There’s a misconception that the most successful business leaders achieve greatness because they’re geniuses. You look at people like Mark Zuckenberg, Larry Page, Richard Branson and Warren Buffett, and it seems that might just be true. After all, they are more successful than their peers, and there’s no doubt they’re extremely sharp
However the truth is different. Most highly successful leaders really aren’t the smartest people in any room. Rather, they have something that sets them apart. That something is being a sponge. I’d argue that for any leader being a sponge is the critical differentiator that defines his or her likelihood of success.
In the business world, a sponge is someone who is tirelessly driven to seek and absorb new information. In general terms, this means someone who is highly curious, possibly even somewhat obsessive, about gathering new information and learning from it. I don’t mean someone who simply stays up to date with Mashable and loves to find articles to share via social media. Rather, a great sponge does three things:
- Learns from mentors, advisors and peers
Sponges always surround themselves with people who can help them. They build and tap into a strong advisor networks from whom they ask questions, listen, and learn new things.
- Studies heroes
A great sponge will typically have one or two individuals he or she considers heroes and will soak up everything possible about that person.
- Reads voraciously
Sponges tend to want to take in as much information as possible. I’m not talking about staying up to speed on 140-character Twitter blasts but rather consuming fully-developed content. Itt doesn’t need to be about business. Sponges may devour fantasy or fiction. They may read instruction manuals front to back. It doesn’t matter. They feed on as much information as they can absorb.