In my work with CEO’s and other business leaders throughout the world, as well as, top coaches and professional and Olympic athletes, I have identified 10 qualities that I have found to be woven, without exception, into the very fabric of these highly successful individuals. If you look at the business leaders whom you admire, I’m sure you will also see these attributes in them.
Identity. Prime Leaders have a strong sense of their corporate identity, that is, their unique qualities, capabilities, and contributions, in other words, who they are, what they can do, and what they have to offer their industry. Identity acts as the foundation upon which vision, values, strategy, goals, and efforts are derived. Identity is grounded its links to the past: “Where did I come from?” It is also tethered to its links to the future: “Where do I want to go?” A simple way to begin to establish your identity is to complete the following sentence: “My passion and purpose in life is to ____________.”
Vision. Prime Leaders don’t dwell on their present successes nor do they wait for their future successes to arrive. Instead, they have a far and wide vision of what success means to them and how they can achieve their unique view of success. Prime Leaders look far into their futures in their “crystal balls, ” see clearly what they want to accomplish, and then make the future a reality. Their vision also has great breadth with which they see the extensive range of opportunities that present themselves and from which they can choose. This vision affords Prime Leaders a clear and defined path to success.
Passion. At the heart of Prime Leaders is a deep and enduring passion for what they do. They don’t do what they do for the money or fame or power (though most certainly enjoy those perks!), but rather because they simply LOVE what they do. This passion is the basis for both their success and their happiness. They are successful because their passion drives them to put in voluminous amounts of time and energy into their work. They are happy because they are doing something that they absolutely love to do. This passion enables them get up every morning and throw themselves into their work. It also helps them to be great leaders because the people for whom they work feel and are inspired by their passion.
Ownership. Prime Leaders have complete ownership of their professional lives. They know that their careers are entirely of their making and, though luck and chance can occasionally play a role, they take charge by creating opportunities and don’t wait around for their careers to happen to them. Prime Leaders also take full responsibility for their successes and failures—“the buck stops here”—and, in doing so, have the power to replicate and build on the past successes and learn from and avoid past failures.
Determination. Successful people are maniacally driven to achieve their goals. They have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish and are willing to do what is necessary to achieve those goals. This determination is evidenced in the long hours they commit to their work , the quality and quantity of work that they produce, and their willingness to take on extra work or the dirty little jobs that others eschew. Research has shown that the most successful people are those who put in the most time and determination is the engine that drives that effort.
The Grind. Even for those with a great passion for their work, not everything they do is interesting and motivating. To the contrary, an unavoidable part of pursuing success is the minutiae and the just-plain-boring aspects of the job. All business people will reach that point in their work that is no longer fun or engaging. I call this the Grind. Many businesspeople will reach the Grind and either ease up or stop completely. But Prime Leaders understand that the Grind is the signal when their work starts to really counts and that this is the time that separates them from everyone else. They accept that the Grind is neither fun nor interesting and, instead, focus on how that mundane—though essential—work will lead them to their goals (which, by the way, is fun and interesting!).
Inspired by failure. Many people, when confronted by mistakes or failure, lose motivation and confidence to pursue their goals. They make excuses, blame others, and wallow in self-pity, none of which help them get where they want to go. Prime Leaders take responsibility for their mistakes and failures and use them to boost their efforts. Also, rather than defensively putting those mistakes and failures behind them, Prime Leaders do a “forensic analysis” and learn from them, so that they don’t repeat those mistakes and failures in the future. At a deep level, Prime Leaders take their failures and use them to inspire and motivate them to worker and smarter as they search for success.
Respond with challenge. An inevitable part of striving for success is that you will experience excessive demands, obstacles, and setbacks that slow or impede your progress. Such experiences can include difficult bosses, office politics, time deadlines, and insufficient resources to do the job. They can be discouraging because they make the climb to the top more difficult or even seem insurmountable. One of the most fundamental differences between typical businesspeople and Prime Leaders is how they respond to these difficulties. Many businesspeople perceive them as threats to avoid, causing negativity, anxiety, and fear. But Prime Leaders respond with challenge, in which they are motivated to actively confront the difficulties, are confident in their ability, and remain calm and focused in their efforts. Two businesspeople can be faced with the same difficulties and, all things being equal, the one who views them as challenges will responds positively, overcome them, and achieve their goals.
Crisis mastery. Perhaps the ultimate test of businesspeople is how they react to crisis. While many perfectly capable businesspeople crumble in the maelstrom of overload, time pressure, conflicts, and breakdowns, Prime Leaders respond with resolve, composure, and decisiveness. Being a master in crisis comes from self-discipline, time-tested confidence, a focus on the essentials, emotional control, and a healthy ego, in other words, developing the areas described in the Prime Business Pyramid.
Process focus. The bottom line of the business world is results, for example, productivity, sales, and profits. Unfortunately, too many businesspeople become preoccupied with results and this focus actually interferes with their attaining those results. Though results are always in the back of the minds of Prime Leaders (like a computer program running in the background), they understand that to achieve the results they want, they must focus on the process, that is, what they need to do in the moment, to accomplish their outcome goals. While others are talking about where they want to go, Prime Leaders are talking about how to get there.
Ask yourself whether you possess any or all of these qualities. If you do, you’re on the road to great success. If not, make those you lack a priority in your professional development because the simple reality is that without them, you will likely never achieve your highest goals.