Character Traits of Highly Successful People

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On March 2, 2015

Character-traits-of-highly-successful-peopleYou’d be hard-pressed to find someone in business who hasn’t read at least part of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Many business people have these seven habits memorized—and they work on these habits regularly.

As important and helpful as mastering those habits may be, there is, however, more to being successful in business than merely being effective. Recently, Morgan Quinn posted an article that looked at the habits of highly successful billionaires. You can read the whole post here, but I’d like to highlight just a few of his observations.

Before I do that, I’d like to issue a caveat: Just because these people are successful (and wealthy) doesn’t necessarily mean their lives are exemplary. You may not like some of these individuals—and you may not want to emulate their lifestyles. But what I find interesting about this list of characteristics is that some of them are not what we associate with being successful.

That being said, let’s take a look at Quinn’s take on some interesting (and sometimes surprising) characteristics of a few very wealthy and successful business leaders.

  • Oprah Winfrey: Not everyone is a fan of the daytime TV host, author, actor, publisher, and entrepreneur—but she does have a lot of fans. One reason people like her is that, despite her incredible success (including a net worth of some $3 billion), she remains consistently grateful.
  • Larry Ellison: The driven founder of Oracle isn’t exactly known for his humility. But he doesn’t point to his relentless drive as the source of his success. Instead, it’s his inquisitiveness that propels him forward, saying, “The most important aspect of my personality, as far as determining my success goes, has been my questioning conventional wisdom, doubting experts and questioning authority.”
  • Sergey Brin: The co-founder of Google wasn’t enticed by dollar signs when he and co-founder Larry Page tapped out their credit cards to start the company. It was innovation that drove him. He simply wanted to build the best search technology in the world. It wasn’t until Google AdWords came around that he saw the financial rewards for his innovation.
  • Richard Branson: The founder of the Virgin Group is uncomfortable with comfort zones. He is a fearless risk-taker. Of course that involves failing at times. While he doesn’t embrace failure, he’s not afraid of it, saying, “I will work day and night to avoid failure, but if I can’t, I’ll pick myself up the next day.”

Gratefulness, inquisitiveness, innovation, and fearlessness aren’t taught in most business schools. By themselves, they don’t guarantee success (there are those components such as hard work and luck that enter into the equation as well!). But without these characteristics, some of the most successful people of our time wouldn’t be who they are.

What characteristics help drive you toward success? Are you working on those character traits as hard as you’re working on your business skills?