Why Great Leaders Believe in Success Before They See Success

Businessman building a graph or ladder of success

If you are worried about achieving success, you aren’t alone. The vast majority of people struggle to believe that the future will end with a good outcome; which is precisely why it won’t.   

The best leaders and top performers understand this important truth:

Believing success will happen doesn’t guarantee it will, but not believing ensures it won’t.  

A belief, by definition, is an attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is true. An alternative definition is; trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.

The power of this definition is constantly on display in the world of sports. Take Trae Young, the leader and best player of the Atlanta Hawks, as an example. In a pivotal game against the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA’s 2021 Eastern Conference Playoffs, Young and his teammates found themselves down by 20 points heading into the 4th quarter. Instead of giving up and mailing it in to get ready for game six at home, they chose belief.  

Over the next 12 minutes of game action, the Hawks erased the deficit and overcame the long odds to win, 109-106. After the game, during the on-court interview, when asked about the comeback, Young said, “We never stop believing until the final buzzer goes off.”

Young’s words unlock the fact that great leaders believe it before they see it, and just because they think it, doesn’t mean it will be easy.

Seeing it Makes it Easy to Believe, But Rarely Does it Happen

In a 1950’s study, Harvard professor Dr. Curt Richter placed rats in a pool of water to test how long they could tread water. On average, they would give up after 15 minutes. 

Just before giving up due to exhaustion, the researchers would pull them out of the water, dry them off, let them take a rest, and then put them back in the water for a second round.  

In this second attempt, the rats didn’t tread for 15 minutes; they lasted for 60 hours on average!

There is no denying that psychology is a complicated field of study, but just by experiencing and seeing they were going to be pulled out of the water when they got tired, the rats lasted 240 times longer.  Unfortunately, leaders rarely have the luxury of testing the waters of success.  

Great leaders and top performers know they must believe before they achieve.

Train Your Brain the Same Way You Build Skills

There is no denying that believing something that hasn’t yet happened is difficult, which is why most people don’t do it. Instead, they use a strategy of hope, but as Rick Page used to say, “hope isn’t a strategy.”  

To believe excellent outcomes will happen well before they do takes training. You must build the belief in your brain the same way you build technical skills. It requires mental reps, affirmations, and building habits around looking for the good in things. It also requires you to look beyond your past experiences.  

On a recent episode of the Tim Ferriss show, Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon, said, “I could see how constraining my beliefs were by creating my future from the past.” Not only is Wilson right, but the best way to believe is not to look back but to look forward.

The best leaders are visionaries because they can easily manifest future possibilities. The late great Dr. Myles Munroe used to say, “vision is the capacity to see beyond what your eyes can see.” Your eyes and your past are the enemy regarding building belief and becoming a visionary leader. 

Your eyes and past are the enemies regarding becoming a visionary leader.

There aren’t many secrets or shortcuts to increasing your belief except one: Set goals you care about achieving.

The Power of Goal Setting

Whether you lead a team or want to increase your personal belief, setting short and long-term goals is a phenomenal strategy. It will force you to think about the future and challenge you to define things you and your team want to accomplish. 

Even if you or the team fails to meet the goals, there is a 100% chance you learned from the failure, and got closer to achieving it. There are all kinds of incredible goal-setting systems and formulas; however, instead of regurgitating SMART goals or something similar, I want you to consider writing down one goal for yourself or your team today. Use your favorite formula or the one I wrote about in Building the Best:

Clear Objective + Completion Date + Carrot.


Regardless of your faith or religious background, there is a scripture in the Bible that says, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” There is nothing easy about having belief in something we can’t see; but, just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean you can’t do it.  

Today, challenge yourself to define a new goal, keep it visible, and invite others to hold you accountable. You will be amazed at what you or your team will see in the future!

Do you agree? If so, how do you believe something in order to help make it happen?

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How to Lead When You Don’t Feel Like a Leader

Business leadership and teamwork concept

If someone tells you they were born a leader, don’t believe them. No one is born a leader, but people do develop into one. While some of the most outstanding leaders of all time were born with some leadership DNA, they still had to work to develop their skills over their journey.

This question of whether leaders are born or made has been debated for decades. Leadership Quarterly did some fantastic research; they found 24 percent of our leadership comes from DNA, while 76 percent is learned or developed. 

Why is this important? I don’t know whether you were born with this leadership DNA or not, but I know you can become a better leader regardless if it comes naturally or not. For many people, this is a significant change in thinking, but it’s the only way to think if you are going to get better.  

Take Ben, a project manager in a manufacturing company, as an example. For the first five years of his career, he was a team member instead of leading a team. When he became a head project manager, he was thrust into keeping projects on time and within budget, which meant leading people. He struggled early in this new role to build strong relationships, set clear standards, and create a culture of accountability. As the project started to fall behind, Ben realized that the problem wasn’t his team; it was his lack of leadership.  

After coaching Ben, it became evident that he had many of the skills required to lead successfully, but the problem was that he didn’t think of himself as a leader. I will share with you what I shared with him:

Thinking of yourself as a leader is a key to becoming one.

Now before you start running down the ego trail, it’s essential to clarify this. You don’t decide if you are a leader; others do. However, most people struggle because, in their mind, leadership is only meant for certain types and kinds of people, not for them.  

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone is called to lead in one way or another. Either leading themselves, leading at work, or leading at home.

Everyone is called to lead in one way or another.

So whether leading comes naturally or not, it should be evident now that you’re called to lead in some part of your journey, so you might as well become a better leader. Here are some ideas to help:

1. Anchor yourself in belief 

Belief is one of these things that most people assume only a few people possess. It couldn’t be further from the truth because belief by definition is; trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something. Everyone can have trust, faith, or confidence in themselves and what they expect to happen in the future.  

On a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, Amy P. Kelly said, “When a leader has belief, it’s a magnet for others to want to be part of it. Conversely, if you don’t have belief, no one else around you can.”

Not only is she correct, but it highlights the essential nature of self-belief and the belief in others as a critical element of leadership. Because as Michael Korda said, “if you don’t believe in yourself, then who will believe in you?”

2. Focus on the fundamentals 

Leadership, in some ways, is like golf. For some people who have excellent hand-eye coordination, the game comes more manageable than those that don’t. But even without excellent hand-eye, you can still play the game and get better at it by focusing on the fundamentals—grip, posture, balance, technique, and the mental game. 

If you weren’t born with the natural instincts of leadership, it’s best to lean into leadership fundamentals—things like relationships, communication, standards, accountability, and coaching. 

Don’t get bored with the basics and work relentlessly to develop your skills in these areas. If you want a recap of leadership fundamentals, check out a previous newsletter, 8 Building Blocks Successful Leaders Get Right, or get a copy of Building the Best

3. Demonstrate you care 

There aren’t many leadership hacks, but simply demonstrating you care about others in each interaction might be one. Whether leadership comes naturally or not, if people don’t think you care about them as human beings, you won’t go far as a leader.

If people don’t think you care about them, you won’t go far as a leader. 

One of the easiest ways to show you care is by implementing this simple technique within the first minute of every interaction you have; it’s what I call the “One-Minute Rule”: 

Within the first minute, decide to care by giving your undivided attention and showing genuine curiosity in the other person.

While this might seem obvious, most leaders don’t have difficulty caring; it’s starting to care. Leaders are busy and have many things on their mind, so getting in the correct mindset of care in each interaction can be easily forgotten.  


Suppose you are among the few people where leadership comes naturally, congratulations but don’t take it for granted. Reaching your full leadership potential won’t happen without a lot of hard work and effort. 

If leadership doesn’t come naturally, don’t for a second think you can’t be a leader. By anchoring yourself in belief, focusing on the fundamentals, and demonstrating you care about others, you increase your odds of positively impacting others.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How to Believe in Yourself in Order to Lead

Wooden chess pawn with king shadow

“Without self-belief, there is no leadership.”

In season 26 episode 4, John Eades covers the important topic of developing your self-belief. 

Listen on iTunes

Your self-belief is one of the most critical factors in determining how successful you will be in life. But don’t just take it from me. Some of the all-time greats in business and sports have shed some light on the importance of belief and confidence.

Quotes to Remember About Self-Belief

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.

Henry Ford

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.”

Arthur Ashe

“To excel at the highest level—or any level, really—you need to believe in yourself, and hands down, one of the biggest contributors to my self-confidence has been private coaching.”

Stephen Curry

Confidence is the most important single factor in this game.

Jack Nicklaus

What is Belief?

Researchers have had a difficult time agreeing on a common definition of belief. To ensure we are on the same page, here is my favorite: A belief is nothing more than a reinforced pattern in your brain.

This is important because it shows that we aren’t born with beliefs; they are developed when certain things are reinforced and become a pattern in our brain. The reason this is such a big deal is that you can reprogram your brain to reinforce new patterns.

Bandura’s Theory

There has been some incredible work done in the last 50 years about self-belief and why it’s so important. Positivepsycology.com has been leading the way. In a recent article, they detail the work of Dr. Albert Bandura and what came to be known as Bandura’s Theory.

Bandura’s theory states that self-efficacy is built on one’s beliefs in the likelihood of future success; those who believe they have the ability to influence the events of their lives have high self-efficacy, while those who feel they are not in control and have little to no impact on what will happen to them in the future have low self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977).”

The key here is you must own your beliefs.

How to Improve Your Self-Belief

Recognize Negative Thoughts.

We all have negative thoughts that pass through our heads. Instead of trying to ensure we never have them, the key is not to give them oxygen.   Simply recognize the thoughts for what they are and replace them with something better. This will allow positive beliefs to become a reinforced pattern in our brain instead of the negative ones.   

Challenge Yourself to Do Something You Have Never Done.

A coaching client I was working with is one of the highest achievers I have ever met, but she was struggling with belief during the pandemic. Instead of allowing this struggle to continue, I reminded her, nothing will grow belief more than achievement.  She loved this idea, so she challenged herself to do something outside of her comfort zone. 

Now only did she sign up for the Ultimate Leadership Academy, but she committed to making ten prospecting calls a day with a new attitude and a new script. It wasn’t until her fifth day that the challenge paid off. She closed one of her most significant accounts to date all because she challenged herself to achieve.

Embrace the Failure.

Since achievement improves belief, challenging yourself to do things you have never done will inevitably result in some degree of failure. While those failures hurt at the moment, “Failure is not final, failure is feedback.” 

Show you courage and determination to not allow those failures to make you quit. Instead turn them into to fuel to keep you learning and growing. Winston Churchhill famously said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”


Beliefs are nothing more than a reinforced pattern in your brain. To lead yourself and others, it requires a pattern of good thoughts being reinforced on an ongoing basis. One of my favorite strategies to help with this is a simple phrase you can say to yourself every morning, “I am built for this.” Give it a try each day, so it becomes a new pattern in your brain.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of  Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.