Traits Successful People Have That Are More Important Than Intelligence


traits needed for successWhile an emphasis on education may place a high degree of importance on intelligence, the good thing is that there are many other factors that play into whether or not a person will be successful. According to research by the Griffith University School of Applied Psychology, there are the “Big Five” personality traits that play a large role in determining success: conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion, emotional stability and openness.

When these traits were studied, it was discovered that students with higher levels of openness and conscientiousness were four times more likely to be successful and achieve higher grades on tests.1 Similar results were found in the field of business. The Carnegie Institute of Technology found that 85% of financial success is generated from people skills, while only 15% is due to technical knowledge.2

Central to these findings is the concept of emotional intelligence (also known as “EQ”). Psychologists generally agree that among the ingredients for success, IQ counts for roughly 10% (at best 25%); the rest depends on everything else — including EQ.3 And while emotional intelligence isn’t always something that comes innately, there are several personality traits that can help build it — and make you more successful.


1. Conscientiousness 

Conscientiousness implies a desire to do things right, and take obligations to others seriously. Conscientious people tend to be efficient and organized, and exhibit a tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully and aim for achievement; they display planned rather than spontaneous behavior; and are generally dependable.4


2. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand or feel what another person is experiencing, or the ability to “put yourself in another person’s shoes”. Having empathy helps to build relationships and reduce conflict.


3. Growth Mindset

Perhaps best epitomized by the adage “success is a journey, not a destination,” having a growth mindset allows you to welcome challenges and handle setbacks. It also helps you to have the confidence to tackle any projects you put your mind to.


4. Openness to Experience

Having the curiosity to learn how things work, the eagerness to discover explanations and the excitement of creating or doing something new all add up to a high level of openness to experience.


5. Passion

While knowledge and intelligence are great to have, relentless drive will almost always steer you to success. Being passionate about something will almost always take you farther with something than just being naturally good at it.


6. Resilience 

Overcoming obstacles and doing so in a graceful and skillful manner is the best means to find a new way to achieve your goals. Resilient people don’t give up when faced with adversity, they learn from the situation and make adjustments to succeed.


7. Self-Regulation

Self-regulation refers to emotional regulation. Being able to manage your emotions means you can respond to negative situations rationally rather than emotionally. Thinking through your actions before acting is the first step towards success in any aspect of life.


8. Social Skills

 Networking, teamwork and uniting people for a cause are all characteristics of a socially skilled individual. Having social skills is more than just being friendly, it means having the capability to be confident in a number of social interactions, which ultimately leads to success.


Be sure to take note of these traits and think of ways you can improve in areas that need improvement. You may see success in many ways, in ways you’ve never imagined!



1 Poropat, A. (August 2014). Other-rated Personality and Academic Performance: Evidence and Implications. Retrieved 3 October 2018 from

2 Deutschendorf, H. (22 June 2015). Why Emotionally Intelligent People Are More Successful. Retrieved 3 October 2018 from

3 Akers, M. & Porter, G. (n.d.). What Is Emotional Intelligence? Retrieved 3 October 2018 from

4 Thompson, E. (October 2008). Development and Validation of an International English Big-Five Mini Markers. Retrieved on 3 October 2018 from

Barbara Davidson


Babs is a Senior Content Writer and financial guru. She loves exploring fresh ways to save more and enjoy life on a budget! When she’s not writing, you’ll find her binge watching musicals, reading in the (sporadic) Chicago sunshine and discovering great new places to eat. Accio, tacos! 


The information in this article is provided for education and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose. The information in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial or any other advice. The information in this article is general in nature and is not specific to you the user or anyone else.