The Business Forum

"It is impossible for ideas to compete in the marketplace if no forum for
  their presentation is provided or available."           Thomas Mann, 1896

The Business Forum Journal


Traits Successful People Possess: A Leader's Path to Excellence

By Thomas Northup


Leaders achieve goals in cooperation with and through the actions of the people in their organization.  Effective managers encourage their employees' personal success because they understand that personal success translates into organizational success.  They know that successful people build successful organizations.

Three characteristics of successful people are:

  • Goal direction

They know where they stand, where they want to go and have a plan to get there.

  • Self motivation

As self starters, they wind their own clock.

  • Positive mental attitude

Successful people look for ways to complete tasks.  They focus on strengths and break self-imposed limitations created by low self esteem.

These traits are interrelated.  Strengthen one and you strengthen them all.  Success breeds more success through increasing momentum.

Goal Direction:

A much quoted study found that the three percent of the population who created a specific written plan became not only financially independent but out produced those with only general goals by 10 to 100 times. 

Goal directed action leads to success, which arrives when you make that first step towards a goal, not when you reach your goal. Every action step you take towards your goal is a success that brings you closer to the end result you want. 

You can learn the skill of goal direction. Effective managers provide goal training and instill goal direction through the planning process. They ensure expected results when they hold themselves and their organization accountable.

When employees meet their personal goals while helping the company meet its goals, they make great achievements possible.  Effective leaders build an environment where personal and organizational goals complement each other.     


Motivation, the sum of two words, motive and action, is the reason a person takes an action.  Motivation, movement towards a goal, is goal directed action. 

In the business world, motivation often arises from fear or incentives, both of which are generated by another person and temporary in nature.

For instance, an employee might be scared by the threat of losing a bonus. Over time people build immunity to fear in that they work just hard enough to get the job done then stop taking action. They don't grow and develop to their full potential.

Incentives are often part of an employee's compensation plan.  For example, a sales incentive plan can effectively increase sales in the short run.  However, today's incentive plan often becomes tomorrow's expectation. As the reward becomes expected, the incentive must increase. 

Self motivation, however, is internal, permanent and unique to each individual.  We motivate ourselves.  When we work and live through self-motivation, we take more control over our lives than we could ever imagine having, much like a thoroughbred horse that runs for the thrill of running.  The joy and excitement of doing something we love brings great achievement and meaning to our lives. 

Positive Mental Attitude

Which would you rather have as an employee or co-worker, a person with a positive attitude and average skills or a person with high skills and a negative attitude?

Effective leaders understand that attitude is everything. We heighten success when we look for ways to accomplish our goals rather than make excuses. 

Winners and losers dress alike, eat in the same restaurants, shop in the same stores and work in the same offices. Attitude, behavior and the results they achieve make the difference. 

Winners confidently expect that they can turn any situation to positive advantage.  Using positive behaviors; they listen and learn.  Their attitude and behavior lead to peak performance. 

The difference between the average and very successful person is quite small. Successful people don't work three times as hard.  Effective managers know how to develop the slight edge attitude in people that creates a major increase in performance. They instill an attitude of abundance and positive expectance in their people.

How to Build Success Traits

Strong leaders use these four action steps to build success traits in their management team: 

  • Create a positive work environment.

People respond to their environment. Build an environment where people want to be and want to do their best.

  • Encourage people to stretch for professional development.

Most people want to progress and grow. Effective leaders make a point of learning what motivates their employees and then give personal and organizational encouragement. 

  • Strive for excellence.

Help people hold themselves accountable for their personal goals. Hold them accountable for organizational goals.

  • Share power to create personal commitment to key initiatives.

An effective leader understands that sharing power is the most effective way to build personal motivation.  When participants take intellectual and emotional ownership of the initiative, they become part of the solution and develop personal commitment to the outcome. 

How to Build Self Esteem

Effective leaders understand that attitude is crucial and that self esteem, the sum of our conditioning from an early age, affects it in many ways.  Leaders raise the self esteem of their employees by helping them:

  • Avoid comparison to others.

When we compare ourselves to others we set ourselves up for disappointment. Someone always has better experience or is a more polished speaker.  The only relevant measure of personal improvement is to compare our capabilities from yesterday to our capabilities today

  • Resist putting yourself down.

Do not let the person in the mirror become a block. Understand your starting point and set a goal to change.  Once you start to actively work towards a goal, you create success not at the end point but during the game.  Every day you work towards the culmination of your long range goals.

  • Improve a discipline in some part of your life.

Working to fulfill your goals gives you an incentive to do more and do it better each day. When you consistently take the right actions, you feel better about yourself and regularly reach a higher plateau.

  • Celebrate small victories.

Recognize that each step you complete towards your goals is a positive accomplishment that takes you closer to your final objective. You raise your effectiveness every day.


The difference between being average and successful is small. A successful person doesn't work harder, he or she works with a distinct goal in mind.  For this reason effective leaders strive to strengthen success traits in themselves and their employees. And this effort has personal benefit for the leader. The adage of leadership; the more success your employees have the more success you will have.

Personal and organizational successes go together. When employees meet their personal goals as they help the organization meet its goals, they make great achievements possible.  Effective leaders build an environment where personal and organizational goals complement each other.

They build a positive work environment where people stretch toward excellence.  They share power with their management team to bring the full effect of personal motivation to organizational initiatives. 

Effective leaders build an organization of committed people who together accomplish great feats.   They believe in the adage:

"Self motivation is the power that raises you to any level you seek"


Thomas R. Northup is a Fellow of The Business Forum Institute and is a nationally recognized management expert, consultant, speaker and coach. He is the author of the book, The Five Hidden Mistakes CEOs Make. How to Unlock the Secrets and Drive Growth and Profitability. Marshall Goldsmith, author of the New York Times best-seller, What Got You Here Won�t Get You There, said about Five Mistakes �Gleaned from years of success as a CEO in his own right, Tom Northup masterfully provides practical wisdom and tools to move senior leaders beyond the status quo to help them see what they need to see, not just what they want to see.�  Tom is the former CEO and principal of three successful businesses, and he understands the business complexities faced by today�s busy executives. He is experienced in high growth situations, new product start-ups, strategic planning, market analysis, team operations, and turn-around/reorganization.  Today, through coaching, consulting, mentoring, and training, Tom provides practical experience and thoughtful leadership. Tom works side-by-side with clients to develop plans and implement strategies to �. build capabilities that increase revenue and profitability year after year, make companies more proactive in the marketplace, build effective management teams, foster greater corporate wide accountability and generate sustained results. He is a goal-oriented executive experienced in developing strong management teams all with a focus on driving continuous results and success.  Tom graduated with a BS in Mathematics from Bucknell University and has an MBA from Syracuse University. He is an active with the Forum for Corporate Directors, the Institute of Management Consultants and runs a CEO roundtable at the Irvine Chamber of Commerce. In addition to his book he has written many articles on management published throughout the world.

Visit the Authors Web Site

Return to

The Business Forum Journal

Search Our Site

Search the ENTIRE Business Forum site. Search includes the Business
Forum Library, The Business Forum Journal and the Calendar Pages.

Editorial PolicyNothing you read in The Business Forum Journal should ever be construed to be the opinion of, statements condoned by, or advice from, The Business Forum, its staff, workers, officers, members, directors, sponsors or shareholders. We pass no opinion whatsoever on the content of what we publish, nor do we accept any responsibility for the claims, or any of the statements made, within anything published herein.  We merely aim to provide an academic forum and an information sourcing vehicle for the benefit of the business and the academic communities of the Pacific States of America and the World.  Therefore, readers must always determine for themselves where the statistics, comments, statements and advice that are published herein are gained from and act, or not act, upon such entirely and always at their own risk.  We accept absolutely no liability whatsoever, nor take any responsibility for what anyone does, or does not do, based upon what is published herein, or information gained through the use of links to other web sites included herein. Please refer to our: legal disclaimer

Home    Calendar    The Business Forum Journal    Features
Concept     History     Library    Formats    Guest Testimonials
Client Testimonials      Search      News Wire     Why Sponsor
Tell-A-Friend     Join    Experts   Contact The Business Forum

The Business Forum

Beverly Hills, California United States of America

Email:  [email protected]

Graphics by DawsonDesign


� Copyright The Business Forum Institute 1982 - 2010  All rights reserved.