Learning To Think Like a Great Leader

‘The world doesn’t just need leaders it needs great leaders!’

To understand the core idea behind how great leaders actually think we must ask ourselves these four fundamental questions:


  1. Why?
    The foremost question we must have a definite answer of is to why we need to learn or know about the way the great leaders think. Why is it essential for us to be aware of their methodology?

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    Great leaders have said some golden words about why we think the particular way we do and how that effect our actions. Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”. Therefore, as leaders we need to be aware of the way we think, thinking impacts our level of success and when we develop the effective thinking success naturally follows. We must use the learning and techniques for effective thinking to ensure the birth of strong leaders. The world need leaders who use their influence at the right times for right reasons, who are ready to share the blame, search for best answers and who add value to not just themselves but the organization and people they lead. (Jhon C.Maxwell)

  1. What?
    The second question comes in succession to the first one. Once we are clear about why we need to know about a certain piece of information we ask ourselves as to what does it actually means to think and be like a great leader, the main core to it.  To understand this lets look into different models/attributes of great leaders explained by different ideologists.

a. The Jim Collins ‘level 5 leaders attributes

      • They are self-confident enough to set up their successors for success.
      • They are humble and modest
      • They have ‘unwavering resolve’
      • They display a ‘workmanlike diligence – more plow horse than show horse’
      • They give credit to others for their success and take full responsibility of poor results.

b. While on the other hand Daniel Goleman defined a whole set of these 6 leadership attributes that great leaders must have: Directive (Coercive), Visionary, Democratic, Affiliatives, Pace setting and Coaching.

c. Equation of Success:


The rocket fuel attributes are the main factors that contribute to incredible individual personal performance. When we amplify the internal attributes we tend to achieve more success. Once we change our expectations (they way we talk to ourselves) our thinking change and so does our attitude and other internal drivers.

3.  How?
This is the lead question. How do we think like a great leader, how we train yourself to achieve/develop the thinking of a great leader?

If we try to read ‘oppurtunityisnowhere’ we can either read it as ‘opportunity is no where’ or ‘opportunity is now here’! Thus how we think about certain things determines if we get to see the opportunities around us every day or not! Great leaders have Central Locus of Control in their personality, they tend to be the cause of their own actions rather being dependant/influenced by expectations of others and always finding excuses for not being able to achieve anything.  They are naturally the subjects always thinking ‘what I should do’ rather being the object and focusing on ‘what I cannot do’ and being exposed to others opinions/suggestions/expectations. The great leaders are always activating the Reticular Activating System (a systematic part of our brain through which all information enter into our brain) with things they are looking for. In this way their brain gets trained to filter all important information to bring it to use. Little changes in how we think and what information we filter can bring significant impact in how we act. We can utilize the Mercedes Model to understand how we can bring this information in use to support our growth as a great leader. The thoughts we have effect our emotions which in turn leads to actions and the cycle continues. These thoughts as said before is the formalized self-talk and are defined as ‘affirmations’ in the book ‘7Cs of Leadership Success’ by Tony Swainston in which each specified 7 characteristic (Certainty, Clarity, Collaboration, Coherence, Convergence, Consolidation, Consistency) has 10 dimensions/affirmations to it such as ‘Collaboration’ that can be achieved through a list of things like fair and broad-mindedness, tact, knowing others and recognizing their success, sharing knowledge, team orientation, etc. The affirmations starts embedding in your subconscious mind and you start believing on them as reality; therefore, it is very important to have positive affirmations.

4. What If?
Lastly, this is the creative part. Once we have already begun to think like a great leader what should we do with the information and how do we use it for achieving success. The information impacts us, the team and ultimately the entire organization culture.

current reality

This model is the current cultural analysis used by an organization ‘Human Synergistic’. The blue is the good part (achievement focused, self actualization, humanistic, encouraging), pink and green is the part we tries to lessen more. A bigger pink part of ‘perfectionist’ is indicating that on average mostly organizations are focusing on the details and not the bigger picture. There vision was to achieve:


Therefore, as explained in Kotter and Heskett, constructive cultures in organizations lead to 4 times higher turnover and 756 times more profit then in Defensive culture. Thus, culture makes the difference and leaders in the organization who speak positively to themselves work effectively with people around them will develop a very constructive and positive culture around them.

Though it’s not possible for everyone to develop the kind of thinking great leaders have but if there is the will, desire and right amount of determination, it is not an impossible task and everybody can move themselves up on the higher scales and never know where you they might end up at! Leadership can be incorporated in anyone from a very young age, it depends on how we talk to children, like great leaders welcome challenges we can train them for that from a very early age in this way they and can start developing in them not just the leadership qualities but also feeling of empowerment, happiness and contention.

Finally, as Managing director of pacific institutes Lou Tice said “We act not in accordance with the truth…but in accordance with the truth as we perceive it to be”. Talking positively to ourselves and great leaders do will help us to help us create an organization we all will be proud to be a part of!

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