Daily Habits of Highly Successful Leaders and What You Can Learn from Each One of Them

One of the most powerful secrets of effective leaders today is establishing a daily routine. Maybe you haven’t had the best track record with daily habits, and that’s ok. The good news is you can get better today and then even better tomorrow. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a CEO say after turning around a company that he did it by “getting back to the basics.” The same thing goes with your own daily routines and habits. When I talk to top leaders on my podcast about what their day-to-day looks like, they always start with the basics. They identify a few key behaviors that are important to them, and then turn their intentions into action. It’s that simple.

Here’s what my daily habits look like:

#1 Prepare the Night Before:

You see, it’s really important to me to start my daily routine the night before. I look at my calendar for the next day and ask myself, “What’s going to make each point of my day successful?” Next, I try to envision what success would look like. By thinking about it the night before, I go into my day prepared and focused on coming out with successful outcomes. 

#2 Gratitude:

David and his adorable King Charles Spaniel, Theo.

My morning starts with a wake-up call from my dog. I like to wake up early, feed Theo, and have a cup of coffee. Then I like to sit with my gratitude journal and write three things I am grateful for every single day. This puts me in a grateful space before I start my day, and has created a lot of joy in my life. It also prompts me to share these gratitudes with the people in my life through a short email or text which has strengthened my relationship with others.

#3 Workout:

Next, I like to try to exercise for at least 30 minutes before my day starts. I always feel better after a workout and knowing that it is completed.

Here are what my friends’ daily habits look like: 

Cultivate a Positive Attitude

My friend Harry Arnett, who is the CEO of Municipal, understands that deciding in advance to have a good day matters. So, each morning before he leaves for the day, Harry tells his wife and kids the same thing: “Let’s go make sure we have a better day today than we did yesterday, and let’s make a positive influence on at least one person today.”

Ken Langone, Co-Founder of The Home Depot, always asks himself, “What can I do today to be as good a person as I hope I can be.” By asking and answering this question, Ken is preparing himself to look for ways to be the person he wants to be, rather than hoping it will happen by chance.

Physical and Mental Exercise 

Milind Pant has a couple of daily habits that he puts to practice. One is daily exercise, even if it's just 20 minutes. It could just be a run, or getting onto a bike or whatever. Just 20 minutes of daily exercise he finds to be really beneficial. The second thing he picked up the last couple of years is that he takes just 10 minutes to shut his eyes and meditate. These 10 minutes really help him to clear his head and give him energy to move on to what’s next.

Connect with Others

Dan Cathy, Chairman, President and CEO of Chick-fil-A does not have his own office by choice, so he wanders around the office interacting with people and working in shared spaces. This helps him keep engaged with his team and lead with intentionality.

Putting Things in Perspective

Ryan Serhant, real estate broker, CEO, and founder of SERHANT takes his phone out and writes a pros and cons list. He says it really helps him especially when he’s feeling anxious. Making a list about what really makes him nervous about that particular day and then writing a list about what good happened that day is a habit that he has built in daily. He says that it’s always funny, the list of reasons why this one thing he’s worried about could be bad ends up only being like one or two things, and the list of all the good things that come out of the day is awesome. Writing this list always calms him down, he even notices his breathing and heart rate slowing. He also said it’s a great reminder to take advantage of the situation you are given. Instead of worrying about what’s to come, you are able to really take charge of your day and make the most of it.

Follow Up with Others

Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO, is disciplined about follow-up. One way he keeps track of his tasks is by keeping an 8×10 handwritten list with him at all times. He lists the emails and phone calls he needs to return, he keeps track of who owes things to him so he can follow up, and he lists things he needs to think about and will reflect on this while he’s driving. When an item is completed, he obliterates it off the list with joy!

Insight to Action - How YOU can have an even better tomorrow:

#1 What are some things you already do to ensure you have a successful day?

I knew that to be my best I needed to prepare the night before, and the next morning I needed to work out and write down my gratitude list. These 3 habits were keys to my success and still are. 

#2 Are there changes you need to make to your daily routine? If so, really be intentional about what it is and make the change.

Years back when I first started as CEO of YUM! Brands I realized that people constantly tried to avoid me until around 10:00 AM because I am just not a morning person. When I learned that I wasn’t at my best until after 10:00 AM I knew I needed to start scheduling all my major meetings after 10:00 in the morning. Making this small change allowed me to come in ready to be the very best I could be. I still do this today. Maybe you have something similar you need to change, or while reading this, something came up in your mind that could help you make a change. What is it? Implement that and you are sure to see the benefits take place!

November 30, 2021