Here’s the conundrum: some of the most successful leaders in the world will readily admit that they aren’t any smarter, luckier, more talented, more beautiful, more privileged, or even more confident than their less successful peers.
So what is it that leads to their success?
Everyone wants to be more successful, so there’s a lot of good research out there, and the research shows that the most successful leaders are:
Trusting and trustworthy.
Management theorist Simon Sinek suggests that great leaders make their employees feel secure and draw staffers into a circle of trust.
Emotionally connected to the work.
Author Robert Greene has interviewed and analysed the lives of people he calls “masters” and discovered that the most successful leaders were emotionally connected to their work and their success. Success, he says, is often a result of resiliency and a love of what you’re doing.
Sensitive and flexibile.
Researcher Jeffrey Pfeffer studied great leaders of history and noted that recognising and being sensitive to the needs of others, and then being flexible enough to fit your position to match, were keys to successful leadership.
Research shows that most people will do whatever is easy, but the most successful among us get creative to do what works best instead, and that is always the path to success.
Willing to fail.
Author Dan Schwabel notes that successful leaders have a willingness to fail — in order to succeed. They don’t give up when faced with failure, but rather use it as a learning experience toward future success.
Author Richard St. John interviewed more than 500 successful people, and noted that all of them worked long hours. But they avoided burnout because they loved what they do (see No. 2). They would spend as much as 80% of their time doing work they loved, and only 20% of their time on necessary work they didn’t love.
Harvard researcher Shawn Achor discovered that success doesn’t lead to happiness — happiness leads to success. People who can raise their happiness level can also raise their level of success.
Being first is expensive and stressful. But being an early adopter allows you to follow successful trends and the guy who starts second is actually more likely to win.
Astro Teller, head of Google X, said “It’s easier to make something 10 times better than to make something 10% better.” That’s because you have to rethink everything from the ground up, rethink the entire process, and ignore the old rules.
The most successful leaders don’t go it alone; they tend to have a diverse network that they are connected to and whom they can connect. People with larger networks get better jobs, are more successful at those jobs, and are more creative.
The great thing about all of these traits is that you can work to improve them. Even researcher Shawn Achor has shown that he can train people’s brains to be happier.
Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations on strategy, digital transformation and business performance. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK. He has authored 16 best-selling books, is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his almost 2 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.