The road to success


We live in a dramatically changing marketplace. The dynamic leader knows how to stay relevant and expand relevant skills.

I’ve written and presented many times about good habits to practice, but it is equally important to discuss valuable attributes of successful leaders. I’m talking about those features that are inherent in us.

If you look at any business that weathered the Great Recession, or any business that shows continual growth, you will be able to identify many of the following valuable attributes in their leadership team. 

1 Stay curious

Many leaders who thrive are successful because they are “life-long learners.” They never presume to know it all, and constantly wonder how something can be improved. Strengthen this attribute: Ask, “What if?” in every situation.

2 Be creative

Leaders who thrive in a changing market do so because they are innovative. They work with what they have and produce things no one else imagined. Strengthen this attribute: Hold brainstorming sessions with your team (or by yourself). No rules allowed — anything goes.

3 Remain flexible

Leaders who thrive understand why organizations need to change. They also see the value in Plan B, C, D, and Z. Just because it wasn’t the first idea doesn’t mean it’s not the better idea. Strengthen this attribute: Replace the word “failing” with the word “learning.”

4 Be Passionate

Passion is what propels leaders who thrive to take risks when others won’t. Strengthen this attribute: Eliminate the excuses you make to accept new challenges. Understand what is holding you back.

5 Plan

(but don’t over-plan). Leaders who thrive plan for potential pitfalls, difficulties and setbacks — but not so much that they overlook opportunity. Many leaders fall victim to over-planning. Strengthen this attribute: View your plans as a road map, and let go of perfection.

6 Maintain Self-Awareness

Leaders who are self-aware lead with a better sense of purpose and authenticity. This is because they are in tune with their strengths and weaknesses equally. Strengthen this attribute: Ask for feedback from trusted peers and mentors — allow them to be your mirror until you can learn to be your own.

7 Network

Leaders who thrive understand the strength of a team, and don’t presume they’ve gotten where they have on their own. They know that a certain amount of interdependence is more valuable than independence. Strengthen this attribute: Set monthly goals of people you would like to connect with, email, or touch base with. Write these goals down.

8 Doubt yourself

(but not too much). Leaders who thrive are successful in part because they are not blind to challenges. Leaders who doubt themselves too much will eventually talk themselves out of trying. But a little bit of doubt is healthy, and keeps their leadership grounded. Strengthen this attribute: If you doubt too much — ask yourself, “Is that thought unfounded?” If you doubt too little —ask yourself, “What are the potential pitfalls of this decision?”

9 Be decisive

Leaders who thrive often do so because they make decisions faster than others. Strengthen this attribute: Gather the “how,” “what” and “why” of every decision you face. Decisions are infinitely easier to make if you’re clear on their importance and impact.

10 Remember the customer

Leaders who thrive know who their customers are, are familiar with their expectations, and are constantly reassessing their customers’ needs. Strengthen this attribute: Let customers get to know you — communication is a two-way street and the foundation for any lasting relationship.

Remember, we all have the ability to be any one of these things — some features just may come easier to some than others. But this doesn’t mean attributes can’t be developed.

Take the time to get to know yourself and your team, and identify which of these valuable attributes come natural and as well as those you’d like to see more of. Practice makes progress.

Dave Ferguson is “The Leaders’ Coach”, an internationally recognized executive leadership coach, speaker, facilitator, and author. Contact him at 704-907-0171 or at Ferguson is a part time resident of Hilton Head Island. This article was originally published in CEOWorld magazine and is reprinted here with permission.