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  • Writer's pictureRyan C. Warner, Ph.D., CRC

Unlocking the Minds of Exceptional Leaders: Real-life insights for success

In the vast world of business, being a true leader goes beyond job titles and looking authoritative. It's more than what you've studied, what you wear, or how many people work under you. A true leader is an agent of change, someone who drives results, influences others, and shapes the future.

Research highlights the pivotal importance of understanding that your thought process is the keystone of your success. Mindsets act as the mental lenses through which leaders perceive and make sense of the world around them. In essence, they define what leaders do and why they do it.

Therefore, this leadership series will feature insightful conversations with change-makers hailing from diverse industries across the globe, shedding light on the type of mindset they hold that drives their success. In Part 1, we delve into the insights of leaders in healthcare, advertising, professional services, and various other sectors.

Why Does Mindset Matter in Leadership?

According to experts, mindsets are beliefs that orient the way we handle situations, but remain hidden (Dweck, 2017; Klein, 2017). A leader's mindset influences their approach to problem-solving, the way they interact with their team, and their ability to adapt to changing circumstances. In essence, the leader's mindset is the foundation upon which effective leadership is built.

What Types of Mindsets Are There?

While Dweck (2017) suggests that individuals can have either a fixed or a growth mindset, others have indicated the multifaceted nature of mindsets (Rucker & Galinksy, 2016). For instance, in 2017, Skyline Group’s Organizational Intelligence Institute surveyed more than 600 male and female leaders to explore how mindset influences both perception and behaviors. Results identified 15 mindset continuums related to the common roles and attributes of leaders, such as problem-solving, goal orientation, growth, and focus.

For this series, we interviewed leaders to determine which mindsets they held to influence change in their industry and found that their responses fell within one or more of these 15 mindset continuums. Let's explore a subset of continuums that particularly caught our attention.

Performance Mindset: This mindset refers to an individual's approach to tasks and goals, characterized by a focus on achieving excellence, continuous improvement, and measurable results.

Lisa Filkins, a highly experienced Vice President of Human Resources with over 25 years in the field, embodies this mindset through her unwavering dedication to data-driven decision-making. She firmly believes that harnessing metrics is essential for enhancing organizational performance.

Research also supports this, as studies have shown that leaders who prioritize data tend to excel in making informed decisions and steering their teams toward success (Webber & Zheng, 2020). This mindset, often intertwined with a fervent desire to make a difference, empowers leaders to harness the power of metrics and analytics for effective decision-making.

Furthermore, Steve Miranda, an accomplished executive, echoes these sentiments. Steve shares the same passion and is motivated by the achievement of tangible results. His mindset aligns with the pursuit of excellence, firmly believing that "we should leave things better than we found them," a principle he has held dear throughout his many years of leading teams to effectively achieve complex organizational objectives.

Purpose-Driven Mindset: This mindset involves aligning your actions and decisions with a meaningful mission or core values.

Zachary Nunn, the Chief Executive Officer of a digital media network, highlights the profound significance of staying committed to one's mission and purpose. He also emphasized the importance of maintaining clear boundaries, especially when it comes to mental wellness. This approach ensures that individuals can wholeheartedly follow their mission while safeguarding their mental health.

Ricardhy Grandoit, Associate Director and experienced consultant, echoes a similar perspective, advocating for the deliberate creation of social impact by aligning passions and interests with actions.

Research underscores that successful leaders, such as Nunn and Grandoit, are intentional about making a positive impact, both within their professional domains and in the broader communities they serve. For example, studies conducted with emerging leaders worldwide suggest that having a clear sense of purpose is one of the most significant predictors of whether leaders feel empowered to make a difference and effectively navigate the challenges they encounter.

Multiplier Mindset: Leaders with this mindset are propelled by a profound desire to create a lasting impact on the lives of those they lead.

An example of someone who holds the Multiplier Mindset is Rich Hollander, an experienced retail expert and Managing Partner. Rich firmly believes in the transformative power of enabling individuals to help themselves. As he puts it, "you cannot motivate other can, however, create situations where people can motivate themselves." Truly effective leaders comprehend that their role extends far beyond personal achievements; it's about nurturing and guiding others toward the realization of their full potential.

Uncertainty-Accepting Mindset: This mindset refers to an attitude or approach in which an individual or leader acknowledges and embraces the inevitability of change and uncertainty.

An illustration of a Uncertainty-Accepting Mindset can be found in the experiences of Bridgette Vail, a seasoned Behavioral Health Executive. She places immense value on resilience, especially when confronted with adversity, and she understands the pivotal role adaptability plays in effective leadership. As she succinctly puts it, "flexibility has been the biggest piece for me."

Literature reinforces the idea that successful leaders, much like Bridgette, don't merely accept change; they actively seek it out and leverage it as a powerful tool for personal and organizational growth. This example of cognitive flexibility not only equips leaders to navigate the ever-shifting landscape of their industries but also empowers them to inspire and guide their teams through the transformative journey of change.

Authenticity Mindset: This mindset refers to an approach or attitude in which an individual or leader prioritizes being genuine, sincere, and true to oneself in their actions, interactions, and decision-making.

Jamie Rivero, Vice President of Human Resources & Operations, shines a spotlight on personal growth and authenticity as a leader. She firmly believes in being genuine and vulnerable, even in uncertain times.

Research reveals authentic leadership increases work engagement among employees and their job performance. Furthermore, authenticity fosters trust and openness within teams, creating the bedrock for more effective collaboration (Laguna, Walachowska, Gorgievski-Duijvesteijn, & Moriano, 2019). Within the realm of successful leadership, the Authenticity Mindset serves as the catalyst that binds teams together, empowering them to overcome challenges and create a workplace of trust and psychological safety.

Action Steps

Building on these insights, consider the following actionable steps to cultivate the mindset of a successful leader:

  • Incorporate data-driven decision-making: Embrace the power of data to make informed decisions and measure key performance indicators (KPIs) to inform your strategies.

  • Define your mission and purpose: Ensure that these principles align with your authentic self. Use them as a compass in your decision-making, and recognize the vital importance of self-care and setting clear boundaries for your mental well-being.

  • Empower others: Encourage team members to set clear goals, provide resources and guidance, and obtain feedback on what support they need to aid their development.

  • Embrace change: Stay open-minded and adaptable. Rather than fearing uncertainty, view challenges and disruptions as opportunities for growth and innovation.

  • Invest in personal growth: Take the time to self-assess and reflect on your current leadership style and behaviors. Consider how authentic you are in your actions, interactions, and decision-making.

Bottom Line

Overall, successful leaders embody a diverse set of mindsets, encompassing data-driven decision-making, authenticity, commitment to their mission, empowerment of others, results-oriented approaches, and intentional social impact. They understand the significance of resilience and adaptability in navigating challenges. By incorporating these insights into your leadership style, you can embark on a transformative journey to cultivate the mindset of a truly successful leader. Remember that leadership is an ongoing process of growth and learning, and with the right mindset, you can achieve remarkable success!


Dweck, C. (2017). Mindset: Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential. London, UK: Hachette.

Laguna, M., Walachowska, K., Gorgievski-Duijvesteijn, M. J., & Moriano, J. A. (2019). Authentic leadership and employees’ innovative behaviour: a multilevel investigation in three countries. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(21), 4201.

Rucker, D. D., & Galinsky, A. D. (2016). Growing beyond growth: Why multiple mindsets matter for consumer behavior. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 26(1), 161–164. Webber, K. L., & Zheng, H. (2020). Data analytics and the imperatives for data-informed decision-making in higher education. Big Data on Campus: Data Analytics and Decision Making in Higher Education, 3-29.

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