The Top Ten Personality Traits You Need for a Successful Career


What does it take to make more money in your job and your career overall? Typically, we are taught traditional concepts like “hard work” and “discipline” or amorphous concepts like “character” or even “integrity.” As behavioral science shows, however, it is increasingly possible to attribute a successful career to a very specific set of personality traits.

I’m working with my colleagues at  Logos, a psychometric assessment startup that tracks and evaluates over 40 personality traits through its questionnaire, including those that will lead to a successful career. 

The Logos methodology hypothesizes that if we can identify and understand these key traits and how they impact our behaviors and relationships, we can empower behavior change, improve relationships, increase productivity, achieve greater success, and make more money.

After analyzing the responses of hundreds of participants over the course of the past few years, Logos has published their findings about what traits are most correlated to career success.

DISCLAIMER: These results should be considered subjective as they are not associated with a controlled study and have not been peer-reviewed. They are based on raw data from assessment questionnaires and do not reflect demographic or other statistical metrics. They are presented here as reflections of behavioral trends and their observed impact on respondents’ careers.

Check out the top 10 successful personality traits in descending order. The number one success trait may surprise you.

Trait #10 – Passionate

This trait is characterized by the ability to fully know, accept, and act upon one’s desires without shame. Having a passionate attitude means displaying an unwavering commitment and an unquenchable desire to pursue your own career goals. 

Being passionate about one’s work is important for a successful career as it can lead to increased motivation, engagement, and job satisfaction. Usually, we think of passion as something that is more central to success, but its place at the tail end of the assessment shows that it is not necessarily as important as other traits. In fact, very often, passion is something that manifests as a result of success.

Research does show that individuals who are passionate about their work are more likely to have a positive attitude, a higher level of job satisfaction, and more commitment to their current job.

Passion is certainly a factor in making money, as those who demonstrate this trait are more likely to take creative risks or better solutions that lead them closer to their objectives. 

Trait #9 – Persuasive

Persuasion is defined as being able to influence others’ beliefs or opinions through language. Persuasive individuals understand what motivates people, their needs, interests, and goals, and can use their talents to foster a positive atmosphere, draw out the best in others, and influence outcomes. 

Those who learn to master the art of being persuasive can build stronger relationships and effectively gain the cooperation and collaboration of colleagues, clients, and peers. This is because the skill comes with the ability to communicate ideas and present them in a compelling manner.

Accordingly, to learn to be persuasive, start by developing strong communication skills, including the ability to listen actively and present information or arguments in a logical and well-structured way. Confidence is a big part of persuasiveness. To quote Robert Cialdini, the author of the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion: “You’re much more persuasive when you’re confident in your abilities.”

Trait #8 – Courageous

A courageous person is able to take risks and stand for their principles in the face of danger, uncertainty, or failure. Courage is imperative for a successful career because it allows you to take risks and make bold decisions that can lead to growth and success. After all, if you don’t take any risks — you won’t see many rewards.

So to become more courageous, start by reflecting on the values and goals that you are willing to fight and strive for. Then take small steps towards those goals that you might initially feel are risky and challenging. As you get comfortable with risk and find success in your attempts,  you can gradually work up to bigger and more courageous steps. 

Trait #7 – Responsibility

Taking responsibility means stepping up to perform and own tasks that may not be comfortable or enjoyable (or popular) to deliver positive results. 

Taking responsibility makes you accountable for your actions and willing to accept the outcomes. It is a true test of your character. It is an indication of your “ability to respond” to a challenging situation regardless of the consequences, and regardless of whether you succeed or fail.

There is only one way to learn responsibility. Acknowledge the consequences of your decisions and actions, and be prepared to take the hit and/or make things right to be able to get closure, learn the lessons, and move on. 

Taking responsibility will help you build trust and maturity. As you grow in your career, paradoxically, your ability to recover and learn from big mistakes will make you more capable and more strategic and reduce your chance of making mistakes in the future.

Trait #6 – Systematic

The more expert you become, and the more you take on, the more important it becomes to be organized and consistent about your process of getting things done. Others will be looking to you for leadership and guidance, so the clearer you can be about precisely how to complete a project successfully, the better off you’ll be. Being systematic reduces confusion, miscommunication, and other barriers to success.

Research shows that individuals who exhibit systematic behavior are more likely to be successful in their careers. It also indicates that individuals who display conscientiousness, which also includes elements of systematic behavior, are more likely to be promoted because they are more reliable.

To develop a systematic behavior, invest time and effort in doing your research. Study the top management and systems theories , e.g.”Classical,” “Behavioral” or “Modern” management theories.

Also learn about personal management frameworks like Getting Things Done, or the Big 5 framework, and start applying them to your work. Get familiar with time and project management software, e.g. Asana, Monday, or Clickup to more easily collaborate with peers and demonstrate to your effectiveness to your leadership.

Trait #5 – Ambitious

In today’s world, the notion of being ambitious often gets a bad rap. There’s nothing wrong with ambition if its goal is to create value for people on a broad scale and is not exclusively about personal ambition as an end in itself. Remember: ambitious and successful people often motivate those around them and serve as an inspiration to those on similar paths. In that context, some of our most revered leaders, like Martin Luther King, John F, Kennedy, or Mother Teresa can be appreciated for their ambition and the size of the goals they wanted to achieve.

Setting big goals, similar to being courageous, helps us achieve more in life. If this is a stretch, set a bigger goal this year than you are comfortable with — and pick someone to hold you accountable! 

Trait #4 – Confident

Confidence is crucial to unlocking potential and building a successful career. If you start with the assumption of “I can,” you will gain an edge rather than if you doubt yourself.

As we strive for more success, we will encounter increasingly significant challenges and obstacles. Our confidence to engage with these situations grows out of our willingness to work with the lessons we have learned and apply them to solve the problems we now face.  While in the end your self-confidence is about trusting your own abilities and judgment, you aren’t alone. Reach out to friends and colleagues to help you through the difficult patches and work with them to internalize the confidence you want to grow and develop for the future.

Mastering your self-confidence allows you to take calculated risks without hesitation because your experience has taught you to believe in your knowledge. It also makes it easier to accept your mistakes and learn from them while developing strategies to prevent the same mistakes from occurring again (see Responsibility above).

Trait #3 – Follow-Through

Follow-through is defined as being able to sustain and deliver work as promised. Too many people take on projects only to drag them on forever, or never quite deliver what they said they would do. 

Follow-through requires self-discipline. But it also requires integrity. You have to know that your reputation depends on doing what you say you’re going to do. It’s about being true to your word. Like many of the other traits in this list, follow-through is something that you build up in stages, starting small, and then becoming increasingly complex, ambitious, and, ultimately, successful.

Follow-through is the end-product of other success traits. If you are delivering on being courageous, systematic, and responsible (among others), you will find it easier to deliver your work and follow through on your commitments.

Trait #2 – Initiative

Taking initiative means acting forthrightly on ideas and getting to work. It reflects your ability to think proactively, seize opportunities, and take action without being prompted or instructed by others – or succumbing to indecision or distraction. 

Taking initiative in your successful career requires inspiration and clarity. You need to believe in what you’re doing and the purpose behind it. Then you need to be crystal clear on the steps necessary to get it done and be willing to engage despite any fears or uncertainty that you might have.

Initiative requires courage, ambition, and a systematic approach. It also likely requires persuasiveness, as you’re seldom going to be engaging with a problem, a project, or an opportunity on your own. You’ll need to work with people and motivate them to follow you on your journey.

AND THE #1 SUCCESS TRAIT IS…(Drum Roll, please!)

Trait #1 – Resilience

Resilience is the ability to deal with difficulties and setbacks and display the mental and emotional fortitude to prevail in the face of adversity. It also means you can stay focused, accept critiques, and adapt to challenging or changing environments. 

In other words, being resilient means picking yourself up when you stumble and refusing to be discouraged. Rather than seeing failure as defeat, you see it as an opportunity to learn and to try again. 

Cultivating this trait allows you to carry yourself forward and to persist through hardship and progress toward your goals. You can build resilience by:

  • Setting realistic and achievable goals that help you stay motivated and focused.
  • Accepting that failure is a natural part of the process, and learning to use it as an opportunity for growth. 
  • Developing a growth mindset. A growth mindset is a belief that you can improve your abilities through effort and continuous learning.

A Pattern Emerges

You’re probably noticing something interesting about this list. The farther down the list you get, and the closer to the top trait, the more all of the preceding traits seem to combine and work together. Success, then, is achieved by building one’s experience with progressively more complex composites of these elemental traits, 

Depending on your personality and your goals, you’ll find the right ways to apply these traits to your own career, and become more aware of how you can use and adapt them to achieve your own goals.

Applying These Traits in Your Professional Life

Our differences make us unique. Rather than read through this list and feel intimidated by what you see you are lacking, use this list as an inventory of possibilities you can use to bolster your uniqueness and translate that into action, results, and success.

Recognize, also, that there will always be factors outside of your control that might put obstacles in your way or throw you off course. That is to be expected. By cultivating these traits and developing your own approaches to each one, you will be able to circumvent these obstacles and more nimbly pivot to different tactics or strategies.

Create a Success Plan with These Successful Personality Traits

Here are a few steps you can consider to incorporate these desirable traits into your life and career:

  1. Choose your top three traits: Focus on the ones you lack the most or where you want to improve the most. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to work on all ten, but be more specific than “trying to work on as many as you can.”
  2. Set up an action list: Build time and concrete opportunities to cultivate the traits you want to work on. This can include using behavior tools like affirmations, journaling, or vision boards. Track your progress by creating a checklist or a milestone schedule, so you can see how you’re doing.
  3. Enlist an accountability partner: Work with a friend or colleague to mutually support your goals and progress. Develop routines, meet regularly, and encourage one another.
  4. Create success metrics: How will you know if you’ve succeeded or improved? Consider working with your manager to create performance goals based on developing your top target traits.

Share other ideas you have about how to use these top ten personality traits in your career!

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John Tarnoff is an executive and career transition coach, speaker, and author who supports mid and late-career professionals in defining, planning, and achieving more meaningful and sustainable careers.

Fired 39% during his 35 years as a film producer, studio executive and tech entrepreneur, he learned how to turn setbacks into successes in a volatile business. He reinvented his own career at 50, earning a master’s degree in counseling psychology to share his career lessons with others going through similar challenges.

Since leaving entertainment in 2010, John has coached individuals, groups, and led career workshops for university alumni, including for UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Corporate coaching clients have included Bank of America, Bridgewater Assoc., Levi-Strauss, Softbank, TD Ameritrade, and Thrive Global.

He is the author of the best-selling Boomer Reinvention: How to Create your Dream Career Over 50 and has been named a Top Influencer in Aging by PBS/NextAvenue.


  • John,
    Excellent article. Interesting how these are the same traits I teach in my Leadership Workshops. Every company wants to hire people who are leadership quality, so you are right on the money here. Well done!

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