Dyson & Branson survey reveals the formula to success

Sir James Dyson

Business leaders reach the top aged just 39, according to new research

The study, by Leeds Beckett and specialist recruitment company Pareto Law, examined 100 influential business figures of the past century, from Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg to Oprah Winfrey and Margaret Thatcher.

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, the research suggests.

Simon Robinson, Professor of Applied Professional Ethics at Leeds Business School, who worked on the report, said: “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.”

On average, the business leaders started their first full-time job aged 22, reaching their prime career position at 39.

Entrepreneurs who started their own firms reached their peak six years earlier, at just 33. Of the 38 business founders covered in the study, 20 per cent of them were in their early 20s when they reached their peak positions at the head of their respective companies.

Self-starters were more likely to succeed earlier in their careers if they went into technology, retail or politics.

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

Professor Robinson explained: “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.”

Also included in the study were 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, with people tying the knot at least once and having on average two children.

Jonathan Fitchew, CEO and founder of Pareto Law, said: “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.”