We see them everywhere — starring in TV commercials, delivering TED Talks, and smiling on magazine racks.
Great leaders are often synonymous with tremendous wealth and prestige. Yet, remarkably enough, most weren’t born into affluence. Many faced seemingly insurmountable odds and earned their red carpet time and exclusive interviews through hard work, intelligence, and tenacity.
The way I see it, there are five qualities that every successful leader embodies. Some of my biggest inspirations share all five traits, achieving unprecedented success in their fields. These characteristics aren’t magical or inaccessible. They’re qualities you can work on and apply to your own leadership style.
It takes guts to start something completely new. When Bill Gates began his career in technology, computers were earmarked for the wealthy and required a lumbering, 6-foot-wide machine to complete even a simple task.
But when you have a vision, you see things based on how they should be — rather than how they are. Gates saw that these machines could be household products, and with hard work and intelligence, transformed that vision into Microsoft.
Find something you’re passionate about, and ask yourself how it can be improved. When you can answer that question, make a move — no matter how bizarre. Gates dropped out of Harvard to pursue his vision. You don’t have to be that extreme, but it demonstrates how a clear vision can drive you to take a big leap of faith to bring it to fruition.
Oprah Winfrey was born in the Deep South during the civil rights movement. She was sexually abused as a child, had a child as a teenager, and was raised by a single mother. But she bounced back from crippling poverty to become one of the world’s most successful women in entertainment.
Tony Robbins was raised by a single mother and lived in extreme poverty; he washed dishes in the bathtub of his 400-square-foot apartment. Still, he was determined to succeed. He became a life coach and motivational speaker and now has a net worth of more than $30 million.
What do these two people have in common? They’re resilient. Life did not deal them an easy hand, but they rose above their problems and found success. In business, you’re bound to encounter pitfalls, but without them, success wouldn’t be nearly as sweet.
You can’t just give up when you lose an important client or your market share plummets. Look at your failures through a different lens, and use them to fortify your next endeavor.
Richard Branson never went to college, but he’s a very intelligent man. Virgin America, Virgin Mobile, and Virgin Records — among other enormous enterprises — all flourished under Branson’s tutelage despite very little cash. In fact, Branson started Virgin Records from the trunk of his car.
Your level of formal education doesn’t necessarily indicate your intelligence. Branson took calculated risks by asking the right questions of himself and creating a plan. That’s all intelligence is: smart risks at the right time. Don’t judge yourself — or others — by the degrees you have under your belt.
All the intelligence in the world will go to waste unless you act on your vision. Gates knew how to act. He saw a gap in the market that no one else did and put his vision in motion, which made him one of the most famous entrepreneurs of the home computer revolution.
Taking action isn’t as simple as it sounds. Procrastination or fear can easily paralyze you, but it’s important to remember that nothing great ever happened on its own. Connect with the present, block out emotional resistance, and carefully time your next move. Knowing the best time to act is something most successful people have mastered.
I love my job. I get to help people realize their fitness and spiritual goals every day. To see a student of mine shine after months of hard work is a huge payoff, but I wouldn’t be a very good stockbroker, gardener, or mechanic. Why? I’m simply not interested in those things.
Every day for more than 20 years, Robbins would practice public speaking. With that much repetition, his fear of speaking dissipated, and he could focus on being passionate, intense, and driven for his audience.
Without intensity and passion for what you do, you won’t be very good at it — at least not as good as you could be. You may already be passionate about something, but for those who aren’t, experiment, ask questions, and explore new areas. You may find your interest in a place you never would have expected.
Each of these leaders had a vision to change the world and the determination to take action with passion and resilience. They wanted to see their vision become a reality, regardless of the obstacles or challenges they faced. It wasn’t great education or luck that made them successful, and it certainly wasn’t money.
With clear focus and determination, we’re all capable of achieving our greatest potential. Success is an inward step. Don’t look around you for validation for what you do. Get inside yourself and find the vision you want to create.
Shawn T. McIntyre is founder and CEO of Shawn McIntyre Fitness. Shawn is a professional fitness model and trainer who offers online training. He coaches clients to help them achieve success in fitness and life.