When we talk about the traits that make people successful, the usual suspects are: confidence, persistence, patience, etc. We tend to reduce "success" down to the simple formula of: Belief in yourself + Running the marathon.

And for the most part, I'd agree that is its most common denominator.

But what about all the other little traits you have to pick up along the way? What about the little things you have to learn to make the most out of that path?

Here are five unconventional traits that I have seen carry some very successful people forward:

1. Humor

The ability to laugh and lighten a room is contagious. When you laugh, or you make someone else laugh, others can't help but join in.

As much as we would like to believe the "strong-arm" approach to business is the most effective, the truth is, "You catch more bees with honey than vinegar." 

If you can make people feel comfortable enough around you that they can laugh and open themselves up to the moment, chances are they will be far more willing to help you with whatever challenge you're facing. Why? Because they feel like they are close to you--that they can trust you.

2. Humility

Confidence and belief in yourself is required to be successful at anything--that's a fact. But there is a clear difference between confidence and arrogance, and arrogance tends to turn people off. 

Humility, on the other hand, gives others the opportunity to come to you--instead of you having to prove yourself to them. I believe the reason humility is such an effective trait is because you can't fake humility. Even if you say the words, "Oh, I just love what I do," unless you give off the vibe that you truly mean what you say, most people will see right through you. 

Some people are just born humble. For the rest of us, it takes practice letting go of our ego.

3. Articulateness

The art of speech is so undervalued.

If you are articulate, if you know how to let your confidence be heard through your voice, if you know how to let the ends of your words land from the heart without being cut off from nervousness or fear of rejection, then you possess a great gift.

When we hear articulate people speak, we believe them. We want to follow them. We hang on their every word and listen with wonder as to how they can command the air around them. Articulate people choose their words carefully. They don't just say things--they paint them. 

If you want people to actually listen to you, master the art of speech.  

4. Study

Although the leaders of industries might appear in the bright lights, known for their fame and fortune, the reality is many (if not all) of them make a considerable amount of time to continue studying their craft. They sit in silence and work. They study their contemporaries and their competition. They constantly push themselves to be better today than they were yesterday.

It can be very, very easy to obtain a level of success and then get complacent, thinking you've made it. However, once the complacency kicks in, you will quickly lose whatever it is you've obtained. Constant reinvention is required to keep building and moving forward, and you do that by always returning to your workspace and making time to study your craft.

This habit requires a significant amount of discipline.

5. Listening

Even if it might not seem as such, successful people are tremendous listeners. 

Listening intently is a crucial part of growing and developing yourself and your craft or company. You have to listen to find opportunity. You have to listen to hear what people actually want. You have to listen to understand your competition. You have to listen to know whom you're talking to and what they're interested in. You have to listen to cut through the noise and know where to move next. And you have to listen in a way that makes every single person around you feel understood and believe they can trust you.

Listening isn't just a trait of the successful. It is a trait of the truly great, the ones who can lead themselves and their teams to victory.

Saying nothing at all sometimes says the most. Remember the importance of listening.

Published on: May 25, 2016
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