[April 12, 2014] Do leaders have a lucky charm? Are leaders just super lucky and therefore pure luck explains why they are leaders? The answers to these questions are obvious to those of us who are leaders. But, there is a large portion of people who believe leaders are successful because of luck – or some form of luck – like privilege, accident, fate, belonging to the right club, knowing the right person, of the right race/gender/religion, being tall and handsome, etc.
We’ve all heard each one of these reasons for being lucky. Yet, everyone has some good luck and some bad luck – things that randomly happen to them. A few people are able to capitalize on the good luck and overcome the bad luck. So, what makes them different? What are the things that “super lucky” leaders do? What makes them different and what makes them great leaders?
Over many years I asked these questions of some of the most successful leaders in the military and in business. While I got a variety of answers, here are the top three things “super lucky” leaders do:
- More than just about anything else, successful leaders do not fear failure and are prepared to seize upon success. In fact, they expect failure to happen and consider it just another form of learning. The trick is they are on the lookout for things that go well (awareness) and take hold of good luck when it strikes.
- Successful leaders build quality relationships. Sometimes we call this networking (or social ties); both inside and outside their organization. In addition, they actively seek to surround themselves with the best people they can. These leaders understand that people are the key to their success and actively make relationships work.
- And finally, they are persistent, passionate, and have a positive attitude. These three traits are drivers of the most successful and greatest leaders. Nothing seems to stop leaders in their motivation and drive to be the best and they let nothing deter them from their goals.
While many people believe that luck (or fate) will make them successful, what they don’t realize is that it is not the luck itself but the things leaders do to take advantage of luck that leads to success. For example, successful leaders also create opportunity through their ethics and dedication.
Having a vision and hard work in itself is not the key to success; it takes something more. It is these three things that make them “super lucky.”1
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 Malcolm Gladwell discusses Bill Gates’ and others’ success in Outliers: The Story of Success (see this book and others in my Professional Reading List) . Timing, he writes, is everything – being in the right place at the right time with the right people and resources. Perhaps this is the definition of “super lucky.”