What is the DNA of a successful, independent consultant; the personal building blocks of a rewarding, lucrative career leading a practice with roughly 1-100 employees?

This is not an idle thought-exercise. I frequently field questions about the consulting profession from mid-career executives “in transition.”** Even professionals who have already hung up a shingle or accepted a senior position at a small firm wonder whether they are well suited for independent consulting. Particularly if their performance has been flagging as of late.

Rather than offering an off-the cuff answer, I set out to make a list of important attributes. Five minutes and 46 attributes later, I realized the brainstorming approach would not yield a satisfying answer. Therefore, I made a list of the most successful independent consultants I personally know. (Fortunately, the nature of my practice enabled me to draw from a large pool.) Then I cataloged my impression of what has allowed each of them to flourish.

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There’s no uniform profile or precise mold every outstanding consultant conforms to. My list included individuals who ranged from nerdy to suave, inspiringly humble to shockingly arrogant, and consensus-builders to autocrats. However, there are definite commonalities among those who have ascended to the top of our profession.

Below are the attributes I saw most frequently in my analysis; the characteristics that describe you now or could in the future if you commit to embracing them:

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Please join in the conversation by adding your thoughts in the comment section. What attributes would you add to the list?


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Text and images are © 2015 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.