Leadership

The No. 1 behavior that transforms ordinary people into successful CEOs, according to a study of 2,600 leaders

Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't take a feat of superhuman strength or extensive education to become a CEO. In fact, people have worked their way up from being janitors and truck drivers to high-powered CEOs, according to Elena Botelho and Kim Powell, authors of the book "The CEO Next Door."

Botelho and Powell analyzed a study of 2,600 leaders and found that four key traits transform ordinary people into successful CEOs: decisiveness, engaging for impact, relentless reliability and adapting boldly. However, the researchers note that out of those four traits, reliability is most important because it shows that you can deliver consistent results.

"Of all the behaviors that lead to executive success, [reliability] is the only one that both increases a candidate's odds of getting hired and his or her odds of excelling in the job," write the authors.

In fact, reliable CEOs are 15 times more likely to be high-performing and double their odds of getting hired, according to the researchers. Reliable leaders also create the assumption among their customers, staff and board members that they are able to get things done.

Delivering consistent results may seem like an obvious behavioral trait, but the researchers note that leaders struggle with this every day. Notably, it's also rare to see this behavior celebrated in CEO profiles or in the business press, the authors write.

However, reliability is a huge factor in terms of company and career success and "gets you recognized" by others at the office, according to the researchers. Brett Godfrey, the former CEO of Virgin Australia, is a prime example of this.

Godfrey was allowed to create and spearhead the Australian airline company because he impressed Virgin Group founder Richard Branson with his work ethic and ability to deliver consistent results, the billionaire writes in his autobiography, "Finding my Virginity."

Branson also recalls that when he asked Godfrey to send over a detailed strategy for what would soon become Virgin Australia, the plan was delivered to him the very next morning.

The researchers note that following through on commitments is a hallmark of reliability and it leads people to believe that they can count on your continued strong performance in the future.

"In business, reliable and competent people are cherished," according to the authors. "Employers and clients are more apt to take risks on them and more apt to give them opportunities."

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