Five things every leader should practice every day.

Leadership is not automatic. Sure, some of us are more gifted at certain aspects of leadership than others, but it’s not just something that “happens” one day. It’s more like being a professional athlete. Some people are naturally gifted in one way or another, but they still have to work at it to reach their full potential. 

For example, some leaders can make a bunch of important decisions about an issue in the same time it takes others to simply understand the question. But that doesn’t happen simply because the leader is smarter, braver, or just lucky. The process of making those decisions comes from an accumulation of experiences and encounters with a multitude of difference circumstances, personality types and unforeseen failures — over and over and over again.

Anybody can get lucky hitting a fastball every now and then. It’s not easy, but it can happen. The great hitters, though — the game changers, and the players who enjoy successful careers — never stop working on ALL of the pitches. No one is born being able to hit a curveball. They have to practice seeing it over and over again, and then be ready when it comes.

That’s where instinct comes in.

The most successful leaders are instinctual decision makers. Having done it so many times throughout their careers (like a hitter in a batting cage), they become immune to the pressure associated with decision making and intuitive about what to do; when and where. Successful leaders have learned the mastery of anticipating business patterns, finding opportunities in pressure situations, and serving the people they lead in every circumstance. How do they do this? Practice.

Here are five things every leader should practice every day. Batter up!

Say it. And say it again. 
Successful leaders are great communicators. That doesn’t mean they are all public speakers, or even the most articulate person in the room, but they know what needs to be said, and they say it, over and over again. Expectations must be set, and vision must be cast in order for others to buy in and understand their role in the success of the whole.  

Challenge Others.
 
There are leaders and then there are those who lead. In business, those who lead are the ones who empower others to become leaders. Look at it another way: No one wants a bunch of “yes men” simply hollering and applauding from the dugout. We want leaders who will step up to the plate — so to speak — and help make things happen. Challenging others means empowering them to lead. The best leaders do this every day. 

Be Accountable.
We want leaders, not managers, right? But successful leaders allow their colleagues to manage them. Listen, this doesn’t mean that in order to become a great leader you have to allow other people to control you. On the contrary. Leaders are always learning, and who better to learn from than the people you surround yourself with every day? Beyond mentoring others, being accountable to them is a sign that you are wanting to get better every day.

Own it.
 
Leaders make decisions and stand by those decisions, no matter what. No deflection. No back-tracking. Leadership is about making decisions and standing by the results of those decisions, good or bad. Leaders either facilitate the dialogue to empower their colleagues to reach a strategic conclusion or they do it themselves. But the best leaders always own their decisions.

Get Better.
From the boardroom to the living room — successful leaders are consistently seeking “better” in every area of their lives. Just like a player who ends a great season hitting .365 with 37 homers and 119 RBI; his goal next season better be .400 with 13 more homers and 150 RBI. Otherwise, he’s not continuously improving and therefore not pushing others to more, too. Great hitters help other hitters get better.

Leaders have a 360-degree perspective and plan for themselves and for the people they serve. Let me type that last part again… AND FOR THE PEOPLE THEY SERVE. Don’t ever forget that the best leaders serve. Period.