How to Lead Like a Navy SEAL

Navy SEAL

When you read those two words, what comes to mind?

Words like: tough, decisive, driven, fearless, disciplined?

What can leaders learn from the SEALS?

 

Under incredible conditions, Navy SEALS prove their worth by getting the job done. When I meet a SEAL, I am intrigued because I know this is someone who is proven. Recently, when I had the opportunity to interview Brian “Iron Ed” Hiner, about his new book, First, Fast, Fearless: How to Lead Like a Navy SEAL, I knew I would walk away with many lessons I could apply in business and in life.

 

“When leadership is right, you really don’t see it any more.” -Ed Hiner

 

HIRING LESSONS FROM THE SEALS

Becoming a NAVY SEAL means you have overcome all odds. What can corporate leaders learn from the selection process in terms of hiring and recruiting the very best team possible?

Navy Seal Ed HinerWe have identified four major traits that we look for in a perspective SEAL candidate: physical courage, moral courage, problem solving, and what I call “teamability.” Physical courage is obvious, but moral courage does not rank far behind because we are an organization that relies heavily on trust and for our people to do the right thing for our country.

We also want SEALs to be problem solvers who thrive in what we call VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity), an environment often referred to as the “fog of war.” In our Gallop polling, we discovered that chess players are almost four times more likely than non-chess players to successfully make it through Navy SEAL training; chess players are problem solvers, and the board is VUCA writ small.

The last trait that I call “teamability” is a person’s ability to lead and be led, who can move from team to team seamlessly.

 

The 4 Must-Have Traits of a SEAL

1: Physical courage.

2: Moral courage.

3: Problem solving.

4: Teamability.

 

The takeaway of this is that hiring and recruiting needs be very deliberate. Organizations that understand the critical traits they need in their employees, and actively recruit for these traits, will be more successful down the road. Obviously all organizations look for skills and experience, but oftentimes they overlook the fundamental traits they actually need to be the elite organization that they wish to be.

 

“Leadership is something you do with people, not to them.” -Ed Hiner

 

PUT MISSION BEFORE SELF

Could you cover teamability a little more and what that means? What methods do you employ to get people to put “mission before me.”

Teamability requires that leaders and team members put mission and team before their own personal interests. When people know that leaders are selflessly making decisions for the team to succeed, and protecting their people along the way, it sets the conditions for teamability. From the beginning of SEALs training we set conditions to reinforce this concept.

In some ways it’s like we turn the pyramid upside down and take care of the broader team mission first and work our way down to the individual. For example, after we finish a mission, we take care of the teams’ common gear first. Then we all split off to our smaller teams and take care of that gear and issues until we get to the individual. This applies to everyone on the team, rank doesn’t matter; the motto is mission before me. This applies everywhere in the SEAL Teams. During staff meetings SEAL Team issues get addressed first, then the smaller Task Unit issues and so forth. It’s a practiced ritual that develops teamability and mission focus. As for the leaders of team, the rank of importance is the Mission, the men and then me. When it’s time to shower and eat, leaders eat last.

When organizations depend on teamwork it’s critical for them to reward the teams that exhibit this trait. In the SEAL Teams your performance review is heavily skewed toward your teamability; we don’t just give it lip service. We reward the traits that we want, to be the elite organization that we need to be. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of just rewarding individual performance at the expense of critical traits that you need for overall mission success.

 

“Servant leadership means that the team is not about you.” -Ed Hiner

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF HUMILITY

You say, “The biggest enemy of humility is our own ego, which is molded by our fears.” Talk about that interplay between fear and ego.IMG_0089

We are an organization of “Alpha males” and high performers, and it’s easy for individuals in any organization with high performers to fall in love with their own ideas and abilities. Elite teams perform at their best when their leaders are humble. It’s an outward indicator that the leader is willing not to fall in love with his or her own ideas but is instead willing to find the best direction for the mission and the team. When leaders are humble and act selflessly it builds trust, and trust is the invisible thread that holds all elite teams together. When this invisible thread is broken and leaders act in their own self-interest, and don’t engage the skills and talents of the team, results will suffer.

We all have fears, and those fears can contribute to shaping our personalities: fear of failure, not being intelligent, shame, etc. Humility is the antidote to those fears. Elite leaders are not worried about being right; they are focused on the cause-and-effect relationship to get results and accomplish the mission.

I’m not saying that people should completely get rid of their egos so that they dance naked in the halls; I’m saying divorce your ego, yet stay friends. Don’t let your ego run your life. As the saying goes, “Humble people don’t think less of themselves, they think of themselves less.”

 

“Be the cause, not the effect.” -Ed Hiner

 

What qualities do you first notice when someone is leading with humility and acting as a servant leader?

Leading With Others in Mind

 

Who do you think of when you think of a servant leader
What are the traits of a servant leader?
Is it possible for an entire organization to have these characteristics?

 

KEEP READING TO LEARN HOW TO GET THE NEW FREE SERVANT LEADERSHIP E-BOOK

 

I love to watch baseball.  Live, up close:  Hearing the “thwack!” of the bat making contact, feeling the crowd take a collective breath as a ball heads for the outfield, peering through the dust to see if the runner made it to home plate.  There is something incredibly different about being there versus watching it on television.  It’s just not the same reading about the game in the newspaper the next morning.

 

“Servant leaders give more in value than they receive.” -Skip Prichard

 

Make the Choice to Learn

When I was young, I had the extraordinary opportunity to watch a different game.  It was also live and up close.  It was servant leadership at home.  My parents literally took people in from all walks of life, individuals who needed a place to heal for all sorts of reasons.  That childhood experience taught me the incredible lessons of a servant leader.  There’s nothing better than watching servant leaders in action, in person, live in the game.

It was early in my life when I started studying leadership.  Attending seminars and listening to teaching became a success habit.  Even more importantly, I realized what I didn’t know, what I had to learn, what I was missing.  I became determined to learn from those who were further along the leadership journey than I was.  Because of this, I began to seek out leaders and ask them questions.

What I’ve learned is that learning is a choice.  The most successful people I meet are constantly learning.  They realize that they don’t have all the answers.

 

“Servant leaders have your best interest in mind.” -Skip Prichard

 

Look for Opportunities to Learn and Share

I’ve run a few global companies and, as the CEO, have hit home runs and have also struck out.  Still, I’m always excited to keep improving my game.  The learning continues.

Launching this blog a few years ago, I decided to share what I am learning from my own experiences, from books I read, and from thought leaders in many industries.  Many of you have said these articles have helped you, but the real beneficiary has been me.  I learn to be a better leader every time I share one of these ideas.  And I also learn from your comments and engagement and the relationships I have established online.

Leaders realize that sharing and giving to others paves the way for more opportunities.  It reinforces ideas and opens unexpected doors.

Today I want to share a new resource.  It’s my free e-book, Servant Leadership: Leading With Others in Mind.  It is free to anyone who signs up on our e-mail list.  (Note: I will never sell your e-mail address.)  Signing up for these posts will help you become a more widely read, more informed leader.

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“A servant leader cultivates a culture of trust.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Servant leaders are not doormats, nor do they take on all of the work.” -Skip Prichard

 

“A servant leader takes care of himself in order to take care of others.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Servant leaders do not falsely take credit nor practice fake modesty.” -Skip Prichard

 

“A servant leader often realizes that she benefits as much from giving as the receiver.” -Skip Prichard

 

 

A Leader’s Responsibility

 

Max DePree makes it seem so simple:

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. -Max DePree

Let’s break down the wisdom in this quote:

A SERVANT.  A LEADER.

Previously, I shared the nine qualities of a servant leader.  The servant leader has characteristics of both a servant and a leader.  The characteristics are blended together in a harmonious balance.  The result is a servant leader we can all admire.

 

“A servant leader harmoniously blends characteristics of leadership with service.” -Skip Prichard

 

DEFINE REALITY

Defining reality is a huge part of leadership. You want to follow a leader who is honest about the current situation you face as an organization.

A leader should be optimistic but still realistic. If a company is nearing bankruptcy, you want a leader who understands the gravity of the situation—but not one who is frozen by that reality. You want someone who can navigate through the storm and lead everyone to the best possible outcome.

Gain Competitive Advantage Through Servant Leadership

Photo by Matt McGee on flickr.

Twitter continues to amaze me as a way to connect with interesting people from all over.  Months ago, I met Bill Flint and we began a conversation.  Bill is the founder and CEO of Flint Strategic Partners based in Indiana.

Recently, Bill poured his thirty-eight years of business experience into a book on one of my favorite subjects:  servant leadership.  Bill sees servant leadership as a way to distinguish a company.  In fact, the full title of the book sums it up well:  The Journey to Competitive Advantage Through Servant Leadership.servant leadership

I’ve previously written about the characteristics of servant leadership.  Bill’s book includes his own definition and his unique perspective of this type of leadership.

I decided to share a conversation with Bill about his experiences and his work. I liked Bill’s thought that competitive advantage is like a journey, not a destination. And servant leadership is one way to help you on the path.

Bill, your book is filled with wisdom and information for developing leaders.  Let’s focus on just a few areas.

If you want to be a great leader, you need to watch out for certain temptations.  You share six areas servant leaders need to guard against.  Walk us through these areas and why they can trip up aspiring leaders.

  1. Self-Centeredness: Is when the most important person in your life is yourself. All of us struggle with self-centeredness at times. We are born selfish. A good example is to put a couple of two year olds in one room with one toy and you will see it in action. As a leader, self-centeredness says to your people, “It’s all about me, my accomplishments, my title, and you are here to serve me.” Leaders never really fool their people as they can see right through us. Self-centeredness can destroy the chance leaders have for real meaningful relationships with their people and for achieving the results the business needs. People don’t expect perfect leaders, but they want leaders who are real and care about them.
  2. Sense of Entitlement: Is when you believe because you have a title you are special and should be treated differently than others. You are #1 in your own mind.  Servant leaders put their people first. They realize people (the ones who do the work every day) are entitled to have a leader who will lead them with honesty, caring, integrity and encouragement. A sense of entitlement usually leads to destruction. Just ask the Enron executives and Dennis Kozlowski former CEO of Tyco and so many others who have fallen into the “it’s all about me” trap.

9 Qualities of the Servant Leader

Photo by Michael W. May on flickr.

Leading With Others in Mind

At first blush, you may think a servant leader literally takes on the role of a servant. Taken to an extreme, that definition would look like this:

As you pull into work, the leader meets you at your car, opens your door, and welcomes you to the office.  Maybe the leader gets you coffee mid-morning and drops by in the afternoon to see if you need anything.  When you need assistance on a project, or maybe just someone to do the grunt work, there your leader is, waiting for you.

No, that isn’t servant leadership.

 

“Servant leaders lead with others in mind.” -Skip Prichard

 

Servant leadership is a blend and balance between leader and servant. You don’t lose leadership qualities when becoming a servant leader.

A servant leader is one who:

1. Values diverse opinions.

A servant leader values everyone’s contributions and regularly seeks out opinions.  If you must parrot back the leader’s opinion, you are not in a servant-led organization.

 

“Servant leaders regularly seek out opinions.” -Skip Prichard

 

2. Cultivates a culture of trust.

People don’t meet at the water cooler to gossip. Pocket vetoes are rejected.

 

“Servant leaders cultivate a culture of trust.” -Skip Prichard

 

3.  Develops other leaders.

 

The replication factor is so important.  It means teaching others to lead, providing opportunities for growth and demonstrating by example.  That means the leader is not always leading, but instead giving up power and deputizing others to lead.

 

“Servant leaders give up power and deputize others to lead.” -Skip Prichard

 

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4.  Helps people with life issues (not just work issues).

It’s important to offer opportunities for personal development beyond the job.  Let’s say you run a company program to lose weight, or lower personal debt, or a class on etiquette.  None of these may help an immediate corporate need, but each may be important.