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Do Great Leaders Have Strong People Habits_

Do Great Leaders Have Strong People Habits?

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On two occasions recently, I’ve met people with strong people habits. What are people habits?

Well, firstly, what is a habit: a long, loose garment … no, not that one! A habit according to my ancient hard copy of the 1992 edition of the Oxford Dictionary (Ed – Impressive, hard copy nogal!)a habit is a settled or regular tendency or practice … that is hard to give up … a mental constitution or attitude … an automatic reaction to a specific situation.

So when people have strong people habits, they find them hard to give up, they react automatically.

According to the publishers of Shadowmatch, an excellent tool I use on a daily basis, there are 5 parts to people habits:

Frustration handling, team inclination, people positive, conflict handling and altruism.


  • You positively deal with frustrating circumstances,
  • You’re inclined to work as part of a team, rather than as an individual,
  • You build relationships with people and influence them positively,
  • You deal with conflict with a view towards to a positive outcome and
  • You do things for others without expecting much in return

You’ll be a man my son.

No, sorry Rudyard.

But you’ll take your impact on people seriously every day. You don’t like negative people outcomes. Think disciplinaries / CCMA, think management team conflict/negotiations, think corporate psychopathy, think firing people or suppliers etc. Not fun for strong people habit owners.

The problem for the manager with strong people habits is balancing the need to get things done effectively and efficiently vs the need to have a happy team/reputation.

That’s why effective leaders have more balanced people habits, balanced between task and people.
If you think you’re a strong people habits manager, be aware of this in your daily decision making. Some of your stress might be generated by trying to be all things to all people. Good managers know when to pull in the rope on the slack team member without getting wrapped up in ‘feelings’.

That’s also why very few sales, marketing, HR and service people become CEO. They’re often more emotionally engaged with customers, colleagues and suppliers.

Finance is a natural pool of talent for CEO because they understand the numbers and they’re not married to the people stuff. But they tie themselves into knots when they treat staff as a necessary evil, customer service as discretionary and supplier relations as a war of attrition with one ultimate winner.

The good news, of course, is that we can measure your managers’ people habits and evaluate their impact on organisational performance. Let me know if you’d like to find out more.