This is a great question! During my MBA, a world-famous army general came to talk and what I remember from that is what he said at the very end (I paraphrase): "If you have the right combination of EQ and IQ, you can be a banker on Monday, a social worker on Tuesday, a consultant on Wed, a manager on Thu and a lawyer on Fri, and still succeed in every role". I totally believe in this. I don't claim to be good enough to succeed in 5 roles a week but I've been an engineer (AMD), a writer (various national/int'nl awards), a head of business (google) and now a venture capitalist (andreessen horowitz), and it's been a great ride and I think with a good combo of EQ and IQ, you really can succeed in whatever you do. Another way of saying the above is that it's all about the PEOPLE. Know who to befriend, be geniune in your relationships, know when to push vs pull, keep your ego in check (for the right moment), and know how to pick your battles.
- Once your in, what separates the good consultant from the worldclass one?
-- a great consultant is one who doesn't just solve problems, but actually solves it in a way that brings the firm more business. This happens only when the client likes you AND respects you. Both have to be true. If they just like you, they'll go have a beer with you but not give you their business. If they just respect you but not like you, this won't work long term. You only make partner when there are deals that come to the firm ONLY because you are there.
- Are there personal characteristics that can be considered success drivers?
-- build trust, keep secrets, don't badmouth (it's a small circle at the top), be genuine in what/who you like or don't like, and build a practice you are known for (e.g. "she always replies within a day").
- Can you learn them?
-- of course.
- What are absolute no-gos? etc.
-- covered above. It's all very relationship driven. It is important you take a long, long view of your career and think who will be your go-to person in 10yrs time and which of these people you actually want to be close friends with and then spend the time to cultivate a meaningful professional reln with them.