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15 March 2023

Traits of Highly Successful People: What Sets Them Apart?

Jairek Robbins


Leadership and entrepreneurship are challenging, and the statistics on the longevity of new businesses can be depressing because the odds of success are so low for most businesses. However, you can improve the chances of business success by developing or honing the traits which are common among successful entrepreneurs.

It is true that business success depends on several factors, but the entrepreneur himself or herself is a major factor that contributes to the success or failure of a company. We discuss some of those attributes which make successful people stand out from all others.

Willingness to Take Risks


If you do something the way everyone else does it, you will get the very same results that everyone is getting. Success requires one to break away from the crowd and be different. Being different or wanting to achieve extraordinary results calls for stepping out of your comfort zone and taking risks on the unknown.

Highly successful people are risk-takers. They aren’t reckless while taking risks, but they do whatever they can to manage risk in order to benefit from the upside possible in a given venture.

For example, a story is told of how a number of business teams were sent out to Africa in the last century to scout for business openings in the footwear segment. One team saw people walking around barefooted and sent home a report that there is no market for shoes since everyone walks around barefooted. Another team was excited to see the barefooted people and sent a report saying there is a huge potential market for shoes in Africa because hardly anyone currently wears shoes.

You can guess which of those two teams had individuals willing to take risks, and which team could have benefited from the opportunity spotted.



Being willing to take risks goes hand in hand with being able to change with the times. Change is inevitable, and highly successful people are adaptable. They recognize trends and embrace the changes those trends bring.

For example, Warren Buffett famously says that his delay to recognize the potential in tech stocks like Google cost him a fortune, and is one of the reasons why he was dethroned from the No.1 spot as the richest person in the world.

Consider Buffett’s example as a cautionary tale regarding the importance of adaptability. Learn to be adaptable and you will improve your chances of attaining lasting success as a leader or business owner. The world is changing rapidly, and we must either adapt or fall by the wayside.

Laser-Focus on Key Goals


Highly successful people are laser-focused on 3-5 main goals in any given year. This enables them to concentrate all their energies and other resources on those identified goals, and with that focus comes phenomenal results.

Learn from those people and avoid spreading yourself too thin. Depending on the stage at which your business is, and the industry in which you are, zero in on 3-5 goals and break them down into monthly and even weekly targets so that you make incremental progress that drives you towards attaining the big goals.

When your actions are goal-driven, you can set the right priorities and say no to everything else that isn’t contributing to the attainment of your set goals.

Superior Listening Skills


Highly successful people are also good listeners. They don’t just keep quiet during an interaction until it is their time to speak; instead, they listen attentively and make every effort to understand the other person’s point of view.

By really listening, successful people have better relationships with team members, customers and other stakeholders. They are also better able to learn about new opportunities due to their willingness to pay attention to what those around them are saying.

If you want to join the ranks of the highly successful, start being a good listener!

They Involve Their Teams


Another common trait that sets apart highly successful people is that they have the ability to build teams around their goals or projects. They communicate their objectives and get buy-in from their team so that everyone pulls in the same direction.

Getting your team passionate about your idea is a force multiplier and it makes it a lot easier for you to achieve extraordinary goals. Don’t try to be a one-man or one-woman army, build a team and see your success skyrocket!

Just imagine Jeff Bezos running Amazon on his own; for how long would he keep up with the demands of constantly upgrading the software running that business? How would he keep the fulfillment centers working seamlessly? How would he stay compliant in the different countries where this business operates? Marshalling a dedicated team around your dream is a key ingredient that sets successful people apart from those who struggle or fail.

They Embrace Coaching and Mentorship


Highly successful people are self-aware and know their strengths as well as their limitations. For this reason, they seek the help and guidance of those who have walked the paths they are on so that they can make fewer mistakes along the journey.

Leadership and entrepreneurship can be a challenging and lonely undertaking, and it helps when you have a coach or a mentor who understands the life you have chosen. They help you to grow and hold you accountable for the attainment of the goals that you set.

With a coach or mentor on your side, you can have a sounding board for your ideas or plans before you start implementing them. The sound recommendations they make about the course of action you have selected can build your confidence and accelerate the pace at which you move towards the realization of your leadership or business goals. Having a coach or mentor is therefore one of the things that makes highly successful people stand out from those who are average.

Summing it up…


If you want to become highly successful, learn from and mold yourself in the fashion of the highly successful people around you. In the information age, you don’t even have to meet those people in person! Study them and learn the attributes that have made those people stand out. Then instill those attributes within yourself. As you implement them in your professional and personal life, you will soon start seeing major changes that improve your performance. Start that journey today!

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