5 Key Principles the Greatest Leaders Share
Leadership traits applicable to all aspects of life from a former Navy SEAL
Your team is your primary mechanism for growth as a leader.
― Mark Divine
To grow to the fullest capacity as a leader, we need to challenge ourselves. Mark Divine, retired Navy SEAL Commander, entrepreneur, and New York Times bestselling author, shares a unique perspective in his book Staring Down the Wolf. Mark discusses proven lessons you need to unlock the full power of your team.
Courage, Trust, Respect, Resiliency, and Alignment. These are the traits of an elite team leader, whether that team operates in Middle Eastern war zones, places of work, or in a smaller family dynamic. The following is a brief overview of these qualities.
Residing in each of us are two wolves. The fear wolf of the mind, and the courage wolf of the heart. The fear wolf embodies all those things which emotionally hold us back from accomplishing our goals — fears, negative biases, and destructive patterns. This is the wolf we need to stare down to set ourselves free.
This is where Divine got the title of the book. Before we begin to feed our positive courage wolf, we have to stare the fear wolf down boldly. We can then commit to courage, embrace risks and train hard to accomplish our goals. The author summons his courage by practicing or training properly. It means embracing a risk-tolerant mindset. It’s a mindset that prepares him for any situation.
The author maintains the best way to build trust is by committing to transparency, humility, and following through. Devine gives an example of this as one of his commanding officers and mentors, William McRaven, committed to going forward with a beach landing exercise, even when he was advised against it due to dangerous weather conditions.
He proceeded anyway despite the advice to call it off. The mission ended with all of his team getting tossed overboard. Some of the team members were hospitalized with broken bones. In many cases, this might diminish the team’s future trust. McRaven took steps to regain the trust that might have otherwise gone overboard with his team.
He did it by being transparent about where he went wrong and acknowledging his poor judgment. He was a humble leader and willing to learn from his team members. He made them feel he was among them rather than above them. He learned from his mistakes, so they would never happen again.
The best way to gain respect from your team is through integrity, clarity, and authenticity. A leader doesn’t gain respect by his title or rank. This is true in the military and the workplace. We must earn respect as a leader. This is another area where it’s critical to stare down the wolf of emotional baggage. Positive and accurate communication are also key elements to gaining respect.
Positive communication helps maintain morale, while accurate communication is the source of integrity. Honesty, consistency, following a strong moral compass, and the willingness to stand up against what’s wrong, even in the face of opposition, are essential. When your team sees that your actions align with your words, that’s when you’re worthy of their respect.
This one is best cultivated through being adaptable and maintaining a positive attitude — positivity is also infectious. Keep in mind failure is inevitable. We all fail from time to time. It’s especially tough on those of us who are known for our attention to detail and expertise in our respective areas.
What SEALs do with failure is accept the defeat and quickly put it behind them. They are resilient and learn from their mistakes. They adapt and refuse to throw in the towel. This is how to prevent future failure.
Resilience is also about having a positive attitude. It’s easy to be optimistic when everything is going as planned. The true test comes when a situation goes sideways, and you’re still able to push down the negative thinking. This is a trait that doesn’t come naturally to most people.
It must be cultivated. Like anything else worth doing — it comes easier with practice. The best remedy is to focus on being adaptable, maintaining perspective, and asking how we adjust and move forward from this point and get over the next obstacle.
The best way to keep teams aligned is through open and focused communication. This does not mean having more meetings to kickoff that next project. Meaningless meetings don’t help align teams. From my experience, these type of meetings only serve to confuse and frustrate us more. Alignment comes from communication that honors transparency and collective learning.
Consider the alignment it requires to get the Covid-19 vaccine administered to countries around the globe. It boggles the mind when thinking about the development, storage, handling, logistics, documentation, dispersion, and communication involved. That’s an alignment challenge if there ever was one to get everyone on the same page.
Alignment can only be accomplished by regularly coming together, learning from each other, and identifying weaknesses and troubling trends before they become major issues. It works for the Navy SEALs. It results in higher confidence, fresh knowledge, aligned teams, and successful missions.
Practice being the best leader you can be. Begin by pushing down any fears, anxiety, and negative thinking. Replace it by developing routines grounded in Courage, Trust, Respect, Resiliency, and Alignment. The next stressful situation you enter, you will be better equipped to navigate. You’ll soon see what a difference it makes when the heat is on and you can still remain cool.