5 Habits That Distinguish Leaders From Bosses

Now that my daughters are on sports teams, I am teaching them what it means to be an athlete. They’re not new to sports; between the two of them, they’ve tried just about everything: swimming, soccer, volleyball, field hockey, horseback riding, basketball, gymnastics, and on and on. Officially now, they are on teams with uniforms and games. They have teammates relying on them to perform. It’s a big step up from the casual effort they have been used to making.

I might have considered myself an athlete at some point in my life, particularly my senior year playing varsity softball and the first year I played rugby when I did some intense physical training. I realized when I met my husband that I was athletic, but not an athlete. He took it way more seriously than I ever did, and, go figure, he went all the way to world championships and the Junior Olympics. He didn’t even start until 6th grade, but to catch up with his friends who were further ahead, he put the time and commitment in. That drive became the foundation for strong habits to support his continual improvement, and probably what he can thank for his athletic scholarship and his college degree.

My husband is still on the wall of fame at the high school, so it was assumed my daughters would follow in his footsteps. We didn’t apply pressure to do anything but try and stay active. It took many years of trying many things, but they finally decided to choose something more serious – lacrosse and softball. Before I paid the fees, I made sure they understood the following:

  • If they don’t understand something, it’s their duty to their teammates to ask their coach for help.
  • Once you join the team, practice and games come before social engagements and most family engagements.
  • Besides the two days of practice, they have to practice what they learn in between at least 2 additional days per week (and more if they need it).
  • They have to be able to keep their current obligations to school and other activities, like show choir, band, and orchestra.
  • They have to start owning their health – build up their stamina and balance outside of practice and EAT HEALTHFULLY plenty of fruits and veggies, plus making protein a staple of every meal.
  • They have to start being mindful of their self-talk and experimenting with self-talk that makes them feel stronger and more capable.
  • They are responsible for taking care of, keeping track of, and bringing all equipment they need.

Once they agreed, life felt like it picked up speed by 10x, but after a year of little to do (safely), it’s been great, though tricky, to have a full calendar again. It has taken some adjustment for me to coach them through new habits so that they can keep the above commitments, but we are finally achieving a flow.

Just as discipline is the difference between playing sports and being an athlete, discipline also makes a difference between being a boss and being a leader.

So, I want to ask you:
  • Did anyone have a similar talk with someone before leadership was hoisted upon you?
  • Did someone explain that implied in leadership is the commitment to continually elevate your consciousness?
  • Did they show you how to elevate your consciousness?
  • Did they help onboard you into new habits to support this?

If your answer is yes, you are one of too few, and very fortunate.

Some leaders figure this out on their own, sometimes as a result of having poor leaders and sometimes as a result of having great leaders.

Still, forming habits conventionally is challenging just based on the anatomy and function of our brain. The hard-wiring of our survival brain sometimes inhibits our evolved brain when it comes to practicing conscious leadership as well as forming habits.

One way to overcome this natural barrier is to schedule your future habit as a ritual on your calendar.

There are 5 simple daily habits you can develop in 10-15 minutes each day that will exponentially and consistently expand your consciousness as a leader. They will also have multiple benefits to many other realms of your life.

These simple habits are:
  1. Mindfulness
  2. Upskilling
  3. Heart-centered communications
  4. Reflection
  5. Fitness (mind, body, and soul)

You could delegate a power hour every day to do them all, but that can be overwhelming and overwhelm itself can be inhibitive of starting and sustaining a habit. , even if being successful is really about cutting an hour of a less helpful habit, like scrolling social media.

Instead, I invite you to designate a day for each habit, and feel free to use the weekend how you like. If there is a day you love so much you want to repeat it, do that. You may be already doing one or a few of these. In that case, it’s just a matter of seeing these activities as part of your overall consciousness elevation strategy and you might want to make some tweaks accordingly. For instance, if you already spend some time upskilling each week, choose to upskill in breakthroughs in behavioral science, neuroscience, and performance optimization.

I’d like to suggest the following designations:

Monday Mindfulness

Tuesday Upskilling

Wednesday Heart-centered Communication

Thursday Reflection

Friday Fitness

You can feel free to re-arrange these as you see fit, based on how your energy or your calendar trend.

This schedule is based on my natural rhythms, because when it comes to forming a new habit, I like to give myself every advantage. I won’t schedule a high-energy activity when I’m low energy.

Monday – Mindfulness

Many people mistake mindfulness for meditation. Both have amazing benefits for your consciousness and beyond, but mindfulness is a practice where you take moments as frequently as possible throughout the day to just notice and be. Rather than trying to clear your mind, fill your senses by taking in every detail, from how your clothes feel on your body and how the air smells to the fine weaves of a fabric or the fractal design of a flower. Surely, designating a day for this will lead to you taking more mindful moments all around. Mindfulness helps you learn how to create calm in the midst of chaos and clarity in the midst of confusion. When you have to make high-stakes decisions as a leader, being able to do this is absolutely critical. It will also help you enhance your EQ and empathy so that you can be a more effective communicator.

Tuesday – Upskilling

I also call it “Learnin’ Tuesday,” but I’ve upgraded it to reflect that upskilling is also about applying what you learn, so make time for that, too.

If you were working on a certification, this would certainly apply, and, in that case, you might want to designate more than 15 minutes or integrate it into more than one day. However, just 15 minutes of watching a TED Talk, listening to a podcast, reading your favorite organization’s newsletter, a business journal, or a good old book will ensure that you are continually expanding your ability to consciously lead. It will also keep you on the forefront of impactful breakthroughs.

Because webinars and conferences can happen any day of the week, you may opt to schedule your upskilling day on a day that corresponds to a specific event and rearrange the days to dedicate to the other habits accordingly. Be graceful with yourself as you integrate new habits. Eventually, this will all feel like a pull, not a push, and you’ll naturally respond to schedule conflicts by prioritizing your habit.

Wednesday – Heart-centered Communication

If you are having a bit of a stress response to the idea of doing this, number one – you are not alone. Especially after this period of social distancing during such divisive times, we as a society are a bit out of the habit of digging into emotional content constructively. It would also be fair to say that we as a society have been traumatized and stunted in our communications over the past year. However, to be a conscious leader, creating a psychologically safe space for emotions is required. It might bring you some relief to know that heart-centered communication is mostly asking meaningful questions, listening with empathy, and following through with compassion.

You may use this time to build rapport and demonstrate vulnerability by making a confession about yourself. You could make an earnest inquiry with someone for whom you are concerned. We are focusing on the habit itself, so the people with whom you have this communication do not have to be in your professional realm. It’s expected that the better you get at leaning into emotion-filled conversations, the easier it will be to have them when your team members need them. Some professional applications could also be a weekly structured mentorship call, the institution of peer feedback loops, or attendance at a mastermind, so long as you and the other participants remain authentic and transparent about your emotional status.

Thursday – Reflection

Busy leadership schedules chronically fail to allow for ample time to reflect on communications and decisions. If you are like me, you may be criticizing yourself right now for torturing yourself with self-assessments. That’s actually quite common for high achievers, but it’s not really the healthful reflection I am recommending.

In this reflection, you will be suspending your ego and pouring on unconditional self-love. Does that sound contradictory? It might, because we think of our ego as an inflated version of our self-image, however, that is just what our ego does to make up for how small we feel. If we focus on feeling 100% perfectly imperfect just as are, even with our messy emotions, even after our mistakes, and even when our actions create negative consequences for others, we are quicker to take ownership, learn, and grow. We are not so busy maneuvering others’ perceptions to make us not wrong/right. When we stand in self-love, our ego has no job but to observe. Shame, we have learned from Brené Brown, is a very powerful, painful force that we let diminish our self-worth and convince us that we ought not to aspire to do big things since we do not deserve to succeed in them.

In evaluating the week’s decisions and communications, stand in self-love, knowing that no matter what you didn’t do perfectly, all is okay. Take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of all who were impacted by those decisions or communications.

Ask yourself the following questions:
  • Did you have the intended outcome? (Obviously, you want to evaluate the outcome or progress, first or foremost.)
  • What were the undesirable outcomes, if any?
  • Was there anything about your experience you could have improved? What was your emotional state throughout?
  • Did you take in all of the data?
  • What biases may have manifested that would impact others and be detrimental for stakeholders?
  • What were words or actions that triggered emotions?
  • Were the emotions helpful or harmful to your rapport and/or desired outcomes?

I highly recommend that you journal as you reflect. The cathartic exercise of writing can put you into a more perceptive and receptive state of mind, and you may have insights you wouldn’t otherwise have. Seeing your thoughts on paper enables you to use different parts of your brain for reflection which can make your assessment that much more comprehensive.

Determine if there is any unintended harm that you need to own and apologize for. Then make a plan for next week’s heart-centered communication to do just that. Some things may need to be cleaned up right away, but only do it after you have considered carefully what your higher self will say about it, and refrain from letting your ego take control. And only do so right away if it is in the highest good of the other person, not because you want to feel relief from your guilt as soon as possible.

Making a habit of reflection makes self-awareness more automatic and accelerates the switch from ego to higher self, which also further enhances your effectiveness as a communicator and decision-maker.

Friday – Fitness

Fitness in this context refers to mind, body, and spirit. You may opt to tend to all three daily or split them into three of their own separate days. Just be sure to integrate all three because, without all three integrated, you are not holistically healthy and optimized as a conscious leader.

Mind fitness is enhanced by games and puzzles, meditation, yoga, and a good night’s sleep, which obviously is also important for your physical fitness, just as physical fitness is great for your mind fitness, but not enough to have your physical fitness stand alone as both.

Some mind fitness can also cross over into spiritual fitness and vice versa, such as meditation with a spiritual or transcendental element or chanting. Note that being spiritual does not require religion at all. You may just opt to take time honoring the miracle that you are, that your friends, family, and pets are. You can also take some time to recognize the connectedness of everything. These are just some non-secular spiritual ideas. Not all religious practices are spiritual either. The difference is how they make you feel.

The difference between a boss or a leader is similar to the difference between playing sports and being an athlete, and that difference is discipline. It will be up to you, conscious leader, to establish boundaries that enable you to keep these commitments to yourself. Statistically, only a small portion of the population is really good at self-accountability for self-driven goals. If this isn’t you, engage a coach, an accountability partner, or keep your reasons visible to inspire you every day.

If you seek a coaching program that will help you establish these habits for the rest of your life, introduce you to the most cutting edge conscious leadership breakthroughs, and provide you with a peer support systems that will keep you inspired and motivated, find out if you are a candidate for the Corporate Consciousness Ripple Blueprint.

What are your conscious leadership habits? What is your why for having them?


Karen Huller is the creator of the Corporate Consciousness Ripple Blueprint and author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days. She founded Epic Careering, a leadership and career development firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, in 2006. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. Her solutions incorporate breakthroughs in neuroscience, human performance optimization, bioenergetics, and psychology to help leaders accelerate rapport, expand influence, and elevate engagement and productivity while also looking out for the sustainability of the business and the planet.

Mrs. Huller was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She was an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. She is an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA) where some of her students won the 2018 national YEA competition, were named Ernst & Young’s America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, and won the 2019 People’s Choice Award. 

She is board secretary for the Upper Merion Community Center and just finished serving as Vice President of the Gulph Elementary PTC, for which she received recognition as a Public Education Partner and Promoter from the Upper Merion Area Education Association. She lives in King of Prussia with her husband, two daughters, and many pets, furry, feathered, and scaly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *