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Self-made billionaire Ray Dalio says the most successful leaders share 3 traits

Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates.
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Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates.

Investor Ray Dalio founded Bridgewater Associates in 1975 out of his two-bedroom New York City apartment. Today, it's the world's largest hedge fund, managing about $160 billion in assets.

Throughout his career, the 68-year-old self-made billionaire studied some of history's greatest business leaders, including Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Elon Musk, and he discussed what he has learned in a recent podcast with Tony Robbins.

When Robbins asked Dalio about the commonalities among these titans of business, three specific traits came to mind:

1. They have a vision

The most successful people "can visualize a future and see a present, and see the gap," Dalio tells Robbins, adding that they "have a compelling need to eliminate that gap. It's a compulsion."

No matter how many people try to tell them they're wrong or they won't succeed, they pursue their vision, he says: "And they pursue it smartly with perseverance. In other words, they understand risk and reward."

Beyond seeing the big picture, the most successful people also pay attention to the small details, Dalio notes. He gives the example of Elon Musk, who wants to colonize Mars: "It's a grand idea. And at the same time, he can pay attention to the most minute details. His range is a big deal."

2. They don't mind making people uncomfortable

The most successful people don't let anyone stand in their way of achieving their goal or fulfilling their vision. Sometimes, this requires making others feel uncomfortable, says Dalio: "You've got to get the job done. Even if it means discomfort for people, you've got to work yourself through that."

At Bridgewater, Dalio encourages his employees to criticize him. "Don't let 'loyalty' stand in the way of truth and openness," the billionaire writes. "No one has the right to hold a critical opinion without speaking up about it."

3. They stay humble and receptive

"The best [leaders] are people who not only have good mental maps of how things should be done, but they have high levels of humility," Dalio tells Robbins. And they're curious: "Voraciously curious. They're wondering if they're wrong. They're taking in information."

They also "like to find people who disagree with them," he says, "so that they can make sure that they're right and they can learn how to improve."

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