Getting Rid of Bad Leader Habits

[July 7, 2018]  Given that leadership is difficult, it makes plenty of good sense to get rid of any bad leader habits that may be interfering with our lives.  Many leaders are capable of recognizing a bad habit and then taking steps to eliminate it.  Others, however, cannot see a bad habit for what it is.

What does it take to get rid of bad leader habits?  The very first and most important step is being able to “see” that something you are doing is a problem and that it must be stopped; else it will continue to pull the leader off course.  For our purposes here, I will assume that the bad habit is known.

Removing a bad habit can be viewed as a way to improve one’s ability to influence others.  Once a bad habit is stopped, things will go much better.

Any potentially successful effort begins with a plan of action.  That plan should draw upon the experiences of others who have gone before us; we can learn from them and what the pitfalls are when trying to remove any unwanted habit.

For example, most leaders suggest that we focus on one habit at a time.  It makes their efforts simpler and allows us to concentrate our resources in one place and at a narrow range of time.

Here are some suggested ways to get rid of bad leader habits:

  1. Create a public plan and stick with it until it becomes unworkable.
  2. Begin with a specific date.
  3. Set a specific goal in mind.
  4. Find the precursors to the habit and learn them as predictors.
  5. Identify the “cause” of the bad habit.
  6. Create reminders that help keep you on track.
  7. Closely record and track all progress.
  8. Find a coach that will tell you the truth.
  9. Ignore people who tell you it cannot be done.
  10. Understand it will not be easy, quick, or cheap.
  11. Slip-ups will occur; admit them, learn from them, and move on.
  12. Keep your head in the game.

I especially like the last one.  If you don’t stay focused, you will never get better as a leader.


Note [Updated]:  Here is a great website “Faster to Master” that provides a complete guide on habits that is of great interest.  It can be found here:  Reader’s Digest also has a good article on the same subject titled, “10 Habits You Didn’t Realize Are Actually Dangerous for Your Health.”  This is a good example of “how” to tackle those pesky bad habits.  The technique is what we should be looking at.


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

25 thoughts on “Getting Rid of Bad Leader Habits

  1. Nancy J

    Be realistic. Have a sensible and practical idea of what you can achieve and be patient with your timeframe to accomplish it. Thanks for another great article.

  2. Tracey Brockman

    My personal favorite is “keep your head in the game.” I see so many people who get distracted by other things in their lives and mess up. That’s when the bad habit comes roaring back with a vengeance.

  3. Forrest Gump

    Good article with a good list of ways to quickly and effectively get rid of bad habits. Any bad habit, of course.

  4. Army Captain

    I’m a little late posting today but I wanted to add that the most important part of anyone’s effort to eliminate bad habits is to have a reasonable plan. To fail to do so is like the military not having a strategy during war. A plan is a must. Thanks for reading my comments.

    1. Joe the Aussie

      Hey, good to see you on today, Army Captain. I miss it when you’re not here. Cheers!

  5. Andrew Dooley

    I like your series on good habits. Please consider a series on bad habits. Thanks Gen. Satterfield for your consideration.

  6. Danny Burkholder

    “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.” Sun Tzu, ancient, famous Chinese General. He said it well. To fight a bad habit, you must know yourself and know what the bad habit is. If you don’t, you will not succeed in getting rid of it.

    1. Watson Bell

      I’ve seen it written a number of ways but the idea that you must know yourself and the enemy (or problem) is something that we should all pay heed to.

  7. Eric Coda

    Right! Start with the problem and go from there. But the very first thing you have to do is know that you have a problem. Most people don’t even know that.

  8. Delf A. "Jelly"

    These are all great points and each of us might have our favorite. The main point, I think, that Gen.Satterfield is making is that all of them taken together is what makes one successful at eliminating bad (and hard) habits.

  9. Janna Faulkner

    Good article to start a good day. I’ll be working in a soup kitchen today and helping the needy. What I will be assisting with the most is helping them become more self-reliant. This list will be helpful as a great starting point for them. Many simply have had no one to guide them toward success. It takes more than a bowl of soup to help people who are hungry.

    1. Scotty Bush

      Well done Janna. And I was going to relax today and take it easy. Now you’ve shamed me into doing something useful. Ha!

  10. Dennis Mathes

    Finding someone who can be honest to help is important. You can do it without them but your level of personal discipline would have to be very high.

  11. Nick Lighthouse

    Good post on this Saturday morning. I enjoyed the easy read. Thanks.

  12. Max Foster

    A very worthwhile list of “how to” get rid of bad habits. I would suggest these are good for anyone, not just leaders. Well done. The most important one, of course, is HAVE A PLAN and STICK TO IT.

    1. Mark Evans

      You’re right and good reinforcement of Gen. Satterfield’s point.


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