From education to employment

The leadership formula: start young, have two degrees, and rise at 5:30am

Study of 100 influential business leaders, in collaboration with leadership expert at Leeds Beckett University, finds start-up leaders reach the top of their game at a younger age and many have multiple degrees.

Rising at 5.30am, getting six hours’ sleep and starting a full time job at 22 years-old are some of the things influential business leaders have in common, new research suggests.

The study of 100 of the most influential business figures of the past century, carried out by specialist recruitment company, Pareto Law, reveals that great leaders are more likely to be in their thirties when they reach their top position.

Entrepreneurial spirit starts young with leaders beginning their first full time job at 22 years-old, and reach their prime career position at just 39.

Those who founded their own companies reached their peak six years earlier at an average of 33 years old. Of the 38 business founders covered in the study, 20% of them were in their early twenties when they reached their peak positions at the head of their respective companies.

Reaching peak career points differs across industries, with the technology sector being the most common area for early success (28%), followed by retail (21%) and politics (17%).

Simon Robinson, Professor of Applied Professional Ethics at Leeds Beckett University, said: “The peak age of a leader reveals some interesting information. There’s a lot of diversity here and that would reinforce the idea that there is no simple developmental line. It says to me that individual circumstances and context play a big part in creating a leader.”

In terms of education, 53 of the 100 had Bachelor’s degrees, but only 21% obtained qualifications in the next level of education, including MBAs (Masters in Business Administration) and PhDs.

The research also examines lifestyle and career traits from influential business and world leaders of the 20th and 21st centuries, looking at people from a variety of specialist sectors across politics, technology and retail industries to find out what skills make up the ideal leader.

Included in the study were individuals who excel in business such as Sir Richard Branson, Jacqueline Gold and James Dyson, with the criteria that they must have a vision for their organisation and were able articulate that vision and encourage others to follow them in pursuit of their ideas.

The study found that less rest doesn’t deter tenacious leaders from achieving their goals, with people getting an average of six hours of sleep per night. Of those getting just four hours sleep, the majority are female, including Angela Merkel and Michelle Mone.

When examining rise times, an early start is key, with the study highlighting that the average time to start the day is 5:30am, the people most eager to wake were Margaret Thatcher and Indra Nooyi at 4:00am.

Despite leaders being incredibly busy, they still have time to get married and raise children, with people tying the knot at least once and having two children on average.

Professor Robinson commented: “It’s important for people setting out in the business world to know what it takes to be a leader, and this research helps to show the hard work and dedication involved in becoming a success.
“The key responsibility of a leader is creating direction and involving others when determining that direction. Whether it’s people within or outside of the organisation, all stakeholders should be involved and enabled by a leader”.

“The principles of great leadership haven’t changed, but the societal shift towards technology has given the leaders of tomorrow a platform to exercise vision and purpose”.

Jonathan Fitchew, CEO and founder of Pareto Law, commented on the study:With the business world constantly growing and developing, being a leader in the 21st century requires a unique blend of skills. Having trained over 100,000 business people worldwide, and seen so many go on become exceptional leaders and entrepreneurs, at Pareto we know that strong leadership is not an innate quality, it can be taught and developed. With the right training, anyone can find and build upon their inner leader.”

For more information on the habits of great leaders, check out the Pareto Law website.  

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