The Three Roles Of Successful People

You are currently viewing The Three Roles Of Successful People

We all know that if you want to achieve something in life, you need to have a vision and a plan and take some action. Nothing new there. But how do you do this?

In this article, I want to give you an inside of how successful people in all sorts of life do this. What I am writing here is based on interviews with over 100 successful entrepreneurs and managers, and with some of them, I had the opportunity to work together and see first-hand how they do it.

So, let’s go.

The Roles

To understand the process, we first need to speak about the different roles required to succeed in any venture.

To have a vision, we need a visionary. Let’s call her the entrepreneur. It’s the one with the crazy ideas, the one thinking out of the box, not worried about how actually to do all the things she dreamed up.

To manage a process and resources requires a manager. She needs to understand the vision, be aware of the resources needed, and can lay out a plan to get there.

And the last one is the person who is doing the job. Let’s call her the worker. She takes the plan from the manager and turns it into action.

Let’s recap. We need the following roles:

  • Entrepreneur
  • Manager
  • Worker

Let’s dive deeper into each role and discuss how they work together.

The Entrepreneur

The role of the entrepreneur is to look for ways to create value which in return creates value. Often seen as a visionary, the entrepreneur focuses on discovering new grounds, connecting the dots, and forming a picture of what that all could look like.

This is not just some crazy dreamer but a very strategical thinker. The entrepreneur can see value where it doesn’t exist yet. She won’t restrict herself in her visions and ideas but go all the way out. At the end, that’s how great things are created.

The Manager

The entrepreneur presents her vision and ideas to the manager. Her job is to add some structure to it all and to assess how this could be turned into a tangible process.

The first step is to take the ideas apart and question everything. She wants to understand the picture and turn it all into a project with clear outcomes. She will also list all the things that need to be further investigated, the unknowns and contradictions.

The end result is a clear description of an achievable vision, the resources needed and the actions to take.

The Worker

Based on the action list provided by the manager, the worker plans and executes all the steps needed and delivers the expected results. Like all other roles, the worker is essential. Not much happens without getting into action.

Because the worker is at the forefront, she needs to feed back any info and knowledge gathered to the manager. This helps the manager to adjust some of the actions and deal with the required resources.

Working Together

Most successful people cover all three roles. They can switch roles easily, being an entrepreneur one day, seeing or hearing something that triggers a spark and creates some form of a vision—talking to people, getting some feedback on ideas and refining that picture.

On another day, she is standing in front of the whiteboard, mapping out a possible process and listing all items and resources needed to make it happen.

Imagine a discussion between both roles, where the entrepreneur presents her idea to the manager and the manager, waiving it all off, saying this is impossible. They have a discussion and end up with a plan to bring it all as near as possible to the initial idea. Very likely, not everything can be done with the resources available, and some cuts need to be made.

There will also be many unknowns and assumptions that need to be cleared. This is the start of the task list for the worker. It could be things like, “Does A really like B or would it prefer C?”. All this needs to be investigated to create the next steps. You will rarely know everything right from the start. Basically, without the worker role, any grandiose idea will be like that, just an idea, a dream, a vision. It needs the worker to turn it into something real.

Turning It Into Success

Now that we discussed how those roles interact with each other, let’s have a look at how they work together in a single person.

First of all, a successful person understands that all three roles are needed and makes sure that each has the space, the time and the resources necessary to do its job.

It should also be clear that each role is as important as the other. Without the a plan, the worker has no work. Without a vision, the manager has nothing to manage or plan. And without the manager and the worker, the entrepreneur is just a dreamer. Only in its combination success is possible.

Let’s take an example of how this can work in real life.

Imagine sitting on the beach with a nice cocktail in your hands, watching all those people around you. Something sticks out as you watch people going into the sea for a swim. They all seem to be worried about their belongings. They hide the wallet, mobile and keys under the towel or in a bag hoping that nobody has seen it and while walking towards the sea, looking back, making sure that nobody will go anywhere near their belongings. They are worried that someone might steal it.

This is nothing new. We’ve seen this behaviour on all beaches and public spaces. And I understand it; I do the same. Not that I could do much if it happens. By the time I am out of the water, they will be long gone with my stuff. So next time when you’re at a beach, lookout for it.

The entrepreneur in you starts forming an idea. Most ideas start with identifying a problem or a need, and in this case, it unfolds right in front of you. So, what can you do?

In my mind, the first thing that popped up is based on something most of us already know. How about some lockers on the beach, in which you can place your valuables, lock it, and take the key with you for a swim. Nothing new here. But why isn’t it done?

The entrepreneur’s brain keeps turning:

  • How much would I charge?
  • How would I manage lost keys?
  • Do I need a licence for that?
  • Do I need to hire space?
  • Who will look after it?

Slowly a high-level solution starts to form. Of course, she won’t be able to answer all the questions right now and why bother? Let the manager deal with it. It’s not the entrepreneur’s problem.

She starts talking to some people at the bar about the idea and generally gets some good responses. But some people seem to be concerned about the licence and the costs involved. These are all points to remember when talking to the manager.

The next day, he meets the other third, the manager and explains her idea. The manager starts taking notes and asks questions. The goal is to identify what we know for sure and what is still just a thought and needs to be further investigated.

All the investigative stuff goes right away on a task list for the worker. Together with the entrepreneur, she starts forming a picture answering the core questions of any successful project and business:

  • What is the value it will create?
  • How many resources will it need, and what?
  • Can this idea grow and with that has a chance to survive for a longer period of time?
  • What is the expected return on a high level?

Not all of those questions can be answered at this stage, but she knows they need to be clear before this can start as a proper project.

Slowly the manager builds up the task list, describes the expected outcome as clear as possible and sets up a meeting with the worker.

Now it is time to instruct the worker to get moving, set a time schedule and regular meetings to refine the answers and add any additional results found during the investigation the worker is tasked with.


I guess this process will give you a good idea about the interactions between each role and how success is created. It’s pretty simple once you get the picture.

The biggest struggle of upcoming entrepreneurs is often that they don’t honour one of the roles and don’t give each role the space and time to do its job.

No role is higher than the other. They all have a part to play in success.

I hope this gives you some idea about the process of success, and I hope you can take something out of this to make your current or next venture a successful one.

Enjoy the ride.



John Di Stefano

An entrepreneur at heart and founder of the Entrepreneur Academy in Brussels, Belgium. He is teaching and supporting entrepreneurs in the skills every entrepreneur needs to create a better life for themselves and the people around them.

Leave a Reply