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The Slight Edge for Leaders

It can seem daunting to become an effective leader. You may think that to create an impact you need to work extraordinarily hard, “fake it till you make it,” or become a different person altogether. The reality is that we all have innate leadership abilities and often what is needed to create a positive impact is a small improvement of 5-10%.

Too often we believe that massive results require massive action, so we put pressure on ourselves to make earth-shattering improvements, often leading to frustration, disappointment and the abandonment of ambitious goals.

Small, incremental improvements may not sound exciting or may not be noticeable right away, but over time they accumulate and create a REAL, long-lasting change.

Our outcomes become a delayed measure of our daily habits. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits[1]suggests that if you improve something just by 1% each day, by the end of the year you will have improved 37 times:

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The level of trust, engagement, and motivation your team feels in your leadership is a cumulative result of your daily interactions and your leadership habits to date. So how can you leverage this to take your leadership effectiveness to the next level?

You can intentionally create daily habits that will help you build on your innate leadership abilities and develop your own slight edge.

Four daily habits that will help you start creating an immediate impact:

  • Celebrate small things by showing appreciation and acknowledging your team for their ideas, effort, and support. Use this simple formula to maximize impact: Be sincere, specific and tell the person the effect they’ve had and how it made you feel.
  • Practice active listening. Whenever you ask a question, stay silent and resist the urge to add value by giving advice, interjecting, or sharing personal experiences.
  • Practice asking instead of telling. Use four magic words: “What do YOU think?” It can be helpful to prepare a list of powerful questions to tap into.
  • Make an effort to communicate face-to-face instead of by email when there are complex, sensitive, or emotionally charged issues to address. Not only will this bring you closer to your team, but it will also help ensure that your message is delivered effectively as you can observe the person’s tone of voice and body language.

The small things we do every day often matter more than the big things we do on occasion. In the words of Jeff Olsen author of The Slight Edge, “Successful people just do the things that seem to make no difference in the act of doing them and they do them over and over until the compound effect kicks in.”

[1] James Clear (2018) Atomic Habits, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

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