The best leaders can lead from anywhere--the top, bottom, or middle. It may be counterintuitive, but any leader who doesn't dig in and get their hands dirty won't last long.
In the Navy SEAL teams, this philosophy is ingrained in each candidate from Day One of training, but especially for the officers. Naval officers attempting to successfully navigate the insanely rigorous selection process are taught to lead by example in everything they do. They are expected to be at the head of the pack during runs and swims and managing the obstacle course. This is the fastest way to garner initial respect from the rest of the class--willingly doing what everybody else does, only better. These standards only increase the further you move through the training funnel.
The expectations of great leaders in the corporate environment should be no different. There is a distinct and measurable difference when senior leadership is highly involved in providing support and removing obstacles for the team. Here are the three key ways to get involved.
1. Learn from the bottom.
You should never assume you know everything. The minute you do, you've already failed. Professional development for any leader is critical, so why not leverage the amazing talent you've hired and learn from them? At our company, we have weekly "knowledge sharing" sessions and constant collaboration across all departments. If you're leading the team, you need to get involved and soak up as much knowledge as you can. You'll learn something new every single day, and you'll be better informed when making strategic decisions.
2. Share from the top.
On the flip side, part of the responsibility of someone in a leadership role is to give back through knowledge transfer. You got to where you are by doing some things right, so be sure to pass along your lessons learned so your team can avoid mistakes and excel. Nobody leads--or learns--in a vacuum.
3. Be a servant.
Leading by example involves an element of servant leadership. As a SEAL, you are taught to lead and be led. You train with your team and fight with your team, and you always remain loyal. Your team members will thrive when you provide them the necessary resources to succeed, and you won't know what those are unless you're with them side by side in the trenches and understand what they do every day. They will respect you for your humility, and that respect will go a long way for fueling company growth.
When running a company, you can become consumed with unlimited distractions. Don't forget about the fuel that makes the company thrive: your team. Diving into the trenches and earning its respect will improve your ability to fulfill the organization’s ultimate vision.