Have you ever been done with work? So done that you needed a long time off? That was the catalyst for Brad Lomenick to write H3 Leadership.
Brad was burned out on running an organization called Catalyst and needed a sabbatical. Out of that sabbatical he dug deep into his life and what success was and thus we have the three main areas that he feels encompass good leadership habits.
First is Humble, which is all about answering who you are. Second is Hungry, which answers the questions about where you want to go. Third, Hustle this is all about how you’re going to get where you want to go.
Inside each of these areas is a set of habits that Lomenick feels you need if you want to be a strong leader. That’s the purpose of the book, to teach us the 20 key habits that Lomenick feels make us good leaders.
Lomenick focuses on habits because all humans are creatures of habit.
When you rise in the morning, nearly half of your day will be determined by the patterns you’ve either intentionally created or passively allowed.
Knowing this we must also understand that it’s vital to craft what we do with intention. We must not just let things go by us in a hap-hazard fashion.
Before we dive into the habits that H3 Leadership is about, let’s look at the definition of habit according to Lomenick.
A habit is a practice shaped by behavior or daily action that helps turn ideals into action, principles into practice, and concepts into concrete.
I think that he misses the proper definition of habit a bit here because he talks about turning ideals into action. A habit has nothing to do with ideals necessarily. Oh it should have something to do with positive actions, but so many of our habits have nothing to do with anything positive. They’re simply the ingrained patterns that have happened in our lives.
We also see the importance of habits in The ONE Thing:
Put up with the discipline long enough to turn it into habit, and the journey feels different. Lock in one habit so it becomes part of your life, and you can effectively ride the routine with less wear and tear on yourself. The hard stuff becomes habit, and the habit makes the hard stuff easy. – The One Thing
Building habits means that you don’t have to rely on willpower all the time. Willpower is a muscle that gets tired and when it’s tired we fall back to the easiest decision. Make the easiest thing a habit you want to have.
Now, let’s dive in to Lomenick first grouping of habits.
Humble: Who Are You?
As I said already, Lomenick feels that the Humble habits are all about the character of who you are. When people think of you, what type of person do they think about. The following habits are ones that the author feels will make you into a good person.
A Habit of Self-Discovery
The time to develop a habit of self-discovery is not after one has spent a decade in leadership, but before. If one doesn’t know who he is, how can he fully know how to live out what he feels called to?
This habit as all about leading from inside. Learning your strengths and weaknesses and working to improve on how you act. It’s about maintaining authenticity.
It’s also about making sure that you don’t hang your entire worth on the organization. If the organization fails, that does not mean you are a failure.
To develop this habit Lomenick says:
Developing a habit of self-discovery means creating intentional rhythms whereby one observes who he is, listens to his life, and strives to define himself apart from his professional assignments.
I think that self-discovery and the next habit of openness tie together very tightly.
A Habit of Openness
People would rather follow a leader who is always real versus a leader who is always right. Don’t try to be a perfect leader, just work on being an authentic one.
When Lomenick talked about the habit of self-discovery he talked about authenticity, which is what the habit of openness is all about.
Being open is about admitting when you’ve done something wrong and apologizing for it. It means being okay with your team calling you on things that you’re missing.
We do this in my family with my kids getting to call me on using my phone too much. My oldest will ask what I’m doing on my phone and most often I tell her nothing important and hand her the phone to put in our charging drawer.
That does mean sometimes I need to ignore the 7-year-old tone that creeps into asking about my phone, but it empowers her to ask for changes in behaviours she sees in her parents that she doesn’t like.
One caution that Lomenick gives us is that being open is not about vomiting your struggles on your team. They’re not your therapist.
A Habit of Meekness
Leaders talk a lot about delegating and raising up protégés and “working yourself out of a job” and creating a culture where nothing would change if you suddenly resigned. But if you hooked those same leaders up to a polygraph machine while they talked about these things, the needle would be jumping. Everyone wants to be needed. We want to know that if we vanished tomorrow, our absence would be felt and our presence would be missed.
Lomenick addresses this idea again later in his Habit of Succession. As leaders, we should be empowering our teams to be the best them they can be. Unfortunately for many meekness is associated with weakness.
Meekness is not weakness. It’s power under control. It’s ambition grounded with humility and lived out in confidence, not arrogance. Quiet and appropriate confidence is way more attractive than loud and outspoken arrogance.
I’ve seen this power under control in the outdoor sports I have participated in. The people that were truly awesome at whitewater kayaking or climbing usually had little bluster. They just went out and did their thing and knew how good they were. Those that were looking for an ego boost were the ones that keep talking up how amazing they were.
Proper stars don’t need to talk themselves up.
A Habit of Conviction
The best leaders are people of integrity and principle who know the difference between principles and preferences. They are willing to stand up for the right things and stand against the wrong things. These leaders value their reputations, their consciences, and their values.
I’ve always balked at friends that say stuff like: “I’ll never work at Starbucks.” It feels like some high minded ideal, but I know I’d do any job that kept my kids in clothes that I didn’t find morally objectionable.
Ask yourself, what will you never do in your business? What types of projects won’t you take on? What lines won’t you cross?
Be someone of integrity.
A Habit of Faith
What leader doesn’t benefit from developing more self-control or patience? Is there a CEO or manager or parent alive who couldn’t use an extra helping of kindness or love? I think not.
A healthy spiritual life doesn’t happen through osmosis. You can’t show up to church on Sunday, or attend whatever meeting is for you, and become a better spiritual person.
A habit of faith isn’t a couple of extra items on your to-do list. It is creating space for God to show up. But an important part is expecting that God will.
Lomenick is going to address space again later in his Habit of Margin, but you can note the word space now. Do you have space in your life to rest and recharge and engage in your spiritual practice?
Keep in mind that a habit of faith is never ending. You’ll never wake up and say, “I’ve officially conquered this whole ‘following God’ thing.” Instead, you’ll need to keep stretching, growing, and progressing until your time on earth is complete.
One of my favourite times to listen is up on a local mountain. I’ll head out at 5am and be far out of contact with the masses that hike it by 6am. Around 6:45 I’m sitting on a peak enjoying the quiet looking down the river snaking through the valley enjoying some peace and quiet feeling my soul get fed.
A Habit of Assignment
Many people conflate calling with identity. They confuse who they are with what they are made to do. While the two are connected, they are not the same. Identity is who you are, but calling is how you express that. Calling is your purpose.
Much of this was covered in Lomenick’s Habit of Self-Discovery. You are not your job. It is not your identity. A huge change in job shouldn’t be a soul crushing endeavour if your priorities are straight.
Tailspin. That’s what many people go into when they get laid off or their company files for bankruptcy. Why? Because many people think their job is their calling. But deep down we know this isn’t true; otherwise one would be unable to live his or her calling before entering the workforce or after retirement. It would only be relevant while one is employed. But a job is simply an assignment.
You see this same idea in Great at Work as Morten Hansen says we need to connect our passion with our purpose. That connection would lead to the idea of assignment that we see in H3 Leadership.
Some people pursue passion in navigating their careers, but they also manage to connect this passion with a clear sense of purpose on the job—they contribute, serve others, make a difference. They have matched passion with purpose. – Great at Work
Living your current assignment should not be a battle, it should not be a slog. You should love it. In Great at Work, Morten Hansen talks us through many different jobs that may seem like they have little purpose in them. He shows us many times that people can have purpose, they just have to frame their job properly. If you don’t connect your job to your purpose, that’s mostly on you.
Lomenick ends this habit with a bunch of good questions you can ask yourself if you want to figure out what your passion is and then relate it to the assignment that you currently have.
Hungry: Where Are You Going?
What is it you want from life? I assume if you’re listening to this, you’re not just planning to cruise along with the status quo. I’m going to assume that you are hungry for some type of different life.
The habits Lomenick is going to talk about here are all about being hungry for something, not sitting around being passive.
A Habit of Ambition
One of my rules for leadership is “Beware your greatest strength.” Why? Because often an influencer’s unguarded greatest strength is also his or her greatest weakness—and therefore turns into his or her greatest temptation. Your best can bring you down.
One of my greatest strengths is the ability to focus for hours on end. The resulting weakness is that I don’t do collaboration well. I want to sit down and work away on what I want to work on without meetings or interruptions.
Ambition is a great strength to have, but it must be tempered. Drug dealers have ambition and can use it for good or ill. You must choose to channel your ambition in to good things if you want to do good things.
This is also where Lomenick’s Habit of Openness is key. If you’re worried about your ambition running over people around you, make sure that you have given them the tools needed to call you on out of control ambition.
Ambitious people can also forget to celebrate the wins, because they just want to move on to the next goal. This is going to kill your team. Remember to throw a big party when that goal is achieved, don’t just move on.
This is echoed in Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt:
When we achieve our goals or reach milestones along the way, we need to take the appropriate time to celebrate. – Your Best Year Ever
Celebrating wins validates the work and the goal.
A Habit of Curiosity
If you’re not learning, you’re not leading to your full potential.
One of my favourite podcasts, Read to Lead, regularly says that “leaders read and readers lead.” Curious people read. Are you curious?
One of the often frustrating things about having three children under 8 is the continual “why” questions that come along. Every little thing seemingly has 700 of them attached to it.
Questions are critical to curiosity. Asking great questions keeps you informed, in touch, and aware. But how many of us invest time in developing good questions?
It’s interesting to think how little adults ask why. Is it because the why question was drummed out of us?
To be curious, ask more questions. Talk less. Listen more. Everyone has something to teach us if we’re willing to dig in.
A Habit of Passion
Your team feeds off your energy, for better or worse. Your passion gives permission to those around you to express theirs. You may have to push, pull, kick, or gently nudge people, but part of your responsibility as a leader is to show up, every day, with a level of energy, passion, and enthusiasm that elevates your attitude toward constant positivity. You don’t have a choice. Leaders are organizational health risks or assets. You’ve got to love it and live it if you’re going to lead it!
Maybe this is why we see so many leaders being almost over the top passionate about what they are doing. I think of Gary Vanerchuck and his loud personality. But passion isn’t about being loud, it’s about loving something and wanting to dive deep into it, and showing your team that passion.
One caveat for leaders is that no one will be as deeply involved in the business as you. Your team won’t give every second and die on the hill of your business.
I worked a job once where the boss expected that type of passion for his company. It resulted in more overtime worked in 3 months than I have ever worked in any other year of my business. It also resulted in me leaving the company after those three months.
You have to bring your people along with your passion and set your expectations for their sacrifice appropriately.
A Habit of Innovation
This habit felt like a fairly large repeat of curiosity to me. It’s mostly just curiosity in a team/business context. As a leader, make sure you don’t get stuck with what is currently working and has been done. Be intentional about trying new ideas in your team and business.
Opportunities for innovation are all around us. There are always new and better ways to do what one is currently doing. But you have to be willing to do the work necessary to discover it.
If you don’t want to be average, you have to try things that no one else is willing to do. You can’t just play it safe, you have to take a risk and see if the gamble plays out.
In Real Artists Don’t Starve Jeff Goins says:
If we want to become artists, we are going to have to break some rules. We cannot do just what is expected of us. At some point, we must break away from the status quo and forge a new path. As it turns out, this is how creativity works best. – Real Artists Don’t Starve
If you want to be that stand out business success. The one that others look up to, then you’re going to have to take risks and prioritize innovation. You need to set up an environment that rewards taking risk. That also means, you need to deal with the failures that will come along with risk well.
A Habit of Inspiration
Many leaders don’t inspire their people because they don’t have anything inspirational to say. Influencers who want to develop a habit of inspiration must craft a captivating vision for the future and a persuasive plan for how to get there. People won’t willingly follow until they can see how they share in the future you envision.
Is your vision something that others want to buy in to? Does your passion have a purpose, and does it connect with the purpose of the people on your team? Is there hope in your mission?
These are important questions to ask as you bring people in to your organization. They need to be inspired by you, not just expect to show up for a paycheque.
A Habit of Bravery
Being brave is not the absence of fear, it’s continuing in the face of things that scare you. There can be no courage or bravery without fear.
Being brave is all about taking risks in your professional life. You may be willing to take them personally, but sometimes you need to bet the company as well.
Life is really a series of risks. Should you marry this person or wait on another? Either is risky. Should you take the job at the flashy new start-up company or keep climbing the ladder where you are? Both involve taking a risk. You know life is risky if you’ve ever moved away to attend college or made a financial investment or purchased a house or dropped your child off at kindergarten. The best leaders learn to think clearly and quickly and determine which risks are worth taking. But despite the propensity to take regular, calculated risks throughout their lives, many leaders find it difficult, almost impossible, to take them in their professional lives.
I see this when I coach people all the time. They are hesitant to take any risk with their business. They fear taking any steps backwards even if that single step back will yield 25 forward steps.
One of the ideas in Your Best Year Ever was that you need to start taking steps, start taking risks. Even if you don’t see the end yet, take a few steps and then take a few more steps. Each time you take another step or risk, you’ll see a few more steps ahead and can keep going.
That does mean you have to start though.
Hustle: How Will You Get There?
I actually don’t love the word Hustle. As I’ve read it always seems to mean, work all the hours, family can wait. I’m a big fan of working hard, but I think that having a successful business with a trail of rocky relationships is still failure.
I think that Lomenick would agree with me. He’s not quite talking about working weekends all the time, but he is talking about putting in the hard work to excel.
A Habit of Excellence
Hustling starts with excellence. Just getting lots of tasks done is a waste if they’re not tasks that are worthwhile. If you’re not executing to a high level that others look up to, then it’s time to cut back on what you’re doing so that you can do a few things well.
Establishing a habit of excellence begins with a core commitment to set a standard that scares the daylights out of you. Some people think excellence means being as good as the next guy.
I’ve just started watching Breaking Bad, and while I’m not encouraging criminal behaviour, it is interesting to watch Walter White do everything to excellence. From cooking drugs to disposing of bodies. If he’s in then he’s going to do the job right.
One of the things that Lomenick cites as a key is remembering the names of the people you meet. I used to give myself an out on this, but I have worked hard to remember every name and use it when I meet people a second time.
Whether you are dealing with clients or meeting with colleagues, always remember and address them by their names. In a moment when people are often viewed as job titles or potential sales, this will make a massive difference in your work.
I’ve seen the other side of this with a sales rep at a canoe store we used to work at. They called my wife “size 8” and my wife was the main buyer. She continued to order less and express annoyance that the sales rep didn’t use her name. The store went from his biggest account to almost nothing in the course of three years because my wife kept looking for alternative products from companies that showed her the respect she deserved with the multi-million dollar orders she’d place.
A Habit of Stick-With-It-Ness
When I consider my life, all the moments that might be loosely labeled “success” were prepared for. They were fought for. They were the product of many days and months, sometimes years, of planning and organization and preparation. These were not creations of happenstance but products of having persevered over the long haul.
There is no overnight success. We keep working hard and then somehow as we keep going we get luckier. As we build a body of work that is excellent, people start to notice us.
The overnight success that gets bandied about is a myth. If you want to get success, stick with something long enough that people start to notice.
Ryan Holiday echoes this in Perennial Seller when he says:
The more you do, the harder you work, the luckier you seem to get. – Perennial Seller
To accomplish this, Lomenick gives us a bunch of tips like building a routine or cutting out distractions. These things will help us do good work over the long haul as we have the brain capacity to keep going when things are looking bleak.
A Habit of Execution
Extending from the idea of sticking with it is that we need to build a habit of execution. Really this felt much like the previous habit, but it did add a stronger call to a good work ethic and gave readers the freedom to kill projects that aren’t working.
Don’t complete a project for completion’s sake. You’ll often realize that an idea should be killed while you’re still attempting to execute. When this becomes clear, murder it and move on. However, if you find dead bodies lying all over the floor, you should evaluate your creative process to determine why so many of the ideas your team is generating are unsustainable.
The same could be said for the reading you do. Only read what you find interesting. If you’re done with a book and you’re really only 20% through, just put it down and move on. Don’t feel guilty, feel energized that you have the space to read the next good book.
A Habit Of Team Building
Leadership is a choice, not a position. Be the leader you wish you had. A title or position doesn’t automatically make you a leader. Influence makes you a leader. Forced followership doesn’t count. People follow the person, not the position.
What is the thing your team members want more than anything else? What is their secret dream? What is the most frustrating thing about work?
You should have answers to all of this. If that seems hard and you’re not sure where to start, then look at The Coaching Habit for a good framework for regular meetings with your team so you can dig deeper with them.
If you find that your team is unhappy working for you, it’s your fault. The culture is up to you so fix it if you don’t like it. Don’t make excuses. Take care of your team like you want to be taken care of.
A Habit of Partnership
The relationships you form with other leaders and the partnerships your organization forms with other organizations will end up producing the most significant results throughout your life.
While Lomenick does a great job of convincing readers that partnership is important, he doesn’t do a great job telling us how to build partnerships. He doesn’t do a great job of helping us figure out how to bring value to the leaders we want to be in some sort of partnership with.
The first key is probably to start doing work that is worth noticing. Asking for someone’s time when you’re producing nothing is a sure fire way to get a big fat no.
Showing them how you can bring value to something they are doing means that you’re much more likely to get a yes when you make a request of that influencer you want to work with.
A Habit of Margin
Like I said at the beginning of the section on Hustle, I dislike the word. Far too often it’s a way to say that we should just work more. Lomenick addresses that in this habit all about creating space in your life.
Margin is a powerful habit. It creates opportunities. For businesses, margin creates profit. Margin in family creates memories and in personal finances creates generosity. Margin in our friendships creates significance and in our lives overall creates options—options to pursue dreams, think, pray, process, grow, and ultimately live and lead more fully. For all of us, time is our greatest asset. We can’t create more of it. We have to make sure we are using it wisely, and margin allows us to leverage time effectively.
Alex Pang echoes this as he speaks about sabbaticals in his book Rest:
Over the course of decades, across professions, in one industry after another, Sonnentangs, findings have been consistent. Workers who have the chance to get away mentally, switch off, and devote their energies elsewhere, are more productive, have better attitudes, get along better with their colleagues, and are better able to deal with challenges at work. They’re also better able to focus intensely on work tasks – Rest
Cut the distractions. Focus on getting more high value work done and rest so that you’re ready to go when it’s time to work.
A Habit of Generosity
In a capitalistic culture the word generosity has a fiscal connotation. And that is fitting. But generosity is more than how one stewards and spends money; it’s a holistic posture that should animate everything a leader does. The more you have, the harder it is to pass it on.
If you’re already recognized in your space, then generosity can be helping someone that’s starting out to get going. I know many people that are only well known now because they were given some love by others that were further ahead.
Who are you helping get to where you’re at now? This also comes back to Lomenick’s earlier call to collaborate more. When someone reaches out to you about collaborating, take a serious look at it. See how you can be generous with your time and help them out.
Use your platform to help others and put others on it. Loan your power and influence liberally. The more influence and power you have, the more responsibility you have to use it for the betterment of others.
A Habit of Succession
The final habit that is addressed in H3 Leadership is that of succession. You will not always be the leader where you’re at. At some point you’ll move on, and the organization should survive beyond you.
Too many leaders grab their jobs with an unrelenting death grip. But part of every influencer’s responsibility is to boldly build something magnificent and then humbly hand it off to others. The best leaders recognize this early on, creating a pipeline of leadership that transfers responsibilities and power to the next wave, the next line, the next team, so that others can take what you’ve accomplished and build on it in their own way.
Our church is working to build a leadership pipeline that will take experienced leaders and have them mentor others. These future leaders will be enabled to take more control over different parts of the church. The current leaders should be building the next set of leaders and then turning more things over to them.
The big key here is that you need to start grooming your successor long before you’re ready to move on. In fact, start in the first quarter you assume your job. Start looking for the skills you want to succeed you, and make sure that the people on your team are building them.
Remember, you’ll never find a carbon copy of yourself. It will take a few people to replace you. You’ll need to change the job just a bit to fit the strengths of the leader coming after you.
Then, be ready to hand the reigns over and step away. Don’t stick around confusing people. Move on to something else and if you’ve done your job right, the team will grow.
Should I Read H3 Leadership?
I love Brad Lomenick’s focus on habits, because if you can make something second nature it’s with you for life. I did think that some of the habits were repeats though. To offset that knock against the book, each chapter is short so the repeat doesn’t take up too much time.
I’ll place another caveat on this book as well. Lomenick is a Christian. He talks about pastors and church and prayer. If that’s not up your alley, then maybe you should skip the book.
Outside of those two caveats, H3 Leadership is a good quick read. It doesn’t go too deep into each habit, and there are whole books that cover a single habit. If you’re looking for a fastish overview of the habits that make a good leader, then H3 Leadership is a decent starting place. If you’re looking to go deep, then H3 Leadership may leave you feeling like you missed something.
Photo by: clement127