Headline Image: Five Ways To Lead Like A Navy SEAL
Navy Seals have always had this air of mystery to them. But they’re not as secret as they used to be.
They weren’t open and transparent about their line of work for obvious reasons. But they decided to approach their lack of public information differently when they realized it was hurting their ability to recruit SEALs.
Nobody knew much about the Navy SEALs, their mission, or what they were truly about. Revealing that through recruitment became a cultural transformation within the military. Not only could they now get the word out to “market” this position, but they could also encourage current SEALs to put this invaluable experience on their resume.
So what could we learn from them when they pulled the curtain back?
Brent Gleeson is a Navy SEAL combat veteran and author of Taking Point: A Navy SEALs 10 Fail-Safe Principles For Leading Through Change. Upon leaving SEAL Team 5, Brent turned his discipline and lessons from the field to the world of business. He now speaks and writes on topics ranging from leadership and building high performance teams to culture and organizational transformation.
Brent grew up in Dallas where he studied finance and economics and even worked as a financial analyst after college. But his career path completely changed when he started training with a friend who wanted to be a SEAL.
Image: General Navy Seal training program/guys going through training
While Brent’s intention was to train with his friend for the fun of it, he suddenly became fascinated with the path. So he quit his job and enlisted in the Navy.
It was a huge risk for Brent because if he didn’t make it as a SEAL, he would still be stuck in the Navy. But he’s always been about taking calculated risks, so he went for it anyway.
He left the military in 2008, but he took with him important lessons on leadership and business transformation.
Five Leadership Traits Navy SEALs Can Teach Us
- Mental Fortitude
Navy SEALs tell those in training that success in the program is a conscious decision. You’ll make up your mind whether you’re going to pass or fail. It’s totally up to you.
Brent says most of those who quit are choosing to quit. Those who stick around learn that you can actually build your mental toughness muscles by doing something that sucks every single day.
Image quote: “Embrace the suck.” – Brent Gleeson
Such a big part of their training is about testing measurable qualities of grit and resilience. And that all comes down to pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.
Lean into the pain, don’t try to move away from it. Embrace it and maintain a positive middle attitude and mental fortitude. Accept the opportunity to fail, to be rejected, to travel outside your comfort zone, and watch your comfort zone expand.
Brent says becoming more resilient is also a choice. When you choose to look at adversity in a totally different light, you naturally make different choices in how you respond to the adverse situation.
You can either recoil in fear and depression or you can get past that initial fear and disappointment to move into a forward-thinking action plan of how you’re going to mitigate the negative aspects.
People who can really thrive in adversity bounce back from those adverse situations stronger than they were before. And this applies to anything in life, not just in business. It’s something every great leader has in common.
Sailors that pass the grueling SEALs training program are the ones who truly want to be there. For these people, it’s not about a title or prestige, they truly want to serve.
Image: another SEAL training photo
From Walt Disney to Oprah Winfrey, the most successful people in our world have had a long string of failures. The only difference between them and those who quit was how deep their passion ran.
Instead of falling prey to disappointment and negativity, they’re able to stay focused on the long-term vision. This goes back to saying yes more to seemingly scary things, taking calculated risks, and finding the magic outside your comfort zone.
Image quote: “Gradually, you become comfortable being uncomfortable.” -Brent Gleeson
The culture constructed around an organization can also help build a strong, passionate leader. That’s part of the reason why the Navy SEALs stopped being so secret about what they had to offer.
When you define the foundation of the organization; the Why, the purpose, the mission, you engage your employees and leadership team at a whole new level.
Does everyone know where you’re going as a company? Don’t assume everyone is accurately mission-aligned. Don’t wait until you’re company is tested under fire to find out whether your team has a good grasp of the mission or not.
The culture of an organization is the foundation of everything you do. Not to mention, a good, solid culture usually leads to better customer retention and profitability. Organizations that make this a priority, perform better financially.
- Servant leadership
This is probably the most important quality in a great leader. A servant leader is someone who is a lifelong learner and someone who craves transparent feedback from others.
Have you ever asked your team how you’re doing as a leader? Have you ever asked how you can function better as a person or as a company? Do you want and can you accept real feedback?
When you team knows that you’re able to own your strengths and weakness then they’re more likely to own theirs as well. When Brent got transparent feedback from his team, he created a presentation on here’s what I heard from your feedback and here are my action steps to make those adjustments.
You have to listen to what your team is telling you. It will lead to deeper self awareness, empathy, and humility.
Navy SEALs aren’t so mysterious anymore, so learn from what they learn in what is probably the most difficult training program around today. Which of these qualities of leadership can you work on this week?