High achievers across all fields have a few traits that make them special. It is important for us to understand what these are so that we can internalize those qualities in ourselves. The role models we choose to have will have an enormous influence on the person we become. Training yourself based on the best is a good starting point towards your journey to excellence.
Here are the 7 traits shared by all achievers that I feel are necessary to thrive in the 21st century work world.
Expertise– In an interconnected world where we are constantly coming up against the best, expertise is the entry requirement to get into the game of business. Choose your area of endeavor and become an expert at it. This is the only way to shine now. Keep developing yourself on a constant basis and with the access to information that we have now it is not difficult to develop a great level of expertise. Get in touch with the experts in your field, read their blogs, listen to their podcasts, document what you have learnt and share it with others. This process will keep your expertise an ongoing learning endeavor which never ends.
Be a generalist – Despite the earlier point if you truly want to be a leader who thrives in the 21st century you need to be a generalist. You can have a team of specialists but the leader needs to be a generalist. The book Range by David Epstein will get you thinking about your career in a unique way for sure. The book starts with the examples of Roger Federer and Tiger Woods. It is interesting that when he was a kid Roger Federer wanted to meet Boris Becker and reach 6 grand slams. However, Tiger Woods wanted to be the best of all time. The key learning here is that thriving in the 21st century workforce requires us to be a generalist than just specialists. You may not be the best at something but if you have multiple things you are good at you will win bigger. It has a lot of examples across the spectrum.
Empathy– According to Geoff Colvin in his book Humans are Underrated empathy is the key 21st century skill. There are a lot of things that machines can do better and cheaper than humans can but empathy is one of the traits that humans own. It is important to develop empathy towards your fellow human beings, customers (Remember Apple is successful because of its deep empathy with what the customer will revere through breakthrough design) and family. You can develop deep empathy by understanding how everything works and putting yourself in different roles that require effective interaction.
Result Orientation– All top achievers are extremely result oriented. As they say talk is cheap and its only action that counts. It’s not the amount of hours you put at work but the value of the work you produce in those hours that is most important. Have a clear blueprint of the key result areas in your work and ensure the results are aligned with company objectives. The results are always what keep organizations moving towards glory. Concentrate on activities that will help you achieve your results and ensure those tasks are given top priority.
Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman made EQ very famous with his book Emotional Intelligence. It has been proven that a lot of top organizations are looking for people who have high EQ. A minimum IQ is the entry price but once that is established it is a high level of EQ which involves self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management is what will get you in and help you stay there. Keep upgrading your soft skills to stay relevant in today’s marketplace.
Self-reliance – Developing self-reliance means you are your own boss. Manage your career as the CEO of your life. It is your responsibility to keep upgrading your skills, taking certifications, being current and reading books in your area of expertise. Once you see yourself as the path maker in your life you will become self-reliant and the organization will also benefit from your work. Being self-reliant is not a choice but a requirement to excel in your field. Actually it has become a recent trend to talk about being the CEO of your career but Andy Grove wrote about this way back in his 1996 book Only the Paranoid Survive.
Common Sense – As someone said common sense is not common. This is a very important trait for all top achievers to possess. Once you move up in your career you are going to face one problem after another and it is important to use your common sense and ingenuity to solve day to day problems. If you don’t have common sense you lose your touch with reality and also your people don’t have the confidence that you can solve the problems at their level. Having common sense enables you to see the big picture and the immediate picture as well. According to Merriam Webster, common sense is about exercising “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.” The whole point of developing common sense is to ensure you simplify situations and eliminate barriers in communication. As Scott Fitzgerald said “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
There you have it the 7 traits of high achievers. When we start thinking along these lines we can make the most of our talent and build a wonderful career.
The views expressed here are my own and do not represent my organization.