He’s a “Jeopardy!” champion who’s managed to memorize the entirety of the Urban Dictionary and diagnose cancer better than doctors. His skills are even being used in Toronto to find a drug that could help treat patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Who is this overachiever? IBM’s Watson.
Designed by the software DeepQA at IBM, Watson is a supercomputer that can understand real language and respond to questions. We used Watson’s Personality Insights program to analyze the traits of some of the most successful leaders in business today – from Elon Musk and Tim Cook to Mark Zuckerberg and Meg Whitman. We asked Watson what personality traits are the most common among these industry leaders, and what helped set them apart. Curious to see what this supercomputer has to say about these professionals? Keep reading to find out.
Traits of Successful Industry Leaders
There are no default skill sets for successful business leaders, and the same goes for their personalities. However, IBM’s Watson identified character traits that might help narrow down what it takes to make it to the top.
The most common – and valuable – trait among industry leaders, according to Watson? Intellect. From entertainment and fashion to law and medicine, intellect was the No. 1 personality trait among leaders in seven out of eight industries analyzed by Watson. Defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as the “faculty of reasoning and understanding objectively, especially with regard to abstract […] matters,” intellect in business shows a leader has the capacity not just to understand their business but to successfully navigate the ambiguity of industry innovation within their given sector. Watson identified intellect among 90 percent or more of industry leaders in entertainment, fashion, law, media, medicine, and politics.
In only one industry analyzed by Watson was another personality trait rated higher than intellect. Altruism was found among 93 percent of leaders in politics. As publicly elected officials, politicians are expected to care for the well-being of others. Research has shown this attribute can be beneficial in corporate business as well and was highly ranked by Watson in medical, media, marketing, law, finance, fashion, and entertainment.
Among other characteristics, cheerfulness was a top trait among industry leaders in fashion and entertainment, while imagination was found among leaders in entertainment, marketing, finance, media, and medicine.
Achievement-Striving, Assertive, Imaginative, Altruistic, Cautious and Uncompromising Tech Leaders
In technology, Elon Musk and Chuck Robbins were identified as the most cautious titans of Silicon Valley. Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, may be partially responsible for some of the most innovative technology in production today, but according to Watson, he has the most cautious personality in the tech industry. Bill Gates, business leader and founder of Microsoft, earned close to a .90.
However, Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco Systems, earned the highest marks for his bold personality. Having joined Cisco in 1997 as an account manager, Robbins was promoted from senior vice president of field operations to CEO in 2015. Meg Whitman and Ginni Rometty were also listed among the top five most adventurous leaders in the tech industry.
Meg Whitman, the CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, had the highest score for achievement-seeking, earning almost a .90 on Watson’s scale of 0 to 1. Whitman previously held executive roles at Hasbro, Disney, and eBay and studied at Princeton before attending Harvard Business School for her MBA. In 2008, The New York Times included her among the women likely to become the first female president of the U.S.
Larry Page, the CEO of Alphabet and co-founder of Google – as well as Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple – were also rated highly for achievement-seeking. And while Mark Zuckerberg may be one of the youngest and richest CEOs in Silicon Valley, he exhibited the least amount of endeavor of the top tech leaders focused on achievement. Zuckerberg was rated just over a .60 on the scale, behind Bill Gates and Satya Nadella of Microsoft.
The Traits of Tech Industry Leaders
You may not be able to take Watson into your next job interview or use these findings as a justification for a promotion, but Watson’s personality insights uncover the keys to success among industry leaders – from the importance of intellectual capacity to the value of being adventurous or cautious in business decisions.
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For this project we gathered speeches, essays, books, the transcripts of interviews and other forms of communication produced by those highlighted above. After we’d obtained over 2,500 words, we fed these through the Watson Personality Insights API and procured the above findings.
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