The wisdom of Billy Bingham, the future vision of Michael O'Neill and the tactical astuteness shared by both men.
Oh, and a little bit of luck as well.
Those are the qualities that the Irish FA must look for as they undertake the difficult task of selecting the next Northern Ireland manager, according to former World Cup defender John O'Neill.
O'Neill experienced the most glorious era of Northern Ireland football first-hand when he was capped 39 times between 1980 and 1986.
As a BBC summariser, he has witnessed the best and worst of the country's fortunes for the last couple of decades as well.
That mixture of experience led the IFA to bring the former Leicester City man onto their interview panel when his namesake Michael was given the job in 2012.
And this time around, the patience of both the IFA and the man who is now in charge of Stoke City is something else that will be required if the Green and White Army is to savour more great nights and major tournament finals.
"It's always going to be a cycle thing for us appearing in major championships because we don't have that stream of players constantly coming through," says O'Neill who, along with Mal Donaghy, Noel Brotherston and Billy Hamilton, was blooded early in Bingham's reign.
"The new manager, whoever that might be, may be feeling the same and, when the experienced players of the present side move on, it will be a difficult challenge.
"I remember Steven Davis' first game against Canada at Windsor Park. It was an absolutely awful game, we lost 1-0 to 10-men and the only highlight was Steven Davis, outstanding on his debut. That was a forerunner of what was to come.
"That's the situation that the Northern Ireland manager faces. Billy Bingham was lucky in the sense that he had players coming through at the right time.
"I think Michael, though his first campaign might not have been the greatest, he saw the grassroots of what could happen with the experience the players had gained. I think that's a big factor in the success of any Northern Ireland team.
"Both Michael and Billy did so well because they saw what they had to work with and got the best out of them. Every player contributed in some way or another."
Being able to call upon his better players on a regular basis was the foundation on which Michael O'Neill built his success. The evidence of consistency of selection bringing consistency of results is also there for all to see in Bingham's record - and that's another thing that John O'Neill believes future glories can be birthed from.
"I played 39 times and my full-backs every time were Jimmy Nicholl and Mal Donaghy and beside me, depending on the timescale, it was either Chris Nicholl or John McClelland and then Alan McDonald - that's the only players I played with," he adds.
"Sometimes you see now teams are changing all the time and I think it must be very difficult to play like that with different players. I think that's why Michael O'Neill, in particular, has done very well.
"He got a settled side and he knew his best side and the majority of times he got it out onto the pitch."