the perfect cup—the sharp scent of it wafting in through the kitchen—and that kick of caffeine isn’t so bad, either.

Dr. Rob van Dam, Assistant Professor at Harvard School of Public Health, shared how drinking up to six  (8 oz) cups per day is not associated with any major health issues—but for most, moderation is key. When you start to get a little shaky from lack of caffeine, it’s a sign you need to reduce your intake or switch to decaf.

A caffeine buzz is a necessary part of many leaders’ days, and might be a good addition to yours. Just don’t overdo it.

4. Make a to-do list the night before

Being organized creates a sense of control, and a great leadership habit is  knowing what you need to accomplish each day. How do you do that? By making a to-do list before the day even begins—so that when it arrives, there’s a clear plan of action.

Organization is a healthy habit that helps set priorities and expectations, eliminates procrastination and anxiety, and helps establish a road map for leaders.

Before you go to bed tonight, make a list of the things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Keep it with you and cross things off as they are completed. That quick swipe of a pen never felt so good!

5. Have quiet time

Taking a few moments to step away from the everyday hustle is another great leadership habit. Whether it’s mediation, prayer, or just a few minutes of quiet to clear your head—this “shutting off” time is a valuable tool for fighting off burnout.

Observing “quiet time” can help manage stress, reduce anxiety, improve sleep quality, and more. It’s important to do this regularly and keep it a normal part of your schedule.

Not sure how to get in the zone? Try Headspace or Calm for free guided relaxation techniques.

6. Get your jam on

music leadership habits

Yes, quiet time is important—but so is listening to music. Too much silence can be daunting (and uninspiring) when it comes to the workplace environment.

Listening to music is proven to be effective—MusicWorks found that 65% of employers saw increased productivity when music was played at work.

Not a fan what’s playing over the company speakers? Pop in a single headphone or listen to your own jams at your desk.

7. Regularly meet with key people

Much like the President has his Cabinet, a strong leader has a go-to force he or she calls on for guidance. Holding regular meetings with these key players means the leader is always aware of what’s going on, what issues need to be addressed, and how the business is performing in different areas.

If you feel like you need to be more in the know, try expanding your leadership habits by hosting a weekly morning check-in session for your key team members. It might even serve as a brainstorming tool.

A good leader is an informed leader.

8. Plan for the variables

Part of being organized is making plans to eliminate the stress caused by variables. Packing your lunch the night before or planning out the next day’s outfit cuts down on decision-making in the morning when you might already be pressed for time.

Plus, when you have more time to make decisions, they are likely to be better decisions. As in, healthier food choices and no mis-matched socks that make you feel silly during an important meeting.

Take a few minutes this evening to plan out the variables of tomorrow. It will make your morning SO much easier.

9. Snack healthy

healthy snack leadership habits

Having energy throughout the day is often the result of light meals supplemented by healthy snacking. These little burst of fuel throughout the day keep leaders sharp and stomachs satisfied.

Don’t believe it? This study showed that popcorn was more satisfying than potato chips—with popcorn being a much healthier snack. Keep in mind that guilty pleasures aren’t always as good as they sound.

The next time you confront the mid-afternoon slump, don’t reach for the candy jar or head to the vending machine. Come prepared with fruit, nuts, or a bag of popcorn.

10.  Follow the news

Leaders always need to understand what is happening in the world around them—both locally and around the world. Taking a few moments to watch the news, read some articles, or listen on the way into work are easy ways to soak up some knowledge without interrupting your morning routine (and it’s an easy way to improve your leadership habits.)

Don’t have a ton of time to digest full articles? Apps like Circa bring short summaries of news stories right to your mobile device.

Knowing what’s happening in the world around you is important for everyday conversation, too. Don’t get left out of another lunchroom discussion.

Every leader is different—but ones who succeed share commonalities in these healthy habits. You can become a morning person by taking on a few (or all) of these easy practices, too. Baby steps—try one or two at first and add on some others throughout the week.

Do you know any other strong leadership habits? We’re looking for ideas—there’s always room for improvement!


Photo credit: aarmonomeglet127, russelljsmith john.schultz, geishaboy500, giphy,  gonalvmaremily @ go haus go[Crewe]kawanet

Kaleigh Moore

Kaleigh Moore is no stranger to small business. She's the Founder of Lumen -- a business that offers copywriting, social media services, and graphic design. When she's not contributing to the EnMast blog, you'll find her running or at the movies (because the running helps manage the movie snack consumption.) Connect with Kaleigh on Twitter, LinkedIn, or read her blog.


  1. Excellent article. It’s so important to have really strong leadership characteristics and habits when you’re a business owner. Not to say that you should be a jack of all trades. If you have one or two strong things that you can do well, then you should stick to doing just those things and delegate other areas to people on your team that can do them well.

    ~ Ti

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