19 Common Traits of Elite Leaders

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19 common traits of elite leaders

19 Common Traits of Elite Leaders

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Trait #1 – Intelligence

Almost every Championship-Level Leader in my Rich Habits Study said they owed part of their success to being smart. Smart came in two flavors – some Leaders said they were Street Smart, others said they were Book Smart and some said they were a bit of both.

Interestingly, of the forty-nine “Leaders” in my Study, only eleven actually knew they were smart by virtue of the IQ Scores, which ranged from 118 – 139.

The good news is that IQ is not static or fixed. It will increase as you become more knowledgeable.

Trait #2 – Building Strong Relationships With Influencers

One of the common traits among the Championship-Level Leaders in my Rich Habits Study was their obsession with building relationships with Influencers. These could be other senior executives within their company or senior executives in other companies within their industry.

Some of the common Relationship-Building Tools Successful Leaders used were the following:

Hello Calls, Happy Birthday Calls and Life Event Calls

Hello Calls – These are “Reconnaissance” calls. By that, I mean, they are phone calls you make in order to gather information about each Influencer. The more you know about your Influencer, the more opportunities you will have to build stronger connections with them.

Happy Birthday Calls – These annual calls have one important function – they keep your relationship with your Influencer on life support.

Life Event Calls – These are the most important calls you make. Because they are “Emotional-Calls”, they put your Influencer relationship on steroids. The roots to your relationship grow deep and fast, with Life Event Calls.

Trait #3 – Warrior Work Ethic

A typical Championship-Level Leaders will work 10-12 hours or more each day for many years. And often their work does not end when they leave their place of business. After work hours, many Championship-Level Leaders devote time to non-profit activities, supported by their company. Some Championship-Level Leaders are also on Boards or Committees of Industry Trade organizations, where they work with other Leaders within their Industry.

Trait #4 – Laser Focus

Laser Focus is the ability to concentrate for long hours at a time. It is also the ability to quickly pivot and shift to other pressing matters, deploying that same Laser Focus to solve problems or to deal with obstacles/unexpected events.

Gaining Laser Focus requires daily practice. Like a muscle, it must be developed.

Trait #5 – Productive Habits

The Championship-Level Leaders in my Rich Habits Study forged what I call Productive Habits, These were habits that were tied to their Goals and Dreams:

  • Daily Industry/Career Reading – Read to learn, 30 minutes or more each day.
  • Daily Goal Habits – Goals are action steps you take in order for you dream of getting to the “C Suite”, becomes a reality.
  • Daily Health Habits –Daily aerobic exercise and eating healthy, nutritious food helps Championship-Level Leaders to maintain high energy levels throughout the day, which enables them to focus. When you’re tired, you lose your focus and make bad decisions.
  • Trust-Building Habits – Being responsive to employees you manage, customers/clients and other business partners, such as vendors, enables you to maintain strong Trust-Based Relationships. Being consistently truthful is also another powerful Trust-Building Habit of Championship-Level Leaders.
  • Saying NO Habit – Time Scarcity is a problem every Championship-Level Leaders must learn to live with. Because their time is so limited, Championship-Level Leaders make a habit of saying NO to individuals, projects or initiatives that do not help their company in the long term.
  • Results-Focused Habits – Results tell Successful Leaders what works and what does not work. Championship-Level Leaders learn when it’s time to cut bait or pivot in order to get the results they desire.

Trait #6 – Visibility

Walkabouts help keep the lines of communication open with the front-line employees, who are able to share with their company leaders real company issues they are facing.

Visible Leaders are rare in most industries. Most senior executives rarely engage with workers or the front line. The ones who do, like Henry Ford, Elon Musk and Jack Welch gain iconic status.

Trait #7 – Positive Mental Outlook

Having a Positive Mental Outlook means you are optimistic, upbeat, hopeful and enthusiastic. You see opportunities and solutions to every problem. 

Championship-Level Leaders intuitively understand that positivity is the springboard of creativity, insight, innovation and good decision-making. 

Trait #8 – Anticipation

Championship-Level Leaders are constantly playing chess inside their head. This helps them to  anticipate future problems, future obstacles and future adversity.

Trait #9 – Clear Vision

Championship-Level Leaders have a detailed, well thought-out plan for the future of the company they work for and because of that clear vision, they are able to get their management and employees to buy into that plan. This means everyone in the organization is pulling the same cart, in the same direction.

A clear vision becomes a blueprint for the company to follow, bringing everything they are pursuing into focus.

Trait # 10 – Persistence

What is Persistence?

  • Persistence means never quitting on your dream.
  • Persistence means taking action every day on the goals behind your dreams, whether you feel like it or not.
  • Persistence means never giving in to your doubts.
  • Persistence means you stay on task despite making costly mistakes. Successful Leaders view mistakes as learning experiences and nothing else.
  • Persistence means you pick yourself up after suffering devastating failure. Successful Leaders believe you only fail when you quit.
  • Persistence means not letting rejection or being ignored stop you from moving forward. Successful Leaders take emotion out the pursuit of their dreams and goals.
  • Persistence means not allowing distractions to shift your focus.
  • Persistence means not letting fear stop you in your tracks.

Trait #11 – Courageous

When things are going well, it’s easy to be courageous. But, when things are not going well, these Crucible Moments can make or break a leader. Championship-Level Leaders do not give into fear.

Trait #12 – Master the Fundamentals

Successful Leaders are obsessed with the fundamentals. The great leaders, the ones who eventually become senior executives, mentor their team to become masters of the fundamentals. When you are a master of the fundamentals, that means those fundamentals have become daily habits. When fundamentals become daily habits, each member of the team is able to maintain their high levels of performance.

Trait #13 – Effective Communicators

Championship-Level Leaders do not talk AT their employees, they talk TO employees When you talk AT someone there is no opportunity for feedback, no back and forth, no discussion, no brainstorming. It’s a one-way conversation that puts up a Stop Sign for discussion.

Talking TO people fosters feedback, input, ideas and innovation.

Trait #14 – Outlier Mindset

The most Successful Leaders are Outliers – they do things differently than the other competitors within their industry. They are trailblazers and non-conformists.

Most Outliers come from a different industry. This outsider status allows them to think differently, to wander in search of solutions and to utilize different tools and approaches to solving problems.

Outliers are rare. They are like unicorns. And because of their uniqueness, they wind up changing entire industries. 

Trait #15 – Calm Under Pressure

“Calmness, not skill, is the sign of a matured Samurai.” – Tsukahara Bokuden

Championship-Level Leaders are masters of their emotions. They understand that uncontrolled emotions lead to bad decisions. This is because when the emotional center of the brain, the amygdala, becomes amplified, the thinking part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, shuts down or temporarily hibernates. When that happens, the ability to make logical, good decisions is impossible.

Trait #16 – Seeing What is Invisible to Everyone Else

Championship-Level Leaders visualize future problems, solutions to those future problems, opportunities and alternate routes towards success.

Visionaries, like Outliers, are also rare. And, like Outliers, they are industry change agents.

Trait #17 – Embrace Change

“The Only Constant in Life Is Change.”- Heraclitus

Championship-Level Leaders are Visionaries. They are able to see changes that will occur five, ten or twenty years into the future.

This “Vision” is not some innate talent – it’s the byproduct of hard work. Successful Leaders read two to three hours every day of industry-related content, which helps them maintain and grow their knowledge-base. With this “Virtuoso Knowledge” they are able to keep their finger on the pulse of their industry.

This constant preparation and anticipation of change enables them to quickly pivot and respond to that change, gaining market share in the process, at great cost to their competition.

Trait #18 – Mentors of Future Leaders

Championship-Level Leaders are Success Mentors to their employees. They develop their employees to become successful future leaders.

Trait #19 – Process Perfectionists

Behind every Leadership success story are Proven Processes.

All Successful Leaders follow a proven process  – one that, through experimentation, consistently works.

Successful Leaders focus on creating a process that works because they understand that proven processes force everyone on their team to pull the same cart the same way and in the same direction. With every member of an organization pulling the cart as one, company-wide goals are much easier to achieve and organizational success, much easier to attain.

Eventually, those organizational processes eventually become organizational habits and this is important because process habits automate organizational success, improving the bottom line.

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