In the course of conducting interviews with candidates for this book, the authors gained an impression of a number of attributes and characteristics which appeared to apply in many or most cases. Here is a summary of these attributes:
Gamechangers tend to have a strong sense of self, though not necessarily egotistically so. Independence is a common trait among them; few mentioned significant influence of long-standing mentors. They seem to either possess innate self-confidence, or have the potential to develop strong confidence as they progress; they don’t appear to be plagued by the kind of self-doubt that in others often endangers projects. Their confidence and self-belief is not destroyed by challenges, obstacles or setbacks.
The strategies they use for overcoming these obstacles vary widely – some by rail-roading their way through, some by skirting around, others by changing plans and taking a completely new direction. They are resilient, and can bounce back from catastrophe; they are able to learn and draw value from difficulties or failures. They are good at reflecting and deriving lessons from their actions and experiences, whether these have been successful or not. They are visionary individuals who possess strong forward-thinking ability to picture what success is going to look like and then determine the steps required to get there.
Gamechangers are not afraid to challenge the status quo – indeed, they often go out of their way to so. They are not generally averse to controversy, and often use it to their advantage. They are competitive, but not necessarily in terms of the quest for financial success – they are often keen to stand out in other ways.
They are often ‘outlaws’ in the sense that they do not accept or follow the existing rules of the game; and they are often outsiders in one sense or another, whether in terms of social orientation, relation to family groups, ethnic background, sexual orientation or other groupings.
These are predominantly action oriented individuals and problem solvers, interested in practical and applicable rather than purely theoretical results. They are more daring than average, not averse to risk. They want to be in charge; loss of control can be devastating to them – having control can be more important than making money.
Gamechangers become clear about what they want to do, though not always from the outset; their influential success requires this clarity. They pursue their vision with commitment and persistence, and do whatever it takes to achieve their primary objective.
They have a strong sense of focus and unswerving drive once they have decided on the right course of action. They often tend to focus on one overriding issue – doing one thing exceptionally well rather than several things averagely.
However they are flexible, adaptable and able to respond, so that ideas of what they wish to achieve tend to evolve throughout their careers. They work with whatever they’ve got and whatever results from what they do, and turn these to their advantage. They are skilled at recognising, creating and taking advantage of opportunity.
Strong personal values appear to be a major driver among gamechangers, driving what they do – but these values differ widely from person to person. They might be driven by the quest for design excellence, for fun or adventure, by social values or environmental issues, or being the best in their field. They are generally on a mission to make a difference in the world, one way or another, and to leave a legacy – something that will live on after them. Once they have established themselves on their journey, they tend to have a strong interest in helping others along similar paths.
These are not generally loners or social introverts, although some may be quieter types who reflect internally about their achievements while others do this socially and often noisily. They are able to connect and engage with other people, motivating them to believe in their personal vision and to join their cause; all are persuasive. They build a culture that is right for their project and attract people who fit into that culture; they enrol people in their mission. They are realistic enough to know that in order to be successful, you have to surround yourself with the right people. They don’t tolerate people who are not ‘on the bus’, going in the right direction.
They are articulate about communicating what they are trying to do; they know and take advantage of the value of other people talking about what they’re doing, whether through press media, social media, peer attention, or whichever channels suit their individual nature.
By no means all court fame and recognition, though all know the value of publicity in furthering their cause, and go about getting that – most but not all enjoy this process.
They are also good at stakeholder management – building relationships both inside and outside their organisation in order to win over hearts and minds and make things happen. They know you can’t do it on your own.
Gamechangers are smart, but possess very different kinds of intelligence – whether financial, strategic, inter-personal, emotional or animal intelligence –not necessarily with particularly strong intellect. They have learned to use the kind of strengths they know they have. They are far from uniform in terms of educational attainment; many top gamechangers have display little academic achievement – or indeed any official qualifications.
These players do not generally start out with a great deal of financial resource; rather, they tend to accumulate funds from their early steps in order to steadily expand their sphere of operation. Financial struggle, especially early on, is patently not a hindrance; indeed struggle has usually brought out significant individual self-development – not only in the early days but throughout later ups and downs.