I relate starting businesses to leading SEAL platoons—you must be a jack of all trades and a master of very few things. However, those “very few things” that you are master of are critical to your survival. In the beginning, you might be the “master” of your idea, but over time, if you’ve done your leadership job correctly, you’ve attracted and hired better “masters” than yourself at helping turn your idea into reality. Think about it for a second, do you think Mark Zuckerberg, founder of FaceBook, is still the top programmer in his business? Most likely not. Incidentally, it’s the same for leading SEAL platoons—the best shooters are not the platoon commanders; they are the snipers who take the most shots.
All entrepreneurial journeys have this transitional moment when your team begins to multiply from your sitting in your garage, toiling away, to perhaps three or four people sub-leasing some back-office cramped space. At first, it’s hardly noticeable, because everyone is doing so many different tasks just to keep the proverbial lights on in your fledgling start-up. But then, a major obstacle confronts your small multi-tasking team—an obstacle so big that three of your four teammates throw their hands up in despair and say out loud, “we’re finished” or “we’re done for” or maybe a few expletives while they start thinking about retreating back to their less-than-desirable corporate roles. This is the moment you become a true entrepreneur—the moment when you convince your teammates to keep going and learn to be unstoppable.
Master These Three Unstoppable Leadership Actions
This unstoppable moment, as I like to call it, can happen anywhere from start-ups to SEAL missions, when a team is confronted with doubt so strong that it overshadows your dream (or mission) and lures your teammates’ focus from determination to despair. Embrace this moment, because this is when you transition from cheerleader to unstoppable leader. There are three essential actions all unstoppable leaders do. It does not matter your field of expertise or industry focus or background—if your start-up depends on people, then you must be a master of these three unstoppable leadership actions:
- Getting people to believe in themselves.
- Teaching people things that help THEM succeed.
- Pushing people beyond their preconceived limits.
In much the same way that my first Navy SEAL instructor would tell our class in his deep Southern accent, “It ain’t complicated, it just hard,” the same axiom applies with leading companies. The hard part is remaining consistent. You must be consistently on watch for people doubting themselves, their efforts, the mission, each other, etc. You must be also be on alert for sharing lessons learned so they don’t make the same mistake you or someone else has already made. In SEAL Team, those mistakes could get people killed, so sharing lessons learned isn’t just a must it is a mandate. The biggest challenge you will confront within yourself and your teammates are those demons of doubt. They come in all forms and they lead you to the same place—the comfort zone of mediocrity—the place where you hear, “it’s good enough” or “that’s too hard” or “we can’t.” Doubt knows no bounds and lulls the best of us into a self-righteous fog of complacency.
Become an Unstoppable Leader
The true role of an entrepreneur isn’t proving to the world their idea is the best—it’s getting their team to show the world they have the best solution. Entrepreneurship is a team sport (and yes, it is an athletic event too—wear a heart rate monitor at your next sales meeting—I’ve done it!), and the most critical role all entrepreneurs must master is how to be an unstoppable leader. Here are three tips to help you on your leadership journey:
- Building believers of themselves—be vigilant and active at calling out a job well done. Find examples of people doing things better than you, and let everyone on the team know about it. Remember, your job is to build up others, not yourself—check your ego and seek out excellence.
- Teaching success—nothing says “I care about you” more than spending time teaching about tools that will help teammates succeed. Be the champion of what I call “educational engagement”—educate and engage. Don’t preach—instead do what we do in SEAL Team: “teach and help them to beach”—in other words, give them a new tool and show them how to use it (i.e., help them get to land and become proficient at it).
- Pushing limits—arguably the most difficult one because this requires people to struggle. Define your big hairy scary goal and connect them to it emotionally. (See my Outcome Accounts in Unstoppable Teams for building emotional connections to a goal.) Give people the space for them to explore and dream how they can do it—sprinkle in relevant stories of other entrepreneurs doing the unbelievable, and continually remind them of the “why” behind their efforts.
Build an Unstoppable Team
Unstoppable leadership only comes from encountering seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and then gaining the experience and confidence of overcoming those obstacles. Roadblocks are there for a reason—if it were easy, then everyone would be an entrepreneur. Obstacles occur when entrepreneurs are doing what they are supposed do: pushing boundaries. And when this occurs, I want you to smile as you roll up your sleeves and gather your teammates, because you are about to gain the keys to the entrepreneurial kingdom—building an Unstoppable Team!
Press on my fellow entrepreneurs—the world needs you!
Go forth, team-up, and make greatness happen!
Unstoppable Teams: The Four Essential Actions of High-Performance Leadership Unstoppable Teams is the handbook for how to build care-based teams that will push people to achieve more than they ever thought possible.