Top 3 Thinking Strategies of Incredible Leaders

Becoming a leader doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, leadership is a process of constantly refining your tactics and absorbing input from the people you’re mentoring, coaching or supervising in order to better serve a larger mission. 

But how exactly do you refine those tactics? Fear not: in the span of this podcast episode on leadership, we covered three core thinking strategies that most, if not all, great leaders share. 

Note that none of these skills are about increasing revenue or profit margins directly — those are byproducts of gaining these leadership skills. These skills help you think in new ways that drive innovative results. 

The three top leadership skills

1. The ability to challenge your own beliefs 

The first, and arguably most important, leadership skill that all great leaders possess is the ability to challenge their own beliefs. In other words, becoming a great leader starts by reexamining what people — even ourselves — think is possible, true or correct.

In practice, this means leaders challenge themselves when they get stuck by asking why they’re stuck. “What do I believe that’s causing me to feel at an impasse?” “What are the beliefs I have about this person, situation or challenge that are stopping me from succeeding?” “Are those beliefs actually true, or am I hanging onto false pretenses?”

These are the questions great leaders ask themselves. Instead of lamenting that they hit a roadblock, great leaders get curious about their problems and try to think about new approaches that can help them overcome difficulties. Great leaders never think something is impossible; they’d rather discover that something isn’t feasible than simply believe it is. 

Put simply: great leaders don’t make assumptions about themselves or others, nor do they hold their opinions above the opinions of others.

2. The ability to think differently about resources 

Most leaders are familiar with some of the resources at their disposal, but becoming a great leader means seeing all the resources on the playing field. We’ve found that great leaders believe that, with some creativity, any resource can be accessible.

One of the hard truths about life is that there’s no shortage of money, talent or time. We might like to believe that we don’t have access to all the money, talent or time in the world, but that’s not necessarily a helpful belief. After all, all that belief does is reinforce in our minds that we can’t do or have something we want to do or have, right?

Why would you hold onto a belief like that? 

Think of it this way. If you need money, there are places to secure money. You don’t need to be a special person to get it, either. Instead of thinking, “Who am I to try and build a big business?”, try thinking, “Why shouldn’t I try and get the funding I need to make my project a reality?” 

The same goes for time and talent. You do have enough time, if you think about it — simply changing up your schedule or delegating tasks to others can help with that. As for talent, you can find it out in the marketplace, or hone it yourself. 

See how it works? By thinking differently about the scarcity of resources, you can make them less scarce. 

3. The ability to be very, very clear about what you want

Finally, becoming a great leader involves being extremely clear about what you want. Great leaders don’t lose track of their goals, nor do they get distracted easily. They’re very focused on the things they’ve set out to achieve, and they won’t let negative beliefs stop them from achieving those things. 

This doesn’t just apply to goals. Great leaders also operate in accordance with what they want. This means great leaders always focus on what’s working well, and how to make the good even better — whether it’s in a team setting or on a solo project, great leaders focus on the possibilities and opportunities that’ll help them make progress.  

Instead of focusing on what’s broken, great leaders focus on what works. Instead of focusing on what they don’t want, great leaders focus on what they do want. And instead of focusing on what they oppose, great leaders focus on what they can support. 

It’s kind of like being a parent — if you’re always telling your child what not to do, they’re going to do it, right? Praising them for what they get right, however, reinforces positive behaviors. The same goes for a team you lead, as well as yourself. 

Becoming a great leader starts with thinking differently

At the end of the day, becoming a great leader involves more than making tough calls or cutting input costs. To truly excel as a leader, you’ll need to use new thinking strategies to approach situations differently. 

Curious about how to be a better leader? It’s basically all we think about. If you’re interested in picking up some new leadership skills, talk with one of our coaches today to learn more.

Episode Transcript

business person thinking with question marks[00:00:00] Kim Ades: Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching and the Co-founder of The Journal That Talks Back. You have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching Podcast with my co-host, Ferne Kotlyar, who happens to be my awesome, amazing and incredible daughter. Ferne, welcome.

[00:00:22] Ferne Kotlyar: Hello, hello! Always a pleasure to be here. 

[00:00:25] Kim Ades: So what's up? What's new? What's happening? See, it's just like we're on the phone. 

[00:00:29] Ferne Kotlyar: [Chuckles] Yeah, a classic intro. Today I wanted to talk about leadership. We did a little survey, sent it around, and people wanted to hear more about leadership. So today I wanna talk about what makes a good leader. Very broad. 

[00:00:46] Kim Ades: Very broad. 

[00:00:46] Ferne Kotlyar: [Chuckles] 

[00:00:47] Kim Ades: [Chuckles] Very, very broad. Well, why don't we do this? Why don't we hone in a little bit and discuss what are the thinking strategies that really amazing leaders exhibit? How about if we do that? 

[00:00:59] Ferne Kotlyar: Sounds great. 

[00:00:59] Kim Ades: That's a good start, right? 

[00:01:00] Ferne Kotlyar: Yeah. 

[00:01:00] Kim Ades: So what we see is that leaders who soar, leaders who excel above the norm have a few thinking strategies in common. And they're not necessarily... They're not strategies that you see " Oh, well, they do this to increase their revenue or their profit margins". It's not that kind of strategy. It's literally they think differently than other people. So let's go through those. 

So, number one, they always, always challenge their own beliefs. So what exactly does that mean? They understand that the number one thing that gets in the way of performance is what people believe to be possible or true. 

And so every time they get stuck on something, every time there's a challenge, every time there's a conflict, every time there's any kind of adversity, they ask themselves the following question. What do I believe that's causing me to feel stuck? What are the beliefs I have about this person, this situation, this challenge? What are my beliefs? And are those beliefs, in fact true? 

[00:02:19] Ferne Kotlyar: So, do you really think leaders go through these exact steps or just like something that kind of happens in their head? Or they actually write down a list of the things that they're struggling with? Like, how-- 

[00:02:32] Kim Ades: Sometimes they write a list. We find that a lot of incredible leaders actually journal, and so they write down their assumptions. What am I assuming here? What are my assumptions? What are my basic assumptions? And assumptions and beliefs are kind of on the same level. And are those assumptions accurate?

And so what they're doing is they're pushing back on their view of things. "Am I seeing this clearly? Is my bias interfering? Could it be a different way? Could I be missing something here? If so, what could I be missing? So how am I seeing this situation that's causing me to feel unclear? Causing me to feel stuck, causing me to feel like I can't find a solution?"

There's a solution to everything. We were able to take a spaceship to the moon, right? If we could do that, we could solve human problems on Earth, right? So we could solve a lot of problems, it's the way we think about them that matters. So thing number one is extraordinary leaders always, always challenge their own beliefs and the beliefs of their team.

Okay? So that's thing number one. So when a team says "No, it's impossible for us to perform", the leader will say "Ah, well, I don't believe that something's impossible, let's look at it again. Let's think about what's making this so hard. What are basic assumptions we're making here? What beliefs do we have? And let's see if those are really real. Let's press on them and poke and prod and see if perhaps we can think about this differently. So that's thing number one. 

Thing number two is that we find that extraordinary leaders think about resources very, very differently than the norm. So for them, they believe that any resource is accessible to them, and there is no shortage of resource.

[00:04:30] Ferne Kotlyar: Resource being like money, tools, people... 

[00:04:34] Kim Ades: Yeah, exactly. There's no shortage of money, there's no shortage of talent, there's no shortage of time, even. There is no shortage. Yeah, I struggle with that one, right? I'm the one who always says we're running outta time. 

[00:04:47] Ferne Kotlyar: I know. 

[00:04:49] Kim Ades: [Laughs] So they believe that there is a supply, a large supply that they can access. And the difference between these leaders in the way they think about resources is that not only they believe that there is an endless supply of resource, but they also believe that they are enabled to access those resources. 

So if I need money, there's a place for money. I don't need to be a special person, I don't need to have a lot of money myself, I don't need to have a special degree or I don't need to be in the right circles. I know that there's money out there and I know that I'm entitled to tap into that source of money. So there's a feeling like I can have the resources that I need and I deserve to have them.

A lot of people feel like "who am I to build a big business? Who am I to get a loan from a bank? Who am I to get an investor? Who am I? I'm not important. I'm not significant enough, not smart enough, good looking enough", whatever, right? "I'm not enough". And so these people don't feel that way. They feel like "Yes, I'm enough. I'm just as good as the next guy or the next woman. Why not?"

[00:06:08] Ferne Kotlyar: [Lightly chuckles] 

[00:06:09] Kim Ades: And then the last thing that we find is that these leaders are very, very clear about what they want and they focus on what they want. They don't lose track of their goal, they don't get distracted easily. They're very, very focused on that.

And that applies to not only their goals, but how they operate. So when they work with a team, they're focused on what's working, on what's right. They focus on what they want instead of what they see that's going wrong. They don't focus on what's broken, they focus on how to fix things. They focus on the solution, not the problem. Right? They focus on what they want, as opposed to what they don't want. And we see this all in all kinds of places. 

You know, parents who see their kids doing something wrong and they say "Don't do that". Well, these kinds of leaders say-- instead of saying "Don't do that", they say "do this". Right? So they're always focused on where they're going.

Singlemindedly, as opposed to where they have been and what hasn't worked with that. So they say "Okay, this, this didn't work. Where are we going now?" They look ahead of themselves instead of behind. So those are the three really big differentials when we look at amazing leaders and how they operate.

[00:07:38] Ferne Kotlyar: So just to kind of sum up what you've said. The first one was they challenge their own beliefs and they challenge the belief of others. The second was that they have resources accessible to them. They believe that they have resources accessible to them, that there's an abundance of these resources and that they can tap into them.

And the third is that they're very clearly focused and they look to where they're going as opposed to where they've been. So they really... I guess what you focus on grows would apply here... 

[00:08:13] Kim Ades: Exactly. 

[00:08:13] Ferne Kotlyar: the sense that they always keep focusing on that goal instead of looking at all the best ups. 

[00:08:20] Kim Ades: Yeah. It's like the Wayne Gretzky example where people-- 

[00:08:24] Ferne Kotlyar: You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don't take? 

[00:08:26] Kim Ades: No.

[00:08:27] Ferne Kotlyar: Is that him? 

[00:08:27] Kim Ades: Instead of going to the puck, he would go to where the puck was gonna be going. Right? He didn't go where the puck was, he projected where the puck would be. But I'm gonna throw one more thing in. 

On top of that is that, and we're talking about all kinds of leadership, extraordinary leaders also have incredible coaching skills. They're great coaches and so they understand that the most important thing that they need to do is build the confidence, the skillset, the ability, the productivity, the potential of their team. That is their job, that is their goal, that is their role.

And so building up coaching skills becomes very, very important. It's something that we work on a lot when we work with our leaders and when we coach them is we also teach them how to coach. It's one of the most important skill sets that they can come back to their organizations with. 

[00:09:35] Ferne Kotlyar: Interesting. And do you have an example of how it's coaching someone? Teaching them the skill set, how has that shifted their organization? 

[00:09:43] Kim Ades: If you have an example of that? It's massive. There's a trickle down effect. When you can have a coaching conversation with an employee. You can understand what's holding them back and help them move that out of the way.

So what you're doing is you're dramatically helping your team increase their performance and removing some of the thinking traps, some of the thinking barriers that interfere with performance. So a lot of times we believe in the world that performance or a lack of performance is due to skill, knowledge, education, attitude, et cetera. But there's no person who doesn't wanna succeed. 

And so what is the greatest barrier of performance? Is a thinking problem, right? We can learn skills, when we're in a good environment, when there's a good culture, when we're acknowledged and recognized, all of that attitude improves...

[00:10:38] Ferne Kotlyar: Yeah. 

[00:10:39] Kim Ades: ...when we're seen in a good light. When we're seen in a poor light, what happens? Our attitude starts to diminish. 

[00:10:45] Ferne Kotlyar: And speaking of skill sets, do you think that anyone is coach-- not coachable, but is anybody able to be a coach? Or is it only certain type of people? 

[00:10:55] Kim Ades: No, I think many, many people can learn coaching skills. A hundred percent. I think there's no one that would not benefit from learning coaching skills. There are some coaches that are naturally better than others for sure, but I think there is no one who would not benefit from coaching skills and understanding the approach, the rationale, the philosophy, the process of coaching, I think is extremely important for any leader to learn. Is anybody coachable? No. Not everybody's coachable. Some people are not and that's okay. 

[00:11:28] Ferne Kotlyar: Fair enough. 

[00:11:30] Kim Ades: Yeah. Good. Good discussion about leadership. 

[00:11:33] Ferne Kotlyar: Yeah, thank you for sharing your top three tips. 

[00:11:36] Kim Ades: My top three leadership thinking strategies. If you are a leader and you are struggling, if there's something going on in your world where you do not feel at peace, where you feel a sense of frustration, where maybe the people on your team aren't all rowing in the same direct, where you feel stressed, where you feel overworked, where you feel like you can't hand things off to your team members, it's a good time to have a discussion with a coach. 

Please reach out to us. Please go to and sign up for a complimentary coaching call with one of our team members, could even be me. Please do that. I'd love to hear from you, and if you wanna talk to me directly, you can reach me at Ferne, how do people reach you? 

[00:12:26] Ferne Kotlyar: Please email me as well. That's 

[00:12:30] Kim Ades: All right, until we see you next week, have a good one! 

[00:12:33] Ferne Kotlyar: Bye!

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