Think of a few wildly successful people. Who comes to mind? What characteristics do they have in common?
You might say: Wealth. Confidence. Smarts. Independence. At some point, you might fumble for a more polite way to avoid saying "Arrogant" as well.
It is true -- successful people often have the reputation of being pushy. They might even wholeheartedly agree with that assessment (or laugh, because they have likely heard much worse).
Yes, people who are driven to accomplish their goals can be perceived as willing to run through walls or worse run over others. That is because they challenge old ways of thinking and offer no apologies for being all-in on achieving their objectives.
In fact, being a bit arrogant is one of the most important personality traits of the super-successful -- perhaps even a necessary characteristic. Researchers studying 2,600 would-be CEOs found similarities in the areas of ability, personality, and strategic skills. The common factor most critical to success was an ability to execute -- with urgency, persistence, and aggressiveness.
However, acting with urgency and being persistent does not mean you have to be a jerk through and through. If you want to get ahead and inspire others to excellence, you would do well to work on developing the following:
Little patience for chitchat may seem abrupt, but it is often a result of urgency towards an important goal. Steve Jobs, for example, recognized that life is short and that time was his most precious commodity, and he jealously defended it. He preferred to focus on one goal and knew how to say "no" -- even to good ideas that would distract from his singular purpose.
Innovators like Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky are willing to overturn conventional thinking to solve problems. In 2007, he and his roommates had trouble paying rent on their San Francisco loft, but also knew that space was at a premium at area hotels. So they built a simple site advertising their loft accommodations to travelers. This bold idea for Airbnb took off, now with listings in 191 countries.
Powerful industry leaders like Vogue editor Anna Wintour have a reputation for expecting excellence from themselves and others. And while some may bristle at the rigorous approach, these innovators will never settle for second best. They are the guardians of the highest standards and cannot help but eradicate mediocrity whenever they spot it.
Successful people value the truth and will say what needs to be said, even when it is unpopular or difficult. Jack Welch, former chairman and chief executive officer of GE, earned the reputation for being a tough boss. But he also believed in speaking with candor and making sure people knew where they stood so that they had every opportunity to improve.
You do not need to be cruel to others to get ahead. But you must be willing to tell the truth when everyone else is afraid. You must refuse to compromise when it comes to quality, and stubbornly persist when others would give up.
And if these qualities annoy or offend others, just remember the success stories of others who have shown the way to excellence.