Why is that? If you look for common threads, you’ll often discover the problem was not in the situation, it was in how you responded to it.
Challenges come and challenges go in leadership. The difference between great leaders and poor leaders is often how their character responds to crisis.
Great leaders adopt practices, attitudes and positions that they quite simply "never regret." And that’s the key: There are some things you do as a leader that you’ll just never regret.
While I haven’t gotten every situation right in leadership (far from it), I took some time to make a list of 21 things I’ve never regretted doing as a leader. My guess is when you’ve done them, you’ve never regretted them either.
And if you and I keep doing them, we’ll have far fewer regrets moving forward.
21 Things You’ll Never Regret
1. Throwing your heart into whatever you do
I’m increasingly convinced that a fire burning in your soul is one ingredient in businesses, churches and other organizations that are doing an outstanding job these days.
Far too many leaders are phoning it in. If that’s you, hang up. "Being enthusiastic and fully engaging the task before you with all your heart" is one of the best shots you’ve got at making an impact.
2. Taking the high road
It’s easy to get pulled down into mud … arguing, jostling and getting caught up in cheap accusations that lead nowhere good.
Don’t. Take the high road. You know what that is. Be kind. Don’t fight back. Prepare to be misunderstood. Forgive. Show grace.
The high road isn’t the easy road, but it’s the best road.
3. Saying you’re sorry
It’s easy to apologize when you’re new or just starting out. Everyone expects you to make mistakes.
It’s harder when you’re the leader. It’s hardest when you’re a successful leader who’s been leading a long time. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re above reproach. You’re not. In fact, I think the leader should be the FIRST to apologize
4. Praying for your team
You will never regret praying for your team. Pray for them by name. Ask them what specifically you can pray for.
A leader who prays for his team is a leader worth following.
5. Pushing through your fears
It’s not that great leaders have no fears. Pathological people may have no fears, but otherwise we pretty much all face them.
Great leaders push through their fears.
6. Smiling more
You’ll never regret smiling more. I know I look grumpy unless I remind myself to smile. I’m actually not grumpy most of the time … I just look that way.
7. Saying an encouraging word
Very few people I know would say they are over-encouraged.
OK, no one I know has ever told me they’ve exceeded their lifetime dose of encouragement. Encouragement costs you nothing as a leader but it means everything to the person you’re encouraging.
Think about that.
8. Saying thank you
Ditto with thank you. When a leader starts acting entitled, followers lose heart.
Treat everyone—including staff—like they were volunteers. Thank them regularly and sincerely.
Even your staff have other options. They can quit. And if you fail to show gratitude, they will.
9. Helping someone who can’t help you back
Leadership ushers in responsibilities, but it also brings some perks.
At some point you might command a slightly higher salary than others, have access to expense account others don’t, or even have more control over your time. Don’t use the perks of leadership solely for your benefit. Help someone who can’t help you back.
Buy them something. Be generous with your time. Open your home. Give them access to something or someone they couldn’t gain access to without you. Can they pay you back?
10. Finding a few great mentors
Leadership can be a lonely journey, but it doesn’t have to be. Finding mentors is something you’ll never regret doing.
Look for leaders who are a stage ahead in life and who are the kind of people you want to be.
11. Developing some replenishing relationships
Leadership, whether in business or ministry can be draining. You give all day and often go home exhausted. Being exhausted at home is probably not what you or your spouse want or need to grow your relationship.
Consequently, my wife and I realized years ago that we need to have some friends who truly replenish us … the kind of relationships where time passes quickly and you leave energized and feeling better than when you came.
12. Determine your priorities in advance
I am amazed at how often I have to re-establish priorities in leadership. Deciding ahead of time what you will do and not do, when you will be off and when you will work, with whom you will meet and with whom you won’t, will help you keep first things first.
If you don’t do this, you will never have enough time and will always be disappointed with your results.
13. Adopting a fixed schedule
One of the best leadership moves I made was moving to a fixed schedule.
What I mean by that is I follow the same rhythm to my work every week with very few exceptions. I pre-determine writing time, e-mail time, phone time, meeting days and more.
A fixed schedule, oddly enough, gives you flexibility when the unexpected arises.
14. Discovering what fuels and drains you
Ever wonder why some days you go home feeling excited and other days you go home exhausted—and yet you worked the same number of hours?
Some activities drain you and others fuel you. Figuring out which does what can greatly change the effectiveness of your leadership. Great leaders will spend more and more time on the things that energize them and less on the things that drain them.
It’s that simple.
15. Investing in your personal leadership development
You can think of conferences, coaching, books, courses and development programs as expenses, or as investments.
If you think of them as investments, you will become a far better leader.The best leaders never hesitate to invest in their personal development.
Becoming better is never a waste of money.
16. Taking meaningful vacations
Even when my wife and I were starting out and we had no money, we found money to take even a simple annual vacation. It’s one of the best investments we’ve made over the years.
I say meaningful vacations because you’ll be tempted to cheat. You’ll be tempted to say “three days is enough.” No it’s not. You’ll be tempted to say, “We can just stay home and relax.” And maybe you can. But I just want to catch up on household projects when I do.
Taking a meaningful vacation doesn’t mean you have to drop thousands on Europe, but it does mean you need to rest and recharge.
17. Developing a hobby you love I could almost be a ‘work is my hobby’ guy. Maybe you could be too.
I love what I do and even writing this blog and doing coaching, training and speaking are “hobbies.” Work just doesn’t feel like work to me most days.
But I also realize I need interests outside of developing business and ministry leadership. At least if I’m going to stay healthy and balanced. Lately, I have taken on gardening as a hobby which grounds me in another kind of growth.
Despite what you think, you need a hobby.
18. Becoming an early riser
While there’s some debate about whether early risers really do get the worm, I’m sold on getting up early, and so are some of the world's most well-known leaders. (Think Bill Gates or Richard Branson.)
I think you’ll never regret becoming an early riser because you simply get one to three hours to accomplish things when no one is texting you, bothering you or slamming your inbox.
I think one of the keys to success is simply beating the patterns most other people follow. For me, getting up at 5 gives me (and you) a two- to three-hour advantage over almost everyone—and everything—else.
19. Getting to bed on time
There’s evidence that people who are sleep deprived operate with a similar impairment level to people who drink too much.
Leaders who are rested always bring more to the table than leaders who are tired.
20. Eating better
Sugar and carbohydrate crashes happen to far too many leaders. Cutting down on sugar and carbs has helped me not only lose weight, but feel much better throughout the day.
21. Working out
It’s about discipline, but most of the productive leaders I know take their health and working out at least somewhat seriously.
BONUS Carving out a daily time with God Why is that the first thing to go in the lives of many Christians is our time with God?
Anchoring myself in scripture and prayer at the beginning of every day is a discipline I’ve never regretted.
You lead better when you hear from God.
You really wouldn’t regret any of these, would you? And that’s the point. Sometimes the key to a better future is simpler than we think.