This veteran learned these 5 leadership tips in the Navy—they work in corporate America, too
As a combat-decorated former Navy SEAL, Marty Strong spearheaded combat missions and helped create special operations capabilities during his 20 years in uniform. And though Strong left the military decades ago, he still employs the strategies he learned to excel in business today.
Strong, 64, explored several career paths after retiring from the Navy, from being an account vice president to an investment advisor to his current roles as CEO, chief strategy officer, board director, and business investor. However, all of these positions have a common key attribute: leadership.
According to Strong, today's managers and bosses could take a few pages out of the Navy SEAL's book when it comes to effective leadership.
These are his 5 best lessons, derived from the military, for leaders seeking to "improve their strategic planning process" and succeed in the workplace.
Establish a "mission-driven" culture
A company's mission is all about what they do and who they do it for. And developing a team that is dedicated to that mission doesn't only help the company reach goals, but it makes leadership a whole lot easier.
"From a military point of view … anybody that's in a SEAL team or the Special Operations Unit, no matter if you're in the Marines, Air Force, or Army, the focus is the mission," Strong tells CNBC Make It. "And the mission is well understood by everybody and is communicated well, from the top down, something you don't always find in the commercial environment."
"It's really hard to succeed without a culture that's focused on the same set of goals and objectives. And I'm not talking about KPIs and financial metrics … I'm talking about more of an aspirational light at the end of the tunnel."
Be willing to cultivate others
Good leaders are always refining their skills and abilities, but great leaders facilitate opportunities for their teams to grow as well.
"[It's important to] prepare the next wave of leaders. And you do that through training programs. But you have to also follow up on all those training programs with coaching, and eventually, mentoring programs."
Strong says that the training stage consists of "imparting skills and knowledge, which is usually very vocational and technically oriented." Coaching involves giving the team feedback on "how they're performing collectively and individually," and mentoring should be all about "polishing" and "keeping the edges sharp."
Practice 'intellectual humility'
According to Strong, being a Navy SEAL means being "psychologically resilient" and humble enough to take everything as a learning experience, regardless of your status, rank, or accolades.
As a leader in the workplace, it's important to recognize that you'll get many things right — and many things wrong. But remaining humble, self-aware and level-headed is key.
Strong believes that leaders "have to discard all their recent victories and defeats and clear their mind of that mental baggage so they can start thinking about the world, and about information, in real terms."
"Without any of those overly arrogant thoughts of how well you do as a leader or as a decision maker, or the negative thoughts where feel like you're a failure, you'll be capable of soaking in asymmetrical sources of information and inputs, even if you don't necessarily agree with or haven't tried them."
Practice 'intellectual curiosity'
Hand in hand with intellectual humility, intellectual curiosity is a person's willingness and desire to learn new things and dig deeper than the surface, according to BetterUp. Strong says this is "instrumental" in becoming "truly creative"
"Once you've opened yourself up to being humble and listening and looking at learning differently, you can try to shape what the new normal is going to be [within your company]. You can create a new future and change the status quo in some beneficial way."
As a SEAL, Strong says being curious and "nimble" helped him problem-solve and create solutions for complex problems in the force.
Expand your thinking
Strong advises that leaders quit analyzing "to-do lists" and "short-term metrics" to think about the bigger picture. He also says it's important to analyze situations from all angles.
In the military, Strong says this is known as "keeping your head on a swivel," which reminds troops to be alert, aware, and cautious due to potential threats. But this thinking can be beneficial when analyzing situations in the workplace.
"You have to think further out to the horizon. Whether that be two weeks out, four weeks out, 12 months out, or 24 months out," Strong says. "[Ask yourself] what is the world going to look like? What's your life going to look like? What's your organization going to look like? Many have to do that in a 360-degree, situational awareness process."
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