How to Think Strategically like a Successful Leader

Last Updated: September 1, 2019

How do so many truly successful and ground-breaking entrepreneurs make it seem so simple? The answer is that they do the things, and think in ways, that so many of the rest of us either take for granted or neglect to do. Here are just 5 simple examples of their thought processes.

    by Agent Staff
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Many successful and ground-breaking entrepreneurs make their achievement seem so simple. How do they do it? The answer is no great secret. It’s all about taking the time to do the things that most people do. Not only do they do all the things most people do not, they also think in ways that so many of us either take for granted or outright neglect to do. Here are 5 simple examples of how to think strategically, just like your business heroes.


1. They Embrace Failure

“There’s no success like failure…”

Nobel laureate Bob Dylan’s famous words indirectly sum up the experience of many entrepreneurs, whose paths to success are paved with failures.

In the case of truly successful business leaders, it is these failures that are an education, which drive them onward to success. In other words, the guiding principle here is that you learn from your mistakes, and move on.

Thomas Edison, a driving force in such innovations as the phonograph, the incandescent lightbulb and the motion picture camera; but for every one of his innovations there were famously dozens of failures.

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In the modern era, Paul Cosgrave, joint founder of the thriving Bash Products disposable tableware brand, told AGENT: “I’ve learned every kind of lesson about how you don’t run a business, from when I’ve failed.”

You really have to accept that not everything you try is going to work out the way you planned. This truly is embracing failure, and it takes guts. It requires you to move forward steadily, in the knowledge that your success is against the odds.

Most people would regard this as craziness. That’s why game-changing innovators are so thin on the ground.



2. They Truly Listen

“Most of the successful people I’ve known do more listening than talking.”

Bernard Baruch, quoted here, was an American financier, investor, philanthropist and statesman who lived to the ripe old age of 95. He passed away over half a century ago in 1965, and yet his wisdom continues to ring true.

Virgin founder Richard Branson is only one contemporary success story who has attributed an important part of his success to listening. Conscious listening is a key item in our list of how to think strategically.

Another is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, of whom venture capitalist (and former Facebook employee) Chamath Palihapitiya once said in a ‘Vanity Fair’ interview: “He’s very happy to just be the last person to talk in a room. So he’ll just sit there, and you’ll tell he’s actually actively listening and thinking about everything people are saying. He had this amazing ability to unpack what was anecdote and what was fact.”

Yet another is broadcaster Oprah Winfrey, who is praised, admired and respected for her empathy; for her acute and effective listening skills and ability to put herself in the shoes of another person, even someone with whom she may have disagreed, and treat them with respect.



3. They Are Passionate

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”

Walt Disney’s words here sum up the sense of derring-do about all successful leaders and people in business, perhaps more marked among entrepreneurs from earlier eras such as Walt Disney, who did not enjoy anything like the technological advantages that we have access to.

But this simple fact holds up to the present day—if you do not have the emotional connection to what it is that you’re doing; if you do not regard it with a passionate intensity, then the road ahead is going to be rocky indeed.

Social media thought leader, David Meerman Scott, told AGENT that he is often asked by younger aspiring entrepreneurs for advice on going into business. One of the most important things is that “you need to be passionate”, he says. Learning how to think strategically includes working out the things that you truly care about.

“You have to enjoy it,” Meerman-Scott insists. “If I say to someone, ‘How passionate are you about this? Is it something you really love?’ and they say, ‘Nah, it’s just a job’, well, that’s not gonna work so well… because they won’t have the energy to see it through.”



4. They Are Insatiably Curious

Change always occurs—whether at a micro or local level or on a global scale—as a result of the work of insatiably, restlessly curious minds. Curiosity must be regarded as a key ingredient in how to think strategically overall.

The mind of the innovator is a mind that is not prepared to settle for the explanations that satisfy so many people.

Apart from innovators on the scale of an Albert Einstein or a Thomas Edison, for example, it’s interesting to note that much of the work that has had such significant effects on the way that people live their lives—think about Steve Jobs and Apple with the iPod and iTunes, for example—were tweaks and improvements to technology that existed already.

In the case of Jobs, it’s thanks to his relentless pursuit of a vision of the ultimate in user-friendly portable music, rather than to the technology itself, that Apple owes its success.



5. They Are Utterly Focused

“20 years ago I would stay in the office for days at a time and not think twice about it…”

Bill Gates speaks for many entrepreneurs when recalling the earliest stages of his career.

Although Bill Gates would admit that this level of commitment is unsustainable throughout life, the views of entrepreneurs across the board would indicate that it is pretty representative of the startup life.

Rigorous management of time management is a hallmark of all successful entrepreneurs from the earliest days of their startup phases.

Although the entrepreneurs who would spend days in the office for days at a time are probably very few and far between, what does unite them is a sense of time as a series of units to be expended in the interest of growing their businesses.

They don’t take it for granted. Nor should anyone striving for success in business.

Learn how to think strategically today, for the sake of your business, and your health.


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