You learn quite a few things going through SEAL training. You learn how to focus. You learn perseverance. You learn the fleeting nature of pain. Most of all, you learn how to summon the last iota of inspiration to carry you through the day.
Effective leaders must choose the right tactic for the right mission, no matter if it’s the boardroom or the battlefield. Inspiring others comes in myriad different forms. Here are nine leadership guidelines to inspire others:
1. Focus on relationships. One of the first quotes I heard upon entering my current career was, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Looking back on my special operations career, the SEALs never performed a single mission without outside support of other governmental agencies or counterparts. Everything was networked, it was all “who you knew” (much like everything else in the world).
2. Leave ego behind. If you really want to influence people, let your actions speak for themselves. It’s a timeless adage that still holds true today, but if you are that awesome at something then you don’t need to tell anyone because they already know.
3. Identify winning. When you know what winning (i.e. the end-state) looks like, all you have to do is zig and zag to get there. To realize the utmost potential and minimize wasted effort, identify exactly what you’re going after and make sure your people do, too. Redundancies arise when communication falters.
4. Use high-powered talent. Overseas, there were times when we only employed a handful of operators because that was all that the mission called for. Similarly, once you narrow down the desired end-state, work backwards to identify who best belongs where. If the same names arise again and again, it’s time to consider succession planning.
5. Set them free. Open the reigns and let the human need for autonomy and relevance flourish. People want to do well and succeed, but what often stifles opportunity is process. Daniel Pink, in his bestselling book Drive, calls this “the purpose motive.” Instead, give people a direction, a timeline and the authority to act.
6. Listen actively. There are two types of listeners: those who seek to understand, and those who seek to be understood. The former ignore their own biases as they patiently wait to understand the other’s viewpoint, whereas the latter nervously wait for you to stop talking so they can talk.
7. Curb your enthusiasm. Overly excited, positive, depressed or negative people tend to serve as social hand grenades, which is why emotional intelligence (EI) is so important. EI is one’s ability to interpret emotions both in oneself and others, and consists of four parts: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management. Curbing your enthusiasm falls smack in the middle of all four because nobody wants to be around any grenade when the pin is pulled.
8. Build your resilience. Displaying just how much you can handle — physically, mentally, emotionally — can be awe-inspiring to others. Everybody likes hearing stories of the parent who lifted a car to save a child, or the uncommon rags-to-riches success story. When you do more, you become more.
9. Speak up. People need to know two things: where you stand on a given topic, and where they stand with you. Animosity and jealousy form when people are uncertain as to how others value them. I’m of the belief that most news is good news because there’s always something to be learned no matter what. Always take something away that makes you a better you.
You want to inspire others to focus on the one source you can manage best: you. Specifically, your actions. Aim to practice at least one of the above items every day and you’ll be amazed at the inspiration that ensues.
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