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7 Smart Habits of Successful Leaders

When you think of great leadership and smart business, there are just a few names that immediately come to mind: Dave Ramsey, Jim Collins, Seth Godin, Patrick Lencioni and Dr. Henry Cloud. Together, these men have sold millions of books and have taught thousands of business owners and leaders how to make their organizations better and their teams happier. Add Ramsey Solutions speaker and best-selling author of Retired Inspired Chris Hogan and business coach and speaker Christy Wright, and you have a combination that just can’t be beat.

Throughout the year, we spoke with all of these business leaders on our podcast and asked for their best advice on how to take a company to the next level. Even though the conversations were focused on business, they can be used in any area of life. Here are their top tips.

1. Dave Ramsey: People Matter Most

At Dave’s company, everything he and his leaders do is centered around one simple idea: People matter most. They know that their families, customers and team members all have hopes and dreams. They all have struggles. Everyone needs to be treated with respect. Giving grace is always the go-to first step.

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"A lot of corporate America has forgotten that," Dave says. "Some businesses see their customers as units of revenue and team members as units of production. But when you take that too far, you end up making decisions that are good for the stock price but terrible for the people who are really driving your business. You don’t want to put your team members into foreclosure just to shave a few bucks off the bottom line."

2. Jim Collins: Preserve the Core

Saying that Jim Collins knows a bit about business is like stating the Sphinx is just a cute kitty statue. Massive understatement. The best-selling author of some of the top business books of all time, Jim has spent his career studying what makes companies great. From one of our favorite books, Built to Last, Jim shared one of the secrets of success of companies that are, well, built to last.

Every great company has a core set of values that drives them. They are not open for discussion, negotiation or change. They don’t define what you do. They define who you are and what you stand for. Does the same hold true for you?

"No truly great company has as its purpose to principally make money. . . . It’s essential for life but not point of life," Jim says. "The point of life is to do something useful and significant. Look at Walt Disney. He wasn’t trying to make money. He was making money to do what he was really about—to make people happy. That was the drive."

3. Seth Godin: Discipline Is Key

There is a reason every Seth Godin book has been a best-seller and his marketing blog remains the most successful one in the world: lots of hard work and discipline. Seth grinds it out every day, even when he doesn’t feel like it. In fact, he’s written nearly 6,000 blog posts—that’s 12 years of posting.

"There isn’t one post that I’ve done that changed everything for me or anyone. . . . But over time, the practice of chopping wood, carrying water, and showing up has changed me and changed a lot of people who subscribe," Seth says.

4. Patrick Lencioni: Catch People Doing Something Right

Like Dave, Patrick Lencioni is a huge believer in honoring team members for jobs well done. People, he says, never get tired of being recognized and appreciated. The key to recognition is to do it in a way that is genuine and tied to your core values, or it’s not worth much.

"Giving someone a $500 gift certificate in a bad way doesn’t go very far," Lencioni says. "But calling someone out in a meeting or inviting an employee into an executive staff meeting to tell them you think they embody your values is extremely valuable. It can last forever. You have to get creative, be informal, and do it all of the time."

5. Dr. Henry Cloud: You Can’t Please Everyone

As a clinical psychologist and leadership expert, Dr. Henry Cloud is full of incredible advice. But one of our favorite bits of wisdom is based on a simple concept: You can’t please everyone all of the time. The problem, though, is it’s not always an easy concept to act on. Neurologically, we are all wired from birth to please, Cloud explains. Think about a baby, he says. When you smile, they smile. When you frown, they start to withdraw.

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Instead of being a people-pleaser, focus on the only thing you can do: make the right decision. It gets the focus off what you can’t do, and that’s keeping everyone happy.

"[Former Prime Minister of England] Tony Blair once told me, ’My life became so much better, easier and so much more effective when I realized one truth. And that’s every decision divides.’ Once you realize that, then you can start focusing on what’s right, what’s loving, and what’s good stewardship," Cloud says.

6. Chris Hogan: Sacrifice

A long-time member of Dave’s team, best-selling author and speaker for EntreLeadership events Chris Hogan knows a little bit about being busy. Yet he still believes you can’t have it all. To get something, you must be willing to give up something else, he says. We all have the same amount of time each day. This is where the rubber meets the proverbial road.

"The time we spend is a choice, and too often making passive choices leads to undesired results," Chris says. "I am totally fine with not knowing who got voted off the island or who won the most recent dance contest. Your vision should guide how you’re willing to spend your time."

7. Christy Wright: Just Say No

Like Chris, Christy Wright is no stranger to a full schedule. As a full-time speaker, she spends a lot of her time traveling from coast to coast. Add to those responsibilities, her family, a blog and life-coaching duties, and it’s easy to see why she quickly had to learn to handle it all without letting anything drop.

Christy says everyone and their brother is more than willing to tell us what we should be doing, how we should be raising our kids, where we should be spending our money, what we should be eating, what causes should be important to us, how we should run our business, and on and on and on. If you can’t say no, life and everyone will just push you around.

"My mom said something once that’s really helped me," Christy says. "She said, ’Christy, if they are going to have the nerve to ask you, you have to have the nerve to say no.’ I love that. I don’t have to feel bad or guilty or worry about letting someone down. That person initiated the conversation by making the first request. They had the nerve to ask, so I have to value myself and protect my priorities enough to say no. It’s hard at first. But once you get the hang of it, saying no actually feels good. It makes you feel more powerful—like you have a say in your own life. Imagine that!"

Want to learn more about leadership from Dave Ramsey, Christy Wright and Chris Hogan? Then join us at EntreLeadership 1-Day. This is a transformative event for the entire team that will give you an action plan to overhaul your team culture, improve communication throughout your organization, and get your team to act like owners. Join us in Nashville, TN or stream the entire event from anywhere, October 27. Reserve your space today.

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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