Smart leaders know there is always room for improvement in their management style. Whether you’ve just been promoted to your first leadership position or have been an executive for years, there are always lessons to learn and ways to become better.

One surefire way to improve is to study and emulate the behaviors of today’s most successful leaders. To help, we asked a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council members to discuss habits they particularly value. From building your listening skills to being proactive, here are some traits they particularly value:

1. Listen First and Decide Later

Don’t fall victim to the trope that a leader exists purely to make important decisions. A truly good leader is someone who listens to their team, encourages them to share their thoughts and opinions, and makes a decision after considering all perspectives. – Angela Pan, Ashley Chloe

2. Foster Open and Honest Communication

To be a great leader, you have to be a great communicator. Having open and honest dialog instills trust, builds solid relationships and ensures that strategic deliverables stay on track. Additionally, bonds are strengthened and creativity is fostered, which can lead to innovative client solutions. Open communications results in people feeling valued and strengthens employee retention. – Michael Kurland, Branded Group Inc

3. Prioritize and Focus on What Matters

One habit I live by is setting my priorities early on. I establish my biggest goal and then create a list of tasks needed in order to accomplish those goals. By practicing this throughout my career, I have come to realize what tasks matter and what ones are simply time-wasters. I’ve become more efficient with my time, which benefits my team as well. – Dave Nevogt,

4. Maintain Your Composure at All Times

When you are able to maintain your composure no matter what happens, you will see that you are easily likable. Many leaders tend to panic, and it usually scares or demotivates the team. When you’re able to maintain a sense of “cool,” you can get through your obstacles with a breeze. Just know that every situation is temporary and you will find a solution for it, depending on whom you ask for help. – Sweta Patel, Silicon Valley Startup Marketing

5. Delegate and Elevate

A good leader delegates the right task to the right person and helps them flourish in that role. Most leaders are concerned with their own image, but great leaders give people important assignments that will help them grow. When the followers see that the leader trusts them with important jobs, they will buy into the vision and do whatever it takes for the organization to thrive! – Robert De Los Santos, Sky High Party Rentals

6. Follow Your Intuition

Leadership is complex and often requires snap decisions to be made in challenging circumstances where you don’t have the time to reflect or prepare yourself beforehand. In these circumstances, I have found intuition to be the best leadership habit, as it allows me to use my emotional intelligence to find the right answer with an extraordinary track record of positive outcomes and good decisions. – Justin Faerman, Conscious Lifestyle Magazine

7. Lead Your Team Like a Coach

Every coach knows the personality of each of his players. They know who works hard, who has anger problems, who’s always tardy — and they know how to work with them to get the best result. They cater to each one differently. I get to know my team as individuals so I can motivate them, teach them, and keep them engaged and high-performing in their work. – Daniel Griggs, ATX Web Designs, LLC

8. Always Follow Up in Writing

Whenever you have a conversation, phone call or meeting with action items, send a written follow-up after the fact with the action items and who is responsible clearly defined. Things get lost or misinterpreted in communication. By sending a clear follow-up, you can eliminate those issues early and help ensure you don’t get surprised when reviewing future deliverables. – Sasha Kucharczyk, Preteckt

9. Make Time for Self-Improvement

The one habit that makes me a better leader is constant self-improvement. I do this by listening to books, attending conferences and through executive education. Some materials remind me of what the most important things are, some allow me to learn new tools, and others help me identify my blind spots to grow in those areas. – Vladimir Gendelman, Company Folders, Inc

10. Hold Regular One-on-One Meetings

I try to cultivate a strong relationship with each of my employees, which is why I’ve intentionally kept Killer Infographics small. I’ve made it a priority to have regular one-on-one meetings with each employee to check in and see if there’s anything I can do to make their experience here better. It’s also a space to share ideas, which makes them feel more invested in the company overall. – Amy Balliett, Killer Infographics

11. Be Vulnerable and Transparent

As a founder, your biggest currency is trust and transparency. Your team is able to read your emotions very easily. For example, recently I started trying out a different routine that requires me to be unavailable for three to four hours every morning. In our team meeting, I expressed to the team the rationale and why taking that time was important not just for me but for the business. – Akta Adani, Kyra & Vir

12. Assume the Best in Others

When someone makes a bad decision, it’s tempting to fault the other person’s judgment, but that’s a bad place to start. Instead, begin by assuming the best in others. Recognize that a poor decision was probably made because of poor information, not poor judgment. This approach allows the other person to save face and usually results in them being far more receptive to suggestions. – John Rougeux, Skyfii Limited

13. Be Proactive

I like to plan ahead and be proactive about problems or opportunities that may occur. Being proactive instead of reactive can help you feel in control and always a step ahead of the game, which is so valuable in business. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

14. Stay Positive and Bring Out the Best in Your Team

Make an effort to bring out the best in others. Do what you can to motivate and inspire them. Lead by example. Your team needs someone that lifts them up and helps them achieve greatness. – Jennifer Barnes, Pro Back Office, LLC

15. Speak Last

I make it a point to speak last when in a meeting consisting of subordinates. Not only is it important for me to process what everyone else in the room has to say, but I want to make sure that my point of view does not bias the thinking of those around me. My goal is for the best ideas — and the best contributions from the members of my team — to emerge, and to do so, I stay out of the way. – Adam Mendler, Beverly Hills Chairs


  • Scott Gerber

    Founder and CEO

    Young Entrepreneur Council

    Scott Gerber is the founder of YEC, an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. Learn more at