8 Unusual Traits Successful Leaders Share

8 Unusual Traits Successful Leaders Share


There’s no shortage of articles, books, and research that describe what it takes to become a superior leader. While each piece of advice or study has placed their own spin on the best leadership traits to possess, there are also a number of unusual traits that aren’t as commonly discussed - such as the following eight qualities.

1. They Project a ‘Reality Distortion Field’

In the early 1980s Apple employee Bud Tribble said that Steve Jobs projected a "reality distortion field." Tribble elaborated by saying that it was something out of "Star Trek." "In [Job's] presence, reality is malleable.” Tribble added, "He can convince anyone of practically anything. It wears off when he's not around, but it makes it hard to have realistic schedules."

This isn’t just a unique trait that Jobs possessed. Other successful leaders have a "reality distortion field," as well.

According to an article in Business InsiderSpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk also has a similar presence. As Dolly Singh, former head of talent acquisition for SpaceX, explains "Diamonds are created under pressure, and Elon Musk is a master diamond maker.”

2. They’re Active Copers

Fortune profiled clinical psychologist Leslie Pratch who “has evaluated hundreds of candidates for CEO and other top management positions at Fortune 500 companies to predict who will succeed in these leadership roles—and who will not.”

Pratch discovered that great leaders are active copers. She explained that successful leaders have “the ability to adapt creatively and effectively to challenges and change.” This means that can quickly recover from setbacks, are open, and are keenly aware of their motivations, strengths, and weaknesses.

3. They Keep Diaries

Yes. Even successful leaders like Jack Dorsey have been known to keep a diary. According to Twitter and Square co-founder, this allows him to “Find a simple way to track your progress.” Dorsey adds, “You really get to see how you have grown, how your business has grown and how your own leadership has grown.”

4. They’re Not Afraid To Hear The Word ‘No’

Most of us dread hearing the word "no." But, that’s not necessarily the case with the most successful individuals. Minda Zetlin from The Laid Back Leader tells Inc.com that after reviewing the biographies of billionaire entrepreneurs like Warren Buffett and Elon Musk, that there was a “willingness to try to sell something seemingly outrageous to strangers and then do it again and again till it worked.” For example, they sold products door-to-door and pitched ideas to complete strangers until they made a sale.

5. They Embrace Failure

I’m not advocating that you purposely allow your business to fail. But, as an entrepreneur, I’ve experienced my fair of share of failure. While it is never a pleasant experience to fail - in fact it is a tough experience - through failure I've learned some of the most valuable lessons in my life. And, that’s why great leaders welcome failure as long as something positive comes out of it.

As Glenn Llopis says on Forbes, these kind of “leaders know that failure is not fatal, but rather a time to teach you how to overcome adversity and avoid the same occurrence from repeating itself."

6. They’re Emotionally Intelligent

Daniel Goleman, Ph.d is best known for his best-selling book "Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ." Emotional IQ can be defined “as the ability of individuals to recognize their own and other people's emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.”

Goleman also adds that those who aren’t emotionally intelligent aren’t going to get very far. So, how do you know if you’re emotionally intelligent?

  • You’re self-aware
  • You can manage your emotions
  • You have effective relationships
  • You have empathy
  • You’re not a perfectionist
  • You have an emotional vocabulary
  • You don’t get offended

Even if you don’t currently possess a high emotional intelligence, you can begin to focus on those seven areas listed above.

7. They Share Credit, But Take The Blame

As I’ve discussed before, it’s important for leaders to not only share the credit with their teams, they also need to own-up to any mistakes that may occur along the way. Besides accepting the blame, you need to apologize for the error and admit that you may not always have a solution to a problem. If that happens, use this as opportunity to crowdsource advice or suggestions from your team.

8. They Earn The Position Everyday

Never take your position for granted. No matter how long you’ve been in a leadership role you have to show-up every day and get down in the trenches with those around you. You have to show everyone on your team the same level of respect. You have to inspire and motivate your team when morale is low. In short, you have to earn that leadership role each and every day.

As Abraham Lincoln famously said, "No man is good enough to govern another man without the other's consent." 

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