How do you start your day? Do you get up a 5am for a comprehensive workout followed by a healthy breakfast, or do you hit the snooze button to get in 10 more minutes and end up rushing out the door with barely enough time to make an instant coffee? At work do you dive right into emails, or do you actively avoid looking at your inbox before the “serious” work is done? These are just a few (polar opposite) examples of the morning routines of highly successful leaders. On the face of it, the logic of unpacking the habits of successful leaders in order to take a “short cut” to success by copying the path of someone who has been there before is sound (there’s no need to reinvent the wheel). And lately, it seems that morning routines have caught the attention of the leadership development community - “win the morning, and you’ll win the day”.

Upon closer inspection however, it is worth while taking a more critical look at this approach as many of the morning routines that successful leaders have built are dictated by their individual circumstances, that is to say they do what works for them. Yes, studying the behaviours of successful leaders is the right approach, but over emphasising the importance of behaviours such as at the time you wake up, what you eat for breakfast, and when you check your email is counterproductive.

The single behaviour that unites all successful leaders is that they regularly dedicate time in some way to intensive intentional focus on where they are going and the path that will take them there. In the words of the great Stephen Covey - “they begin with the end in mind”. Having recently concluded two large scale leadership coaching assignments with some rising stars across both the Health and Education sectors, I definitely concur with Covey.

Part of each leadership coaching program involved the junior leaders reflecting on the supportive and strategic leadership behavers that they had demonstrated as they transitioned into formalised senior leadership roles. Inevitably, our conversations turned to how the junior leaders kept their own leadership goals in focus, and unsurprisingly many revealed that they had developed a daily habit of intentional reflection. Further probing revealed that many had a question (or three) that they asked themselves each day to keep focused. I’d like to share some of my favourite responses from the junior leaders below, and have added some commentary as to why I believe that they are worthwhile questions for all leaders to regularly reflect on.

Powerful Questions For On Purpose Leadership:

  • What will I create today? - The best thing about this question is its inevitable result, action. Even if the action doesn’t turn out as intended, the result will be equally (and sometimes more) valuable, learning.
  • Who am I helping today? - Too many leaders forget that leading is about people, and management is about things. This question keeps the core business of leadership in sharp focus.
  • When do I expect to see the short term and long term results of my efforts? - Constantly anchoring into and reassessing time frames around expected results is crucial for improvement as a leader because it 1) keeps us accountable, and 2) helps us to temper our (often over inflated) expectations for radical short term gains, and persevere towards longer term success.
  • Where will I be expending my energy today? - We all have a finite amount of (physical and mental) energy, choosing where we spend it, and acknowledging that a period of recovery may be necessary once it’s spent will more likely ensure leadership longevity.
  • How am I improving myself today? - Success as a leader (as with anything worthwhile) is often about the incremental improvements we make. When daily small improvements are stacked on top of each other over time, big gains can be made.
  • Why do I do what I do? - This is the biggie. Leaders with a solid “why” can endure any “how”.


Bringing it together

Successful leaders share a habit of intensive intentional focus on where they are going and the path that will take them there. In a world full of interuptions, there’s never been a more important time to take control of our own focus. What questions should you be asking to maintain daily focus on your leadership development goals?

Have an intentional day!


HR Business Direction can help you and your workforce narrow your focus on Leadership Development.

Alistair Kerr, MPsychOrg; PostGradDip Psych; BPsych

Organisaitonal Development Strategist | Psychologist

07 3890 2066

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