I first learned about effective leadership in chaotic environments as a Navy SEAL. Many, if not all, of those basic principles apply in business and life in general. We all have a different definition of success. But when we think of the more notable “successful” leaders out there, the narrative of their journey to the top can get clouded by the glossy exterior of their current existence. But in reality, people who find the greatest success in any endeavour do so through extreme discipline and consistency.
1 – They know the difference between “activity” and “results”.
According to Tim Ferris, the author of the The 4-Hour Workweek, “Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is often a form of mental laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”
Alternatively, in the Navy SEAL Teams we used to say “find work.” Meaning if you find yourself at the end of your To Do list, that’s not when your contribution to the team ends. Make a new list of priorities and execute – not busy work, but activities that align with team goals.
2 – They wake up early and violently execute.
Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple Inc., starts his day as early as 4:30am to send emails. Jeffrey Immelt, the former CEO of General Electric, says he wakes up by 5:30am for his daily workout routine. Many retired SEALs I know still get up at the crack of dawn to tackle their first workout and get a head start on the day. Not me, I roll out of bed around 9 AM. Just kidding. Always wake up before the enemy!
This of course requires discipline each night. Going to bed earlier isn’t always easy and must also become part of the daily routine.
3 – They focus on making small and continuous improvements.
In the SEAL Teams, our training and the levels of expertise that must be reached in many given fields is unimaginable. So, we say eat the elephant one bite at a time. The same applies on the battlefield. If you have ten priorities, you have no priorities.
Kaizen is the Japanese word for “continuous improvement.” In order to effectively engage in personal and professional development, we must focus on small incremental improvements. Resilience isn’t about brief bursts of aggression in pursuit of short-term gains but rather the commitment to a lengthy grind towards long-term goals.
4 – They live with purpose and make decisions that align with their values.
Great leaders inspire others and effectively align teams behind a concise mission narrative because they first have taken the time to define their own purpose and values. This allows them to lead with authenticity and by a set of values that drives their behavior.
The best combat leaders I’ve ever known always stayed true to their values, even when getting push back from the team. When we (or a team) deviate from our value system, we lose sight of our purpose and make decisions that don’t align with our desired results.
5 – They take care of their bodies.
Mental and physical wellness have a direct impact on leadership ability. Leaders who engage in healthy lifestyles, eat clean, meditate, and exercise regularly make better decisions under fire. And they don’t collapse when running to the sound of gunfire!
In the SEAL Teams, we say that calm is contagious. Staying calm under pressure requires a fit mind and body. This lifestyle also inspires confidence in the leader and the team.
6 – They focus on what is in their immediate control.
Another one of my favorite SEAL mottos is stay in your three-foot world. This means focusing on what is in your immediate control and deprioritizing what isn’t. This isn’t to say we ignore internal and external factors we can’t control, because leadership is in large part about maintaining situational awareness.
Effective leaders focus predominantly on where they, and the team, will have the most impact. This mindset and approach reduces wasted time and energy and ultimately delivers better results.
7 – They ensure all goals are measurable and time bound.
If any goal, personal or professional, individual or team, isn’t measurable or time bound, it’s not a goal. At TakingPoint Leadership, we forge high-performance teams and leaders for driving better business outcomes. One of the ways we do this is by coaching teams to engage in better planning, execution and debriefing.
Any goal or strategic imperative must be clear, concise, measurable, and time bound. Depending on the objective, we’ll also teach the OKR model: Objectives and Key Results. Regardless, the most effective leaders ensure the team is pursuing goals that have a clear intent and that all actions towards mission success are measurable and time bound.
8 – They take ownership and create their success.
They understand that they are responsible for their success and that good luck is not something that magically happens. “Luck” is simply the result of hard work and identifying opportunities. They know that one must earn the right to be successful. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill states, “You are the master of your destiny.” You can influence, direct, and control your own environment. You can make your life what you want it to be.
Owning your battlefield is critical for mission success in combat and essential for business growth and profitability. Leaders must first hold themselves accountable in order to create a culture of accountability within the team.
9 – They surround themselves with people who make them better.
According to Jim Rohn, you are the average of your five closest friends. Successful people know this, and that is why they keep company with mentors and other successful people. In Tribes by Seth Godin, you are encouraged to find your tribe and make a difference in ALL of your lives.
On the contrary, when we allow ourselves to maintain connections with negative people that don’t wish us well, we limit our ability to thrive. So cut the haters from your life and move on. Wish them well, then disengage.
10 – They inspire others to be successful.
Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs had a way of helping others to cultivate their creativity. According to Steve Jobs, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it; they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after awhile.”
Effective leadership isn’t about cultivating a flock of followers who blindly follow the will of the leader. It’s about developing more autonomous leaders at every level of the organization.
11 – They give to causes greater than themselves.
The best leaders find ways to give back to causes they are passionate about. Effective leadership requires life-long learning, the study of leadership, feedback, mentorship, and constant course correction.
Great leaders are humble and believe they deserve nothing but are grateful for everything. The only cure for this wonderful ailment is volunteerism and giving back.
12 – They have a consistent schedule, on weekdays and weekends.
Rameet Chawla, founder of Fueled, believes a consistent schedule helps with prioritization and focusing on what is important. With a consistent schedule, you are better driven to achieve success.
Discipline and accountability are the path to fulfillment and satisfaction. Why? Because disciplined leaders who maintain consistent schedules accomplish more of their individual and team goals.
13 – They have a detailed plan for just about everything.
Before leaving the office at night, Kenneth Chenault, former CEO of American Express, wrote down the top three things he wants to accomplish the next day. He begins each day with this list.
I do the same thing. Before “shutting down” for the day to spend time with loved ones, exercise or just relax, review that day’s list of priorities. When it makes sense, move items not accomplished to the next day. Plan for tomorrow today so you can hit the ground running.
14 – They never procrastinate or make excuses.
This goes back to discipline, accountability, and proper planning. Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Successful people do not take chances, they take action and get the tough assignments done first.
In the SEAL Teams, we don’t have time for excuses. We plan, violently execute, debrief and keep moving forward. Our After-Action Review methodology has no place for excuse-making. It is a critical part of our feedback loop and culture of learning.
15 – They persevere and thrive on adversity.
One of my favorite lines from the Navy SEAL Ethos states: I persevere and thrive on adversity. Simply put, we lean into pain, anxiety and suffering and use it as fuel for our journey ahead.
The most effective leaders constantly pursue greater mental fortitude so they can lead with conviction, confidence and authenticity. The get comfortable being uncomfortable every chance they get.
This article originally appeared at https://www.forbes.com/sites/brentgleeson/2020/06/15/15-things-effective-leaders-do-with-extreme-consistency/#7edab2717791