Billionaire CEOs share 2 common traits, according to an executive coach who worked with Jeff Bezos. Here's how anyone can learn them.

Billionaire CEOs share 2 common traits, according to an executive coach who worked with Jeff Bezos. Here's how anyone can learn them.
Ann Hiatt worked as an executive assistant for Jeff Bezos and Marissa Mayer. She was chief of staff to Eric Schmidt.Ann Hiatt
  • Ann Hiatt was executive assistant to Jeff Bezos at Amazon and is now an executive coach.
  • Billionaire CEOs are resilient and ask more questions than a "normal person," she told Insider.

Billionaire CEOs share the same two common traits, according to an executive coach who used to work with Jeff Bezos.

Ann Hiatt was executive assistant to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos between 2002 to 2005. She then spent 12 years at Google, working with Marissa Mayer and Eric Schmidt. She's now a leadership coach for scale-up CEOs and is the author of "Bet on Yourself."

In her years working with highly successful CEOs, Hiatt said she has noticed that all of them, "without doubt," have incredible resilience. This is something they've learned through trial and error, and by bouncing back from mistakes or failures.

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They're also curious, she said. "They all ask a hundred more questions about something than a normal person would," Hiatt told Insider.

But that doesn't make them exceptional, according to Hiatt.


People often think that you need to be Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos to be considered visionary or innovative, Hiatt said. However, she insists that "normal people" can learn how to be resilient and curious — and apply those lessons to their own career.

Asking questions is something that people, especially those early in their career, can find hard because they worry that they'll highlight their naivete or inexperience, according to Hiatt.

Hiatt said: "But then when you realize that the smartest leaders, the best leaders, do that 100 times more than normal people, give yourself permission to do that as well."

Because they're curious, great thinkers "seek out weak ties as much as possible," she added.

"Weak ties" are connections with whom you may have a shared interest or connection. They could be acquaintances or friends of friends. In a work context, they're sometimes described as people who you don't work closely with but whose work has an impact on yours.


Studies have shown that weak ties are an important way of getting information or can even lead to a step up the career ladder.

"I'm not talking about super hard things that can be like going to a concert where you don't know the music or having a friend who's outside of your same cultural background," Hiatt said.

Resilience can be learned with practice

The ability to bounce back from failure or difficulties is a skill that can be learned, although it takes practice to become comfortable with doing so, according to Hiatt.

Hiatt said that she is naturally very timid but working in environments like Amazon and Google "where this wouldn't have been tolerated" forced her to step outside of her comfort zone.

Give yourself challenges and make sure you're consistently doing things you've never done before, Hiatt said.


This could be as simple as putting yourself forward to do things that make you feel uncomfortable or volunteering to work with people that you don't normally work with.

Billionaire CEOs think the same way as normal people — they're just bolder

Having watched them behind closed doors, Hiatt said that the thought process and iteration used by figures like Bezos to approach decisions are accessible to others.

"Jeff Bezos shooting himself into space started with a crazy idea of like, 'hey, how about I buy this small property in Texas and then hire some really smart people to talk to me about space,'" Hiatt said.

"Yes, they're bold but the iterative process is the same for them as it is for us normal people. It's just they set their sights on, literally, Mars," she added.