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A while back I was attending our daily team meeting early one morning before our clinic was open to the public. When the time came to open the front doors, a new team leader kindly asked the newest member of our staff to go ahead and open the doors to begin letting patients come inside.

Later, she and I took time to consider her request and how a slightly different approach could increase trust and respect from her people and remind her of who she has committed to be as their leader.

leadership habits

Asking a staff member to open the doors for our patients was not an unreasonable task. However, as a leader, she could have practiced a better habit. I challenged our leader to open the doors instead next time, allowing the team to conclude the meeting without her. With that very small gesture, she will demonstrate to the team that she is willing to sacrifice and serve them. She will also be reminding herself of who she must continue to be—a humble leader.

My ultimate goal of sharing this with our new leader was not to inform her that in that instance there was a better way. After all, at some point it may not make sense for her to go open the doors in the morning. I wanted to communicate a greater point, which is that she should be looking for simple gestures she can practice to remind herself and others of her deep leadership character.

Leaders should always look for such habits and make them a routine, something they are known for. Below are other examples of such gestures.


When United States Marine officers are with their soldiers preparing to have a meal, the officers serve themselves last. They allow the enlisted marines to eat before them. This is a simple gesture, but practicing it sends a powerful message. It shows that as leaders, they will place others before themselves. It also reminds the leaders themselves to maintain a mindset of service and humility.

Several years ago, I adopted a few such leadership habits. These may not be a good fit for you, but I want to share them as examples, and hopefully you will be inspired to generate similar gestures that make sense for your leadership.


I always park at the far end of the parking lot at work. My hope is to communicate that as a leader, I will not lord my position over people and keep the best for myself. Rather, I will give them the best. When people see that, they are reminded who their leader is or aims to be. I am also reminded of who I should be as a leader, humble and serving.

Many times when I come to work and it is raining, I am tempted to park at the front, but I don’t. I come inside with wet clothes. This may sound extreme, but it is a simple gesture I decided to practice to remind me that I will choose what is best for my people not only when it is easy, but also when it is hard.


Another gesture I make is the intentional way I set my desk in my office—sideways. Therefore, it is not a barrier between myself and anyone who enters my office. Much like body language, I hope the open concept is inviting, not intimidating, to people who come into my office.


These simple habits do not make me a good leader. As a matter of fact, if I use them as a crutch, they will be useless, or even detrimental. However, practicing these seemingly small acts serve as reminder to myself first, and then to others, of the leadership values that I aim to uphold and live.

What simple leadership gestures and habits do you practice?

Your Friend,
Wes Saade MD Signature

For Further Reading:

Mother Teresa’s Room
Just Be Nice! (The Secret of Great Leaders)