How to be a Successful Leader

What are some common life experiences for successful leaders? Listening to the stories from a group of successful senior managers from different functional areas reveal several common threads.

Make Changes, Take Risks

Many leaders changed their field of study during college or graduate school. Some switched industry once they started working. Some switched profession completely. The common theme is that when one is not finding passion in her current position, she is not afraid to make a change. Ability to follow one’s heart. Ability to recognize something is not working, and take action, even if it is risky, is a good leadership trait.


Many of these managers spent part of their career in consulting. This is perhaps obvious, as a top tier graduate from college is likely to be recruited by a consulting firm. Consulting is also a great way to network and get noticed in an industry. More important is that consulting is a way to compress a career, gaining experience at a faster rate than a typical full time employee. One typical downside is that consultant’s work life balance is likely to be poor. 70+ hours week is common.

Family Support

Career paths have ups and downs. Personal lives have highs and lows.  It is seldom that both personal and professional paths move synchronously. Not surprisingly family support often is a key factor in helping someone move forward.


Many leaders have a mentor in their lives. From a college professor, or a relative, or a boss in her early career. Having someone to turn to for impartial advice helps one make smart choices.

What about You?

How does your life compare to these themes? Matching or not, the ability to evaluate your situation and take action to change when needed, sit on the outside of the employer/employee relationship as a consultant, find mentor to get advice, build up a support network from your family, are good ways to become a better leader.