As a Navy SEAL turned serial entrepreneur, I have experienced many failures and a few successes in leadership. Most of the successes, however, haven't come without getting feedback and learning from past mistakes. When writing or speaking about how high-performance teams ultimately achieve success, I like to focus on the notion of leadership at all levels. Not just at the middle or most senior levels. Not designed just for those who have direct reports. But all members of any elite team.
Leadership at all levels is about every individual's innate ability to rise to the occasion and step outside the confines of their job description in order to take on the responsibilities necessary to accomplish the mission. Here are the behaviors and competencies required for high performance teams to be successful.
These attributes apply to leaders and emergent leaders.
Courageousness. But not in the macho sense of the word. Being a courageous leader is about remaining calm under pressure, communicating effectively in chaotic environments, providing resources, removing obstacles, and protecting the team at all costs.
Trustworthiness. Studies show that productivity, income and profits are directly negatively or positively impacted dependent upon the levels of trust within the team. And that has to start at the top. Building an environment of trust is about transparency, consistency, tackling challenges head on, and leading by example in every sense of the word.
Emotional intelligence. This could possibly be one of the most important attributes. Emotional intelligence for leadership at any level involves being self-aware, disciplined, communicative, empathetic, humble, motivated, and passionate.
Motive and inspire. Different types of people are motivated in different ways. It could be generational, experience related, or where they fall within the chain of command. The list is long. It is imperative for leaders to understand the differences and act accordingly.
Embrace change. Otherwise known as adaptability. Change is inevitable. In combat it is the norm. All organizations, especially growing ones, experience change. If they don't they will most likely fail. Great leaders can often predict when change may be needed and take action. They understand the need for that change. And more importantly they are clear and consistent in communicating to the team what the change is all about, why it is necessary, and what the positive outcomes of that change will be. They also help every team member understand what their role is in affecting that change.
Align the team. Team alignment is critical for success.When the team is not aligned there can be many reasons, but ultimately it is the result of a leadership failure. Misalignment is usually the result of a breakdown in communication, lack of consistent direction, lower levels of accountability, and lack of a clear vision. The opposite of all this will result in one team with one fight.
These attributes apply to all team members.
Believe in the mission, vision and values. Although some leaders may find these softer-side elements unimportant and that they don't not translate to the bottom line, it is quite the opposite. A team member's understanding and belief in the mission, vision, and core values carries more weight than one might imagine. When an employee understands the mission and shares the values, they feel more connected which leads to greater self-discipline, collaboration, insight, and collective action towards common goals.
Understand the expectations. Clear expectations are a result of good internal communication and accountability. Each team member needs to understand what is expected of themselves, their peers, and their leaders.
Strive for excellence. Excellence is about being in a constant and diligent pursuit of perfection. It is about attention to detail, perseverance, learning from failure, and getting back up every time you get knocked down, no matter what. This type of mindset is infectious and those around you will begin to exhibit these behaviors as well.
Have a shared sense of purpose. This goes back to a team's collective belief in their mission. In the SEAL teams the mission is clear: purge the world of evil while saving as many lives as we can. Plain and simple. The more simple the mission, the easier it is to believe in and see where one fits within its execution.
Unwavering trust and loyalty. This applies to all. In combat, when bullets start flying, politics and other externalities go out the window. The time for individual achievement is over and it becomes one team, one fight. You are fighting simply to protect the brother on your left and right. Trustworthy organizations operate on a dividend; a performance multiplier if you will, which increases speed and decreases costs.
These behaviors and competencies are not typically innate talents, but rather learned capabilities that have to be worked on and developed over time to achieve higher levels of performance and take collective action towards common goals.