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The BLI Habits

A shared focus of BLI programs is the ten leadership habits. We invoke the idea of habit to signal that developing effective leadership takes sustained work and routine practice – until something becomes second nature. The Habits are crafted to be general and can be practiced with increasing complexity as circumstances require. They are habits because students will internalize them through their efforts on campus and thus be able to draw on and innovate with them when they face new opportunities and unknown situations after their time at Michigan has ended. These habits and the associated content, case studies, and learning activities form the shared core of BLI programming.

Start Where You Are

Leadership cannot be learned in the abstract. Start with the skills you have now and work to develop them.

Habits: Infuse vision with values; Begin with your strengths; Challenge your weaknesses; Embrace Vulnerability

Collect, Combine, Create

Creativity is using what exists to do new things or to do old things in new ways. Collect and combine knowledge and skills that can be building blocks.

Habits: Cultivate surprise; Gather interesting things; Revisit sources of inspiration; Explore new ideas through creative practice

Always Ask

Authentic curiosity about people and situations is the hallmark of a good leader. Actively learn from all you encounter.

Habits: Ask first; Start with why; Search for problems and solutions; Use “yes, and;” Cultivate active listening

Build A Team

Leadership is a social activity. Important problems generally cannot be tackled alone. Build a team to create and implement a vision

Habits: Work with and through others; Practice leadership roles (facilitator, decision-maker, follower, mediator); Attend to process; Communicate the vision

Value Difference

Teams with diverse skills, knowledge, and backgrounds define better problems and find more effective solutions.

Habits: Avoid self-replication; Seek out different perspectives; Let discomfort inspire; Acknowledge and remove barriers

Start Small

Giant goals and formidable problems make it hard to start work. Concrete, complete, and implemented small successes build alliances and momentum for your projects.

Habits: Conduct leadership experiments; Put visions in real-world situations; Define achievable goals

Work to Learn

Talking together is great, but working together builds real, productive relationships. Action, thought, and reflection build leaders, but their order doesn't matter.

Habits: Take your first step; Capture the results; Alter your plans after input from others

Expect Challenges

Situations change. Plans often fail. People act in unexpected ways. Anticipate obstacles to increase your resilience.

Habits: Identify critical points; Develop a backup plan; Approach setbacks with an open mind; Seek productive skeptics

Pause and Reflect

Exploring your experiences is key to learning for people, projects, and teams. Draw lessons across your activities.

Habits: Spend time alone, in solitude; Debrief often; Check process with your team; Have hard conversations; Work in and on your relationships

Engage the World

Important decisions are always made partially blind. Look at what others have tried. Understand what your stakeholders value and need. Identify what is needed and act.

Habits: Explore your environment; Engage stakeholders; Make peace with ambiguity; Decide when to lead and when to follow