15 things effective leaders do with extreme consistency (I)

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”.

Most things make no difference. Being busy is often a form of mental laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.

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. 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 de-prioritizing 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.

 

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