Many leadership lessons can be learned by observing and studying the United States Armed Forces. Companies big and small turn to the military to learn how to better lead their teams, accomplish their goals, and execute their plans. I was reminded of just how much can be learned from our solider’s this weekend when I saw Lone Survivor at the theater. Of course Hollywood has a way of turning a story into a blockbuster film by adding dramatic elements that may or may not have actually happened but at its core Lone Survivor offers several lessons we can all learn from regardless of profession.
No matter what you do for a living you can be a leader. The SEAL creed says, “We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.” Whether a Petty Officer, Captain, or Lieutenant every solider is expected to lead and be led. In business this can be seen in the execution of plans handed down from the executive team, up to and including the initiative someone takes beyond the scope of their job because something they saw needed to be done and they did it…for no other reason that it was the right thing to do.
I’ve blogged previously about accountability. No where is accountability more visible, and demonstrated with authenticity, than by our Navy SEAL teams. “We demand discipline. We expect innovation. The lives of my teammates and the success of our mission depend on me – my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail. My training is never complete.” How many in the business world live this philosophy? Do you believe your technical proficiency is critical to your success or the success of your team? Which do you place first? Are you willing to improve your skills even if it requires you to take action after hours, in the evenings, on the weekends? All for the sake of your team’s success?
Finally, how many in business give up when things become difficult? You stop making sales calls because you’ve already made 20 in a row and need a break. Or you put off a customer until tomorrow because you don’t feel like getting into a problem at 4:45 pm knowing it will take you beyond the closing bell? “I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. 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.” Do you quit too easily? What are you doing to ensure you’re in the best shape you can be, mentally and physically, to meet the demands of your job? Do you get up every time you hit an obstacle or do you take some time off?
Recently I had the privilege of having some 1:1 time with General Stanley McChrystal. Now retired and running his own consulting and leadership development firm, I asked him what the biggest difference is he sees between the military and business. His reply? “In business no one dies from a bad decision or mistake.” Talk about putting things in perspective.
Check out the SEAL creed. Read it. Think about it. Challenge yourself to push your limits, your boundaries, your abilities. Take accountability for who you are, what you do, and the results you produce. And above all, thank your lucky stars that there are those that do possess the mental and physical toughness to protect our freedom…no matter what the cost.