Leadership Series: Common Traits of Successful Leaders – Trait #1 Intelligence

Rich Habits
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Twenty-four percent of the Self-Made Millionaires in my Rich Habits Study were high-level senior executives in large multi-national companies. In other words, they were Leaders at the companies they worked for.

70% of the wealth they created came from some form of stock compensation. The most common types were the following:

  • Restricted Stock Units
  • Unrestricted Stock Units
  • Stock Grants
  • Qualified Incentive Stock Options
  • Non-Qualified Incentive Stock Options
  • Stock Appreciation Rights

The other 30% of their wealth they created through consistently saving their wages/cash bonuses and then prudently investing those savings.

In my discussions about how they accumulated their wealth, I noticed the “Leaders” in my Study all seemed to share certain common traits, one of which was Intelligence.

Common Trait #1 – Intelligence

Almost every “Leader” said they owed part of their success to being smart. Smart came in two flavors – some “Leaders” said they were Street Smart, others said they were Book Smart and some said they were a bit of both.

Interestingly, of the forty-nine “Leaders” in my Study, only eleven actually knew they were smart by virtue of the IQ Scores, which ranged from 118 – 139.

Since the average IQ range is 85 – 115, I considered this an important contributing factor in their ability to climb the Big Company ladder.

In an attempt to understand how habits are formed, one of the rabbit holes I fell into was the study of the brain, also known as Neuroscience. In studying the science of the brain, I learned that your IQ can increase or decrease during your lifetime, depending upon how much you use or don’t use your brain.

As a real-life example, my younger “Irish-Twin” brother Timmy (13 months younger than me) exhibited some unusual traits early on in grammar school. I was told by my Mom that the Nuns wanted to have Timmy’s IQ tested. His IQ Test results came in at near-genius level, which is in the 140 – 145 range.

When I entered adulthood, I asked my Mom if I had ever been tested, like Timmy, and she confided that, after Timmy’s IQ Test, the Nuns had me tested, although not for the same reasons. It was 1970 and I was in the 3rd grade at the time, on the verge of being left back. So, the nuns wanted to see, my Mom supposed, if the cause of my academic struggles was due to having a low IQ.

My Mom told me that when my IQ Test results came back, they were in the 85 – 95 range. Fortunately, thanks to my IQ score not being below 85, the nuns decided to allow me to progress onto the 4th grade, attributing my lackluster academic performance to being an underachiever. In other words, I was not applying myself.

Many years later, in October of 1993, my Corporate Headquarter colleagues were “encouraged” by senior management to take an IQ test.

I was very reluctant to take the IQ Test because I was concerned that if senior management learned about my lower average IQ, this would at best prevent me from moving up the corporate ladder and at worst lead to my termination.

I eventually succumbed to the pressure and took the IQ Test.

Shockingly, to me, my IQ Test results came in at 136 – one point higher than that of my immediate boss and second only to one of our Corporate Headquarter Secretaries, whose IQ Test results put her in the Genius range.

So, how did I go from the 85-95 IQ range to 136?

In short, after grammar school I made a decision that I would apply myself and become a better student. So, I devoted significantly more time to study. As a result, I did well in high school and college. And this “Study Habit” followed me into my adult life – I studied for and passed the rigorous CPA Exam. I then went on to Graduate School for another rigorous course of study – a Masters in Taxation degree, which I completed in August 1993 – just two months prior to taking my October 1993 IQ Test.

The lesson I learned was that IQ is not static or fixed. It will increase, the more you use your brain. Like a muscle, my brain grew stronger – the neural connections in my brain increased and grew stronger because I worked my brain hard.