Antonio Conte believes Inter's hard work is paying off as they target a first Serie A title since the 2009-10 season.
The Nerazzurri sealed a fifth consecutive top-flight win on Sunday, with goals from Romelu Lukaku, Matteo Darmian and Alexis Sanchez securing a 3-0 victory over Genoa at San Siro.
It was Inter's sixth straight top-flight win against Genoa without conceding a single goal – the first time they have achieved this against any opponent in the competition.
The result moved them seven points clear of Milan at the Serie A summit, although Stefano Pioli's side had the chance to rein them in with victory over Roma later on Sunday.
Conte was pleased with his side's display and said his players deserve recognition for being this season's standard-bearers ahead of Juventus, who have won the last nine titles.
"We played against a Genoa side in great shape," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.
"We had the right approach, allowing Genoa little other than a few crosses. We scored three goals, [Genoa goalkeeper] Mattia Perin had to make several big saves, so we are happy.
"All the work is paying off. It had already started to last year, but the team is developing belief in its capabilities, understanding the situations both on and off the ball, when to be aggressive, when to hold possession.
"These are Inter players, they must always have the ambition to win. It has been many years since Inter won anything, we came very close last season [they finished one point behind Juve], despite the fact it was my first year.
"In previous years, the gap with Juventus was a good 15 points for Inter. So, if we want to be objective and calculate the gap from the leaders and Inter before I arrived, last season was already an enormous step forward.
"I think we simply continued the project and we are doing something important, but there are 14 games to go.
"We have to continue like this, knowing the team have grown in every way, that we created wonderful synergy and empathy between everyone here, but winning is the aim."
Inter endured a disappointing Champions League campaign earlier this term, finishing bottom of Group B having won just one of their six games.
Conte believes that disappointment could well have provided the impetus for their Serie A title challenge, acknowledging it forced them to raise their game.
"I think we went out of the Champions League undeservedly, but that made us look inside ourselves and realise we all had to raise the bar, to be more competitive," he added.
"If we had been in the Champions League right now, I think we could've had our say in that tournament."
Inter travel to Parma in Serie A on Thursday before hosting Atalanta four days later.