The truth is that even “natural” leaders have to work hard to become leaders. Most leaders worked to earn everything they have, and while they might have the right personality to become successful leaders, they couldn’t have done it without effort.

The more you study leaders, the more you start to see what they have in common. If you want to become a better leader, there are some switches that you might need to make in your life. Below, I’ve listed some of the main ones.

1. Wake Up Early

The old adage that the early bird gets the worm is true. Waking up earlier gives your body time to start running while also expanding the amount of time available during the day.

Consider this: if you wake up an hour earlier during the week and fall asleep at the same time, you’re adding 7 hours to your week. That’s 7 hours that can be put toward good use, productivity, planning or personal development.

Do this every day for a year and you add 364 hours to your year or just over 15 extra days. Leaders understand that time is valuable, so getting an early jump and adding more time to your day is the best start.

2. Exercise

If you can’t take care of yourself, how are you expected to take care of others?

Exercise is important for multiple reasons. First, being healthy is important. Everyone is human, and exercise can reduce your risk of any illness or ailment. Second, exercising is proven to increase the amount of energy that you have throughout the day.

But leaders know that exercise goes beyond that. While exercising, you have a chance to clear your mind and focus on one thing at a time. This is important for busy people who have trouble settling down.

3. Spend Time Learning

Leaders need to wear multiple hats, and they aren’t born with the knowledge or expertise required for any of them.

You should set aside at least an hour a day each weekday to develop yourself mentally. Reading is an easy way to improve the efficiency of your mind and thinking, and you’ll also be learning whatever you choose to read.

Learning and practicing new skills is also important. Not all leaders are excellent speakers, so many of them set aside time to practice their speaking. All the traits of a leader need to be honed, so make time to do so.

4. Map Out And Pursue Goals

It’s easier to achieve success when you’ve laid out the path. Leaders are adept at goal-setting since they know it gives them an achievable mark that demonstrates how far they have come.

You should be setting personal and business goals, all within reasonable expectations. When you set a goal with milestones and a deadline, you increase your chances of accomplishing that goal. It’s an easy trick to help get the most out of yourself.

5. Build Relationships

Leaders tend to be well connected – and that doesn’t happen by chance. Relationship-building is difficult, but it can lead to excellent business opportunities, funding, and even other beneficial connections.

Some people are naturals at networking, but building relationships take it a step further. Try developing a rapport with people and keep in touch with them. You never know when a fruitful relationship can be leveraged to help you and your business succeed.

6. Work On Communication

Communication is one of the most important traits that a leader needs to have. Effective leaders spend time working on their communication.

Keep in mind that communication comes in different forms. For leaders, you will have to know how to speak to people one-on-one, speak to a small group, and speak to a larger audience. Each of these situations requires a different type of communication, but all of them are equally important when building a business.

There are plenty of guides online to help you improve your communication. There’s also a good chance that most leaders you’ve met have had to work hard to master most forms of communication.

7. Focus On Self-Awareness

It’s hard to lead other people when you aren’t self-aware. Self-awareness is difficult for a lot of people, but it’s a critical trait for leaders.

You might notice that many leaders value honesty, even at the risk of damaging their ego. The truth is that most successful leaders left their ego behind a long time ago. Nothing good comes from having an overinflated ego.

Ask your employees, co-workers or business partners to be honest with you. You may end up realizing that you aren’t very good at something you thought you were great at. But this is where improvement happens, and you can then work to make yourself better.

The more aware you are of yourself, the better all-around leader you’ll be.

8. Get Solid Sleep

Arianna Huffington has been a huge supporter of sleep ever since leaving Huffington Post, and the research backs her up.

Solid sleep is important for your mind and body. It is the time for your body to recover and prepare, and it gives your mind the rest it needs to get ready for the next day.

It’s hard to commit to getting solid sleep, but it becomes second nature when you make every other aspect of your life healthy. With a sound body and mind, sleep comes easily. Leaders know the value of sleep, and their hard work during the day allows them to rest easy at night.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Jordan French

Jordan French is a Fast 50 and Inc. 500 serial entrepreneur. A biomedical engineer and intellectual-property attorney by education and aerospace engineer by training, French has successfully launched five different businesses ranging from 3D printing to real estate data services. Named a top “growth hacker” by CIO Magazine, French is among the most well-connected Millennials and on the leadership team at FOWNDERS, the social-impact startup accelerator based in Newark, New Jersey.

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