There are professionals who seem to be natural leaders, who stand out from the crowd at every level of their careers. Whether as an intern or a CEO, they seem to have a certain strength of character and savvy that helps elevate them above other employees who do a perfectly adequate job.

These individuals are so effective that they make being exceptional look easy. Their high level of performance is the result of a series of actions that they have incorporated into their daily routine to the point where it's as natural as taking a breath.

The good news is that many of the qualities that make employees extraordinary are habit-driven behaviors. That means that they can be learned, adopted and strengthened, even if you aren't currently a one-in-a-million superstar. There is still a lot you can do to make the leap from fine to fantastic.

Here are 10 key traits that set exceptional employees apart:

1. They take the initiative.

Outstanding employees don't wait to be asked or tasked with an assignment. They see what needs to be done, and they do it. While anyone can criticize or identify problems, they develop solid ideas for solutions.

They are proactive with communication, keeping others updated and asking for the resources they need rather than only responding when others inquire about a project.

2. They are always learning.

Whether it's pursuing additional education by taking professional development classes or simply having a nightstand full of books, they are hungry for knowledge.

They are avid readers who are interested in an array of subjects. They stay informed on a variety of topics and current events.

3. They prioritize their well-being.

They understand the benefits of taking care of themselves physically. They don't complain about how busy they are or how little sleep they get; instead, they set boundaries and enforce them to ensure they are well-rested and ready to function at their best.

They know the value of healthful eating and are dedicated to the physical and mental benefits of regular exercise.

4. Curiosity is one of their trademarks.

This is one of the core values that Facebook looks for when hiring. At work, this translates into an instinct to continuously think of ways to do things better; they see challenges as opportunities.

5. Failure isn't a bad word.

Phenomenal employees aren't those who never fail, because never failing means never trying anything new. Instead, truly outstanding professionals think of failure as a chance to grow.

They aren't averse to taking a well-calculated, carefully considered risk. They adhere to a philosophy espoused by C.S. Lewis: "Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement."

6. They strive to create a win for everyone.

These are not forceful "my way or the highway" types who demand to get their way all the time and view compromise as a defeat. They are masterful at finding solutions that don't just benefit them, but offer something to all parties.

They have the vision and flexibility to seek out creative ways to solve a problem instead of doing things the way they've always been done.

7. Clarity is a defining characteristic.

They have a gift for zeroing in on what is important in any situation. They have a sense of mission, keeping a sharp focus on a few core principles rather than trying to take on dozens of tasks and be all things to all people. You know where they stand because they are experts at clear communication.

8. They embody both confidence and humility.

They are decisive, and once they commit to something, they have the courage and strength of conviction to stand up for their decision. However, they are not cocky.

Their humility takes the form of an ability to admit when they are wrong or own up to a mistake. It also manifests as a genuine interest in others that aids in forging connections and bringing a diversity of perspectives to any situation.

9. They look for ways to lift others up.

Truly phenomenal employees not only want to do well for themselves, but they also want others to excel. They are committed to the success of their company and those around them. They know that success isn't a zero sum game in which they win only if others lose.

They are collaborative and help in fostering a cohesive team through communication and focusing on the strengths of those around them.

10. They have a positive attitude and are respected by their peers.

Much can be said about someone who acknowledges you with a smile and friendly hello in the morning, or an employee who refuses to get into the fray of office gossip.

Trust is a strong component when it comes to building a professional reputation. When you like what you do, it's evident in the way you treat others in your office.

Published on: Aug 17, 2016