From vision to victory: 10 secrets in the mindset of the world’s leading CEOs | Inquirer Business

From vision to victory: 10 secrets in the mindset of the world’s leading CEOs

/ 02:02 AM September 11, 2023



One of the all-time favorite questions people ask me when I go to client meetings or give speeches around the world is: “Tom, as an advisor to the world’s top CEOs and many of the world’s wealthiest families, what is the mindset that allows them to create multibillion dollar businesses?”

That is a loaded question I could easily write a whole book about. In economic environments where volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity reign, the mindset of a CEO can be the defining factor between success and failure. The world’s leading CEOs possess a unique blend of vision, resilience, adaptability and unwavering commitment. This article will delve into the mindset of some of these titans, offering insights for CEOs and business owners aspiring to reach the pinnacle of their industries.


1. Visionary thinking: Leading CEOs don’t just set goals; they envision a future that others can’t yet see. This vision serves as a north star, guiding the company through challenges and opportunities.


The major challenge I see with most CEOs or business owners is that they lose sight of their long-term vision too quickly. Especially if you are an owner, there is a tremendous opportunity for you. You do not need to focus only on short-term performance; instead, you can chart the course of your business for years, decades or generations to come.

Every successful self-made billionaire entrepreneur I have interacted with or advised always had that long-term vision firmly in the front of their mind. Remember the daily principle: big vision, small steps. The more you bathe in your vision and focus on it, the easier it will be for you to make daily strategic decisions. On the other hand, the more you lose sight of that long-term vision, the more business leaders get lost and derailed by the noise of the day-to-day and the unessential.

Ensure that you have a clear long-term vision of the future of your business, and most importantly, that you keep that vision front and center in your mind.

2. Resilience in the face of adversity: Every business, no matter how successful, will face setbacks. The difference between those who rise and those who falter is resilience. Top CEOs understand that failure is not a reflection of their worth but an opportunity for growth. They embrace challenges, learn from their mistakes and use them as stepping stones toward their vision.

The truth is: you build resilience in the face of adversity. There is a big difference between “knowing about business” (which good business schools teach) and “learning by doing business.” Knowing about business by attending top schools does not mean you will be a great business leader. This difference is why most billionaires are self-made; they did not inherit their wealth.

As a result, aspiring business leaders who already grew up wealthy have a natural disadvantage when building lasting empires. For all my readers who fall into that category, I give this piece of advice: expose yourself to as many challenges and self-fabricated adversity as possible so that your resilience becomes equal to that of the hungry almighty who starts with nothing and creates global corporate giants.


3. Adaptability—The key to longevity: The business landscape is ever-evolving. Technologies advance, consumer preferences shift and global events can change the playing field overnight. The most successful CEOs are those who can pivot and adapt. They stay informed, anticipate changes and are always ready to adjust their strategies to maintain their trajectory toward their vision.

That means: you need to place the highest value on innovation and stay ahead of trends. We always tell our clients that innovation is both culture and systems. Both must be set up to gel perfectly, like a well-oiled machine. When my team and I analyzed the list of famous corporate failures—from Nokia to Blackberry, from Pan Am to Toys R Us and Myspace—one of the reasons for their demise was a lack of innovation and acceptance of new ideas and neglecting trends. Don’t make that same mistake! Especially if your company is already a market leader. The more successful your business becomes, the more you need to pay attention!

4. Unwavering commitment: Commitment is the bridge between vision and victory. Leading CEOs are deeply committed to business success and the well-being of their employees, customers and communities. This commitment is evident in their work ethic, decisions and the culture they foster within their organizations.

5. The beginner’s mind—Forever learning: The world’s top CEOs are voracious learners. They understand that to stay at the forefront, they must continually expand their knowledge and skills. Whether reading the latest industry research, attending seminars or seeking mentorship, these leaders prioritize personal and professional growth. For example, I often average a book every two weeks. And I tell my team to follow suit.

6. Empathetic leadership: Empathy is often overlooked in discussions about leadership but it’s a cornerstone of the CEO mindset. Leading with empathy means understanding and valuing the perspectives of others. It’s about building genuine relationships, fostering trust and creating an environment where everyone feels seen and heard.

7. Decisiveness with data: In the age of information, data-driven decision-making is crucial. The best CEOs harness the power of data to inform their choices, ensuring that their decisions are grounded in facts and insights. However, they also understand the importance of intuition and experience, striking a balance between data and gut instinct.

8. Play the long game— Building a legacy: Finally, the mindset of the world’s leading CEOs goes beyond quarterly profits and annual reports. They think in terms of legacy. What will they leave behind? How will they be remembered? These leaders aim to create lasting impact, not just for their businesses but for society at large.

I always advise our clients to keep their legacy and long game in mind, no matter what they do. When they tell me their two, three or five-year goals, I am still not satisfied. I urge them to look further. I want to know where they see themselves and their business in 10, 15 or 20 years. If they do not have that vision and clear laser-like focus, we create it together.

9. Don’t be afraid to fail: One of our clients in Asia was so shaken by a mistake he had made 10 years ago that it paralyzed his decision-making. Even the wealthiest entrepreneurs have usually had more failures than successes.

10. Say no to the good to say yes to the great: The word “decision” comes from the Latin word “decidere,” which literally means “to cut off.” Every decision is painful because you have to let something else go that you would like to do to achieve that laser-like focus. That is the nature of the game. If it doesn’t hurt, you are not making challenging enough decisions or need to be more focused. INQ

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Tom Oliver, a “global management guru” (Bloomberg), is the chair of The Tom Oliver Group, the trusted advisor and counselor to many of the world’s most influential family businesses, medium-sized enterprises, market leaders and global conglomerates. For more information and inquiries: or email [email protected].


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