This is a common theme in the military and a philosophy embraced by good leaders. It embodies the reality that if leaders have built a great team and are providing sound leadership, there is no reason the team can't succeed and win.
In their New York Times best-selling book, Extreme Ownership, former Navy SEALs and co-authors Jocko Willkin and Leif Babin provide a simple but fascinating example of this. When Leif spent time teaching the junior officer leadership training course he would often fill in as the Officer in Charge during Hell Week. During Hell Week, the students are divided into seven-man boat crews and spend much of their time performing all kinds of competitions against the other crews. It pays to be a winner!
During one particular Hell Week, the instructors were noticing that one of the crews was consistently winning every races while another was consistently losing. The losing crew started to fall apart. The leader was blaming the crew members. The crew members were blaming each other. Bickering ensued. Nobody, including the leader, believed they could win.
The instructors discussed this and decided to try an experiment. They swapped the two leaders, sending the winning crew's leader to the losing crew and vice versa. And guess what happened? Under new leadership, the losing crew consecutively won the next few races. The crew that had been previously winning was however hot on their tails in every race. What does this tell us?
The leader with the driven mentality had the ability to instantly create a winning team. The boat crew that had previously been winning and was assigned the leader with the defeated mentality still came in second in every race. Why? Because their previous leader had built a great team that knew how to win.
When teams and organizations in any environment aren't succeeding, it's because their leaders are failing to do there five things:
Set and Achieve Goals
This is a leader's number one responsibility. Whether is it sales, growth, profitability goals or all of the above the business leader exists to achieve the goals for which they are responsible. This means the leader needs to have ownership over many areas including people, products, services, productivity, finances, competition and their marketplace. The leader doesn't have to wear all of these hats directly, but success in these areas rolls up to that person.
Solve Problems and Make Decisions
Any goal obtained will most likely have had a series of obstacles that were overcome and tough decisions that needed to be made in order to succeed. But the leader isn't on an island by herself. Relying on the team is imperative. Without a team, there is no leadership.
Prioritize and Stay Focused
Time is a leader's most precious commodity. And there is never enough of it. Prioritization of goals and tasks is imperative for winning. If there are five top priorities, there are really none. Deploying the appropriate resources to the right areas of the business at the right time for the greatest impact is the key.
Believe and Inspire Others to Believe
The team won't believe in the mission if the leader doesn't believe in it. The leader must exhibit total ownership over the mission and vision and consistently communicate this to the team so they both understand and believe in the direction. If the team doesn't believe in the mission and objectives it's either because the leader doesn't project confidence in the plan or it hasn't been explained well enough.
Perform and Get Results
At the beginning of Extreme Ownership, Jocko and Leif make a great point. Many leadership books and coaches talk about the various traits one must exhibit to be a great leader. At the end of the day it boils down to being effective or ineffective. You are either accomplishing the mission or not.
There are no bad soldiers under great generals. It's that simple.