Leaders—true leaders—aren’t average people, according to Jeff Boss, author of Navigating Chaos: How To Find Certainty in Uncertain Situations and former Navy SEAL who helps business teams find clarity. (Article written for Forbes)

The average person doesn’t choose to swim upstream while others swiftly float downstream, or zig when others choose to zag. But having the courage, character and confidence to enter into the abysmal unknown and create value—personally and organizationally—for others is exactly what constitutes leadership and exactly what defines them as leaders.

The motivation to grow, to become a better version of yourself and “show up“—which is a choice in itself— better than how you showed up yesterday is an ongoing battle. Sustaining your competitive advantage as a leader, as a team, and as an organization is a daily grind, but if you don’t live up to the purpose that defines you as a leader then you lose the war—of “relevance.”

Image credit: Flickr

Image credit: Flickr

Thirteen years in the SEAL Teams taught me a lot about leadership, teamwork and personal choice. What’s been more eye-opening since leaving the teams, however, has been the transferability in lessons learned between the special operations community and business. Here are five lessons I want to share with you for the taking:

1. Yesterday doesn’t count.

At the risk of sounding cheesy (don’t worry, I’m already over it) I’ll share the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training motto, which is “the only easy day was yesterday.” Meaning, that yesterday was easy because it’s over, now you have today to focus on—or worry about, depending on the perspective you choose. Last quarter’s earnings, no matter how good or bad they were, are gone. Forget about them. Look ahead and focus on the next target.

2. Prioritize yourself.

You can’t manage or lead others until you know how to manage or lead yourself. What this looks like is making the right personal choices that serve your role, whether it be personal or professional. If exercise is important to you but you find every excuse to avoid it, it’s time to do one of two things: A) redefine your values or B) make exercise part of your routine.

The most successful people don’t “pencil in” exercise when windows of opportunity open, they open those windows themselves by scheduling their workouts into their daily routine. If this means waking up an hour earlier, do it. The sense of accomplishment yielded from your efforts will build the mental toughness you need to hone the mental edge, and will have a snowball effect on your self-confidence. Remember, every day counts, and if you don’t seize the opportunity to improve, your competitor will.

3. Strive to become better, not the best.

Every week in BUD/S for six glorious weeks we conducted a two-mile timed ocean swim where each student was paired with a swim buddy. In the off chance that a swim pair were to encounter a shark or other reptilian force of nature, the plan was to stab your swim buddy and then swim like hell in the opposite direction (not really but this was the ongoing joke). Being the fastest swimmer in the water didn’t matter. What mattered was being faster than the guy next to you.

The takeaway here is to have identifiable benchmarks for how you’re doing against the competition. I don’t have enough fingers to count how many times I’ve heard from clients “I’m not sure” when asked what their competition (in the marketplace) looks like. The business landscape of today has a funny knack for changing on a dime, and if you’re unaware of what your competitors are doing then you’ll soon find yourself not competing at all (because you’ll be irrelevant).

4. Hire for fit.

Too often hiring managers look for the brightest, shiniest ball of competence in their applicants, such as the recently graduated MBA who will fit nicely into the next job opening without any need for additional training. Yes, competence is great, but skill without will (in the context of character) is a loose firehose—it’ll blast out hundreds of pounds of pressure per square inch but spray everybody in its path. If you want the recipe for success, it looks like this: hire for character, train for competence, coach for performance. It’s simple, it’s effective and you won’t go wrong.

5. Be humble.

There’s nothing worse than hearing somebody tell you how great they are. Humility doesn’t mean being passive or abdicating authority, it means subjugating self-interest for a greater purpose–such as listening. Don’t be that guy (or girl) who talks just to show everyone how smart your. Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care, and once they know how much you care, then they’ll see how smart you are.

Practicing the above leadership behaviors will cultivate not only better personal performance, but better business

read more at forbes.com