Follow the Second Best to Achieve Success

by Chris Curley on July 12, 2012

Want to achieve more success in your career? Don’t emulate the top dog; look to the second-in-command, instead, TIME reported July 9.

“Whether higher performance indicates higher ability depends on whether extreme performance could be achieved by skill or requires luck,” researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Warwick in the U.K. explain. In other words, the guy at the top may have taken big risks — and lucked out — to get his position, but if you try to do the same, you may end up taking big risks and failing, the study authors say.

A better recipe for success is to look to the second-best, the researchers find. These are usually high achievers who rose to a position of prominence through experience, talent, and hard work, but with a lower level of risk. They may not have risen quite as high (that probably requires luck), but they typically use more secure strategies to get where they are.

Bottom line: “The highest performers may not have the highest expected ability and should not be imitated or praised,” the authors say.

The study appears online in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

(Photo © MiiiSH via Flickr)