How to Be a Great Leader: The 2 Actions for Success

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Way of the SEAL" by Mark Divine. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you struggling to keep up with the unpredictable work world? How can you be a great leader in a time of uncertainty?

In The Way of the SEAL, Mark Divine discusses actions that will help you successfully lead your business. Additionally, you’ll learn to respond to factors beyond your control because the work world is always changing.

Find out how to be a great leader by taking two important actions.

Action 1: Set a Strong, Clear Mission

Divine says that when you start a new business in today’s unpredictable, ever-changing work world, you can mitigate the risk of failure and increase your organization’s resiliency by having a strong, achievable company mission that keeps you and your team focused on your objective. A clear mission makes it easier to determine where to target your resources so you don’t squander them, which helps you understand how to be a great leader and adapt to new changes.

A strong mission is:

  • Simple and achievable 
  • Important to you and your company
  • A strong fit for your time, resources, and the talents of your team
  • A good return on investment (in other words, the outcome will make the time and money you put in worthwhile)
  • Timed well (new and needed in the market now)
  • Easy to communicate to your team  

Communicate Your Goals Effectively 

To lead your business successfully, you have to communicate your mission clearly to every person helping execute it. When you help your team understand your mission and their role in making it happen, you eliminate confusion about who needs to do what. This enables everyone to focus on their job and work together to achieve the big-picture goal.

Divine says the most effective way to communicate your mission is to frame it as a compelling story that’s relatable and easy to understand. For example, to tell the story of a business you’re launching, talk about your big picture idea, the product or service you want to sell, and the path you and your team will take to make it happen. Brief your team on their roles, including specific steps each person will take to execute the mission and what to do if things don’t go according to plan.

Action 2: Embrace and Adapt to Change

Divine says that to successfully lead in a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous), business leaders must stay one step ahead of their competitors. To do this, proactively seek out and adapt quickly to change, be confident, and let go of things that don’t work.

Act Quickly and Proactively to Change

Divine says that to thrive as a leader in an ever-evolving landscape, you have to be proactive, not reactive, to be aware of developments on the horizon that could compromise or enhance your work. To do this:

1. Act quickly and decisively. When you act fast in the face of change, you don’t get hung up on things that aren’t working. This also allows you and your team to identify and take advantage of cutting-edge opportunities. 

To act quickly and decisively, foster trust with your team and set up standard operating procedures. Building trust encourages healthy risk-taking, problem-solving, and innovation. Standardizing routine parts of work life—like office communication protocols and regular planning meetings―streamlines operations so your team can act fast and confidently tackle new challenges as they arise. 

2. Be on the lookout for threats and opportunities. When you’re perpetually attuned to what’s going on around you, you’re less likely to get caught off guard, more aware of opportunities you can take advantage of, and better prepared to predict your competition’s next move—which will help you stay ahead of them and lead successfully.

To practice attuning yourself to your surroundings, consistently pay attention to what’s going on around you when you’re in public spaces. For example, when you’re at the grocery store, scan the room and take note of things that seem out of the ordinary. Are most people moving quickly or slowly? Does anyone stand out for rushing? 

Divine recommends that you regularly practice this skill in every space until this heightened state of awareness becomes part of you, then apply it to your business. For example, look at the market around you: Are your competitors doing things differently from normal? Can their actions negatively impact your work or open opportunities for a new path forward? 

Be Confident by Changing Your Language

Divine says that building your confidence will help you more effectively navigate a rapidly changing work world and be a stronger, more successful leader. To do this, regularly pay attention to your language and choose positive, active words instead of words that conjure up images and feelings of weakness and uncertainty—which undermines your confidence and others’ confidence in you. 

For example, don’t say you’ll “try” to do something, which conveys doubt. Instead, say that you’ll “definitely achieve results.” This instills confidence that you’ll succeed. Practice this regularly to build sustained feelings of confidence and inspire others’ confidence in you.

Let Go of What Doesn’t Work

Divine says that in a VUCA work world, leaders can’t waste time on outdated ideas, plans, or products and services. The moment you realize a plan isn’t working, take a calculated risk and shift to a different plan—even if it’s not fully formulated. If your plan fails, view that failure as a chance to learn. Then, wipe the slate clean early and often to build confidence in your ability to meet new challenges, move forward and innovate more quickly, and outwit competitors who fail to do the same. 

To get comfortable shifting gears without a perfect plan:

  • Try something different from what you’d normally do.
  • If you fail, think about how to apply what you’ve learned from that experience to your next attempt.
  • Try again, implementing changes from lessons you’ve learned.
  • Repeat this process until you succeed.
How to Be a Great Leader: The 2 Actions for Success

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Way of the SEAL summary:

  • A former Navy SEAL's strategies to help business leaders
  • A mind-body technique that combines yoga, martial arts, and SEAL training
  • How to bolster and harness your mental fortitude

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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