This is a guest post by Erick Sabelskjöld. Thank you for contributing this inspiring article and providing us new insights on 5 core ideas every leader should abide by.
I was lucky enough to start my career in the United States Navy stationed in beautiful San Diego NAS North Island. I knew I would learn a lot in the military. What I didn’t know was how my friendship and training with Navy Seals would shape me to be a better man, and leader than I could have ever imagined.
Leadership, culture, team, are words these days and its too bad they are often just used as catch phrases. In my expertise there is a very small number of people and companies that actually practice positive effective leadership, team and culture.
For example take this quote from the Navy Seal Creed…. What if a company had this posted in the office for everyone to read anytime during the day. What kind of impact would this have on the work place the culture of the company and the direction of the leadership?
“I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation (Company) expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies (Competition). If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”
To give a little more context to this statement; SEALs have died in combat, but not one has ever been captured or left behind enemy lines.
I learned some core values from my experience with Navy Seals: never quit, keep it simple, don’t accept half ass, lead by example to name a few.
I focus on 5 core ideas I learned form Navy Seals when it comes to being an outstanding leader:
1.There are no bad teams, only bad leaders
Good leaders inspire and drive teams towards a common goal. Leaders create a culture of empowerment and accountability. That is why when leaders fail, the motivation of the entire team falls and affects the entire company performance.
“The only meaningful measure of a leader is whether the team succeeds or fails. Effective leaders lead successful teams that accomplish their mission and win. Ineffective leaders do not.” – Jocko Wilink (Former Navy Seal Commander), EO
Traits that distinguish a bad leading from a good one.
Inability to define and achieve team goals
Not being a good mentor
Not being virtuous with team members
Not upgrading oneself
Only focusing on the negatives and not rewarding others
2. Practice Professional Humility.
Professional humility allows for openness of communication, and a true leader knows that good ideas and great wisdom are not limited to rank or tenure. A humble leader is not boastful of his/her accomplishments. They act with decisiveness and integrity, and inspire through actions and not publicity.
For a Navy Seal this means reconinizing you wont have the solution to every problem. You are taught in the seals to be a team and to rely on your team to find a solution. If you fail to recognize this in battle someone can be killed.
If a ranking SEAL officer cannot allow each member a voice, or is afraid to lose control, he jeopardizes the entire team and HE becomes the liability. If personal insecurities are allowed to interfere with his ability to pass the baton, as you will, he is not an effective leader and is released from the program.
Having all the answers and knowing everything will never make you a great leader. Allowing others to have input, and understanding great ideas can come from anywhere at anytime helps make you a great leader. This also makes people want to follow.
3. Suck it up.
“The only easy day was yesterday.”
The Navy SEAL is made to program you to be very uncomfortable and learn how to “suck it up” and keep moving forward. You are taught very fast that life is not fair in SEAL training when instructors pick out cadets at random and punish them with “Sugar Cookies” trust me it is anything but sweet.
I had the wonderful pleasure of doing this when I lost a bet late one cold evening on La Jolla Beach. It goes like this……
You have to run, fully clothed into the surfzone and then, wet from head to toe, roll around on the beach until every part of my body was covered with sand. … I had to stay in my clothes the rest of the night–cold, wet and sandy.
Life will never be perfect especially in a leadership role but you have to suck it up and lead by example be positive and find a solution.
4. Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS)
In the SEALs they have a saying “keep it simple, stupid.” KISS is a mandate to steer away from over-complicating things and instead seek the simple, easy to execute solution. Simplicity is a powerful principle that allows us to channel our energy like a laser beam and avoid getting stuck in the rut of rigid thinking and having no results.
I cant count the number of times I have started working with a startup and the founders tell me their platform or SAAS software is so complicated and high tech it will take me months to learn. I usually have it worked out in a few days and selling the shit out of it. They always ask the same thing, “how can you sell it and we cant”. Its simple…. people don’t want to buy complicated.
The late Steve Jobs, quoted in a recent WIRED Magazine interview, states beautifully:
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. When you start looking at a problem, it seems really simple—because you don’t understand its complexity. And your solutions are way too oversimplified, and they don’t work. Then you get into the problem and you see it’s really complicated. And you come up with all these convoluted solutions. That’s where most people stop, and the solutions tend to work for a while. But the really great person will keep going and find the key underlying principle of the problem and sort of come full circle with a beautiful, elegant solution that works. And that’s what we wanted to do with Mac.” (Wired Magazine, November 2011)
Navy Seal training is disciplined, focused and results driven. Each member of the Seal team is a leader, and although they are military and retain a chain of command, each member is capable of picking up the gauntlet when necessary and assumes the leadership role.
Leadership is not a matter of age, gender, or even title and ranking. It is an attitude of confidence, the ability to make decisions, and the art to communicate your goal so others will follow your direction. In life, each of us is capable of being a leader!
In order to empower others, you must decentralize the command structures and give ownership away to your team.
Once that is done, the team will feel more empowered to make their own decisions with that team and goal in mind. These teams find it easier to see and accomplish the goal because everyone is empowered to move forward, not just those who are in charge.
Take a Risk! Think about how many important lessons you learned in life from taking a risk and making mistakes. Mistakes are the best teachers just try not to make them too often.
Accept responsibility for your actions, and allow them to do the same. Right or wrong, a leader accepts responsibility, and allows those around them to make mistakes as well.
Everything in life there has consequences, some good and some bad. You have to be able to handle the mistakes as easily as you take the bows.
Face the Music. Navy Seals teach each other that the leader is responsible for the actions of the team. The greatest pressure is on the leader, who accepts the consequences on behalf of everyone, and assumes the responsibility for their success, or failure.
This is a very short list of what makes a great leader and one of the reasons why truly great leaders are so hard to find. However any one can be a great leader they just have to have the capacity and drive to want to be great for themselves and the others around them.
“Cowards never start. The weak never finish. Winners never quit.”
Author: Erick Sabelskjöld, Sr. Sales & Business Development Manager at Shark-Sales, Mentor at Startupbootcamp
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