Successful people have been studied and written about for centuries. We all wonder what qualities and habits enable greatness. Malcom Gladwell surmised that greatness was an output of practice—and a lot of it. 10,000 hours of deliberate practice seemed to be the magic number in his best selling book, “Outliers.” But like most things, it’s more complex than simply logging 10,000 hours.

A quick search on Google demonstrates how much has been written about the topic. As you can see below, when searching for “leadership qualities” over 40 million results are found.

And as the Google search shows, there is a lot of noise (and garbage) out there regarding leadership qualities. Articles with headlines like “7 Books All Great Leaders Keep next to Their Toilets” pollute the web and our most trusted publications. Typing in search queries about being successful is just as bad. Searching for “qualities of successful people” yields over 7 million results.

There are many paths to greatness. There are countless traits, habits, skills, and backgrounds that churn out remarkable people. Can we really learn anything from reading about what Warren Buffet does for lunch? Or that Bill Gates chose efficiency over innovation when guiding Microsoft’s initial strategy? Or that Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college?

Different people take different paths and have a variety of habits, yet we still search for that elusive mix that promises success.

There is one constant in my opinion. It’s obvious—painfully obvious actually; however, it’s a quality that gets overlooked by many and very few are actually good at.

Follow-through is the most underrated and overlooked trait of successful people. Simply put, successful people get things done. It sounds too simple—too simple—and it is, but think about all of the things you could have done, should have done, might have done, and thought about doing.

The difference between successful people and their less successful counterparts is that they didn’t just think, dream, or ponder about things. They actually followed through.

Ideas are nice, but they’re useless without follow-through. It reminds me of a saying that an old boss quoted when I was trying to overcome various challenges.

“Successful people do the things unsuccessful people cannot or will not do.”

One last point: follow-through doesn’t just apply to the big things. Following through is a life habit. It applies to the big things and the little things. It applies to home and work, to family and friends. It’s like a muscle that needs to be trained and exercised.

Being good at following through doesn’t come from a serendipitous background or from reading the right “leadership” books. It comes from you making a commitment to yourself and making you—and only you—accountable. Then, most importantly, you have to follow through with it.

Written by Brian Easter on August 23, 2013


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Brian Easter