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Attributes of Successful People – to Innovate for Impact

Successful people have learned to draw on their natural abilities, traits and attributes to define and achieve their dreams. They approach situations differently, and frame challenges in a different way than most people – by developing skills and traits relevant to situation analysis, problem solving, and having options to achieve the desired outcomes. These qualities are crucial to innovate for impact that enable people and the enterprise to realize their potential with a mindset that includes –

1.  Goal Oriented and Flexible

Successful people have ambitious objectives with short-term and long-term goals. They understand the importance of setting goals with a plan of action to achieve those goals – while recognizing the need adapt to respect changing circumstances, new information, or a better opportunity. Because of this, successful people periodically re-evaluate their objectives and make sure they’re staying on track and moving forward. They analyze their progress over time and make sure their goals still make sense – yet flexible enough to know when it’s time to change course – including altering or resetting their goals or starting over.

2.  Relentlessly Ambitious

Sweeping success typically doesn’t just happen — you have to want it and be willing to work steadily to achieve it. Successful people relentlessly pursue their objectives. They simply won’t give up. If you want to be successful, you have to be very ambitious and motivated to do what it takes to achieve the desired objective as well as ask lots of questions and make many observations to learn fast and make smart decisions. Further, successful people have a healthy competitive streak that pushes them to pursue their goals. The most successful people also find a way to temper overly aggressive tendencies by managing inner drive, motivations and aspirations.

3.  Confident – in their ability to learn and achieve

The two biggest enemies to success are fear and doubt. Most people fear the unknown, are afraid of failure, struggle with self-doubt, worry they aren’t ready or don’t have what it takes to succeed. Or, at the other extreme, have lots of self-confidence that is baseless !  Successful people learn how to assess and deal with these issues – and realize nothing is guaranteed. They are action oriented and can dig deep to find the information to gain insight and courage to test innovative ideas as well as assess probable outcomes. Being fearless doesn’t mean you don’t feel fear; it means you don’t let fear hold you back. It means you understand that doing nothing is worse than trying and failing. To be successful, you must be confident and courageous enough to continue trying new things.

4.  Curious  and  Inquisitive

From the get-go, most of us are taught to go with the flow and accept the information we’re given at face value. However, people serious about success frequently see things differently. They’re naturally inquisitive and question many things to fast track understanding. They’re frequently asking “ What if ? ” or “ Why not ? ” or  “ What other options are there ? “,  or flipping a problem on its head to examine it from a different view. They want to know why and how things work, and if things can work differently.  Because they think things can be better, they aren’t  afraid to challenge the status quo or conventional wisdom. Successful people have curious and inquisitive minds, which lead them to make innovative breakthroughs and change the way things are done. Ultimately, this mindset and curiosity are a catalyst for disrupting whole industries !

5.  Very Knowledgeable  and  Cultivate a Growth Mindset

Successful people believe in their abilities and those of others to do amazing things – and are willing to work hard to achieve results. Instead of seeing flaws and failures as issues, they focus on self-improvement and overcoming challenges. They cultivate a growth mindset, or the belief that your basic qualities and traits are things you can grow and improve through effort and hard work. According to author Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, a growth mindset is when you believe your basic qualities are your starting point in life and that you have the ability to improve and overcome. Adopting this mindset allows people to thrive in challenging times. A growth mindset sees challenges and failure as a springboard for growth – as opposed to a fixed mindset, which avoids challenges, gives up easily and feels threatened by change or the success of others.

6.  Committed

Successful people believe wholeheartedly in their goals and aspirations – and are deeply committed to seeing them through. They understand that progress will eventually result in success. Along with this there is a need for passion and a drive that comes from within. That’s why you’ll never succeed at doing something you dislike or are indifferent to — it must be something you believe in and are determined to seeing it through. People who are committed and serious about success will develop the required behavior and create the circumstances to support those ambitions. Only those people who are deeply committed to their goals will actually succeed – especially when it comes to innovating for impact to meaningfully improve business outcomes.

7.  Calm  Under  Pressure

Facing stressful, high-pressure situations tends to cause people to over-think or over-analyze things – that frequently leaves them unable to make good decisions or realize their potential. This is why success eludes many people since they crumble under pressure. In contrast, successful people have learned to keep their cool and mitigate the negative effects of stress and pressure. When the pressure kicks into high gear, they approach the situation with a positive mental attitude –  ie:  What’s this ?  What needs to be done to make things better ?  They see the challenge as an opportunity, not a life-or-death threat. They reframe a stressful situation as an opportunity to overcome a challenge or to learn. Successful people remain calm and devote the mental resources necessary to focus clearly on the situation without allowing panic to set in. They focus on the task at hand and make the decisions necessary to take action and push through without allowing the problem to overwhelm them.

8In Charge / Empowered

To become successful, you must believe that you are in charge of your life or the situation – to influence or control your destiny. You must never lose your sense of purpose or direction, even in the midst of a storm. The most successful people have self-determination — they are the captain of their ship – setting direction as well as steering their career and life to where they want to go. This gives them a great deal of satisfaction and empowerment in deciding who they want to be and what they want to do with their lives. Self-determination also gives you resilience because you feel strong and capable to deal with whatever comes your way. For those that recognize this quality, it sets you apart and frequently enables others to appreciate your capabilities and value your contributions. When faced with a crisis, successful people tackle it head on, sure of themselves and their abilities. And for those who are aware, your determination and inner strength provides a reliable compass to move forward – for you and the organization.

9.  Realistically  Optimistic

Successful people keep their focus on the positive – while seeing things rationally and objectively. They have realistic optimism, combining a positive outlook with a clear-eyed perspective of a situation. They believe they will succeed, but they don’t delude themselves into believing it will be easy. Their optimism and grounded sense of reality helps them be humble, nimble and flexible when looking for a path forward through uncharted territory. But they are also honest with themselves and can recognize when a mistake has been made. They stay confident and they don’t let negativity and pessimism prevail since that undermines their ability to explore other options and persevere through tough times. They are realistic and practical when it comes to strategizing and planning how they’ll overcome obstacles, and persistent in working hard to achieve their goals.

10.  Strong  Communicator

The ability to effectively communicate your ideas to others is one of the most important traits identified by very successful people like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Richard Branson. In the end, it all comes down to being able to effectively articulate your thoughts and ideas – with the ability to convey pertinent information when speaking and writing, while being accomplished at listening and engaging with others. This means you have to be very good at gathering information and understand what is being said – and then effectively respond and ensure your message is understood. This also includes nonverbal communication, such as how we hold ourselves and present ourselves to others even when we’re not speaking. The most successful people are excellent communicators, which allows them share ideas and effectively collaborate with many different types of people. It’s also key to being able to gather feedback from others to appreciate their perspective, needs, the opportunities, etc.  This is critically important for developing look ahead skills and an understanding of how to move forward.


The above attributes are important for success across many disciplines – and are especially relevant if the objective is to make innovation more rewarding and meaningfully improve business outcomes.  For this to occur, ensure there are people involved in the innovation process with different backgrounds, experiences and skills having the above attributes – both from within the enterprise and external Innovation Practitioners. This is important to have more and better options to move the business forward – with a higher probability of success.


Dec 9, 2019                                 CAIL Innovation commentary