Are you a leader? Of course you are. Each of us is a leader. Whether it’s being a leader to your clients, coworkers, team members, friends or your kids, you lead. Your ability to lead can be an asset or detriment to those to whom you do provide leadership. In this article, I will share how to develop a winning culture within your team and explain the critical characteristics successful leaders must possess.
Warrior leadership is a powerful, selfless, motivating and unique leadership style that, if properly studied and practiced, can bring about desired results in your business. The roots of warrior leadership can be found in many places. Much of the warrior pedigree stems from nations, countries, tribes, civilizations, individuals or organizations that perfected the art of creating a “one team, one philosophy, one heartbeat” persona. The heart of warrior leadership ultimately funnels into one trait: selfless love. True warriors always have common goals of protection, service and purpose to create the best for all involved. Many have led but few have done so with the heartbeat of a warrior.
Always go first. The really great leaders always show the path and “go” the path. Imagine being excessively overweight and overstressed. Then try telling your clients that they should live a healthy lifestyle. Impossible! Warrior leaders brave the front lines. They rally the troops and charge forward with confidence, a confidence that breeds hope for all. Trying to teach without authority is called using power. Ruling with power can be destructive. Just take a look throughout history and you will see many examples of failed use of brute power. Although you may see some immediate change, nothing lasting or truly effective should be expected. Do not expect things out of your team members and clients that you don’t model yourself. Instead, use yourself as an example.
Develop the warrior mentality. My favorite example of this is the story of David versus Goliath. I’ll set the scene. Imagine two armies getting ready to face one another on the field of battle. One of these armies is far superior in skill and resources, and they also have on their side a mountain of a man named Goliath. Goliath boldly challenges anyone to a one-on-one battle. If he’s to be defeated, his army will withdraw forever. Under manned and under armed, the smaller army looked for someone to accept this challenge. David, just a young boy, confidently steps forward, and the rest is, as they say, history, as he defeats the giant enemy with a single stone launched from his slingshot.
What’s so special about this? David had the right mindset, and he didn’t play scared. He saw what most called impossible odds as an opportunity. He didn’t focus on what he didn’t have. Instead, he relied on his natural strengths.
In the time of a recession or a slowed economy, it can be hard to feel like you are in control of your surroundings, but one thing you always have control over is your mindset. The warrior leader sees adversity as opportunity, he sees fear as a false emotion appearing real, and he understands that in life, there are no losers, only learners. Edith Armstrong is quoted as having said, “I keep the telephone of my mind open to peace, harmony, health, love and abundance. Then, whenever doubt, anxiety or fear try to call me, they keep getting a busy signal, and soon they’ll forget my number.”
Be selfless and serve. As mentioned, the most important asset of the warrior leader is his ability to emanate love. This is demonstrated when putting a fellow colleague first, placing the team’s purpose before your own, maintaining sincerity in your heart and acting on your true purpose. The people you lead are smart. A client can sense when it’s only about the money to you. The team will know if your search is for power. People will know when your purpose is self centered. The warrior leads with a heart filled with love, a love that reaches beyond the surface. The journey and the victory must be about what can be given, not what can be won and attained for personal gain. The ripple of selfless influence will remain for generations. To the warrior, this is sufficient. A reminder to those whose actions are selfish: we don’t see a U-Haul behind a hearse.
Coach and teach. Great leaders are always looking for opportunities to educate and teach those they lead. The warrior leader also realizes that the largest room in the world is room for improvement. You must create an atmosphere where your clients, within your team and beyond, are always seeking to improve. When given feedback, instinct may be to take offense or to protect your current belief. The warrior understands that feedback is the breakfast of champions. You must be in a constant search to improve. There is no such thing as a perfect game or performance. Perfection can only be found in effort. Give perfect effort to everything you do, don’t take feedback personally and learn to love the art of improvement.
Be strategic, thus creating advantages. Warrior leaders often view life through opportunistic eyes, and they are always incredible strategists. Study your own personal strengths, the strengths of your surroundings, your community and the individuals with whom you collectively work. Formulate a plan in which you use your strengths and advantages. In doing so, you’ll avoid making costly errors. Setbacks can be destructive to all those involved. In your own life, this can be a costly business decision or allowing your client to be exposed to a harmful situation. To avoid situations like these, the warrior leader will look to learn from those who’ve gone before or others who are traveling similar paths. In your own life and career, look for these same opportunities. Seek the help of a mastermind group or find mentors to whom you can look for guidance. Henry Ford, American founder of the Ford Motor Company, once said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”
Motivate. Employees, team members and those who expand the team’s purpose or mission all want one thing: they want to be part of something that works, something that is making a difference, something they can feel proud to be a part of. We all have a desire to be part of something special and to feel as though we’re making a difference, and this is no different for your team. The warrior leader has always understood that the further behind hostile enemy lines you go or the further and deeper your purpose becomes, the greater the solidarity of the team.
Along your path, you’ll undoubtedly come upon difficult days, days that suggest retreat, but it is here that victory is often closest. As Sam Parker tells in his book "212 Degrees," water is hot at 211 degrees, but at 212 degrees, it begins to boil. When water boils, it creates stream, and steam can move a train. It’s the one extra degree that makes all of the difference in the world. In life, we too often stop one degree short of our goal. Your team will look to you for the encouragement to persevere and to press on. In these times, it’s crucial that you positively enforce your counterparts. Motivate and encourage them to reach places they have never dreamed possible. Make an effort to catch them doing something good. Show them that they are valuable.
Create advantages by building strategic alliances. As mentioned before, the warrior is an expert strategist. The warrior will often find victory by traveling unfamiliar routes. If you think your team is comprised of only those who work in your particular place of business, you are at a large disadvantage.
In ancient times, the warrior would lead his cause into unfamiliar territories and quickly look to build strategic alliances. The warrior fully knows that an army alone rears little strength and is vulnerable from multiple directions, but once united with allies, it can overcome seemingly impossible odds. In your journey, you’ll often come upon others who have a similar mission, or equally valuable are those who can strengthen your weak points. In times past, the true warrior leaders never destroyed or set about ruin during their voyage. In fact, they welcomed and helped others along the way by buying goods from surrounding tribes or villages, trading with others and supporting those who at times were weaker than they were. These actions laid valuable groundwork and built relationships that would only strengthen their cause. Often, it was through these relationships that a critical need or void was filled.
Nothing advantageous can be created without action. Ask yourself where your business might have a void or need. What are some ways you can strengthen your strategic alliances? Take action in these areas first by developing a dream list of your strategic partners. Think about media outlets, corporations and local business markets. Start by looking for ways you can better assist or serve them. From there, try offering a free fitness day for their employees or customers. Create a community event the media would find interest in covering. Think big, dream big and play big.
Second, look for more areas where you can serve. Assist a fellow trainer who is in need of a client. Offer an education-filled luncheon. Conduct a free seminar and show attendees the latest kettlebell workout or some foam roller techniques. Taking these steps will spark interest in your market area and also further position you as the local or in house expert.
Lastly, make sure you’re taking care of yourself. It can be easy to miss your own workouts, get stuck in email traffic and neglect other personal needs. As fitness professionals, you give your energy. It’s crucial that you fill up before you give out, or you’ll suffer burnout. Find a fellow trainer who would join you for a workout a few times a week, get outdoors and enjoy a jog or hike. Be a strategist with your time. Make sure to read positive articles and books. Set specific times in which you check emails and phone calls. Devote specific hours to your business growth, thus ensuring you are working ON the business and not solely IN the business.
Build up an unstoppable force around you. Then, when the time is fitting, you will reap benefits in multiple areas, avenues in which you would have never achieved before.
With leadership comes responsibility, responsibility we all share. Throughout our lives, we all lead in some way. It’s said that in the average lifetime, we will influence 10,000 people. The very steps you take today are leaving marks in the sand. I ask you, are you leading a path worth following?
If you're interested in reading more on how to become a warrior leader, check out the following books:
- “Leadership” by John Wooden
- “Leadership by the Book” by Blanchard, Hybels and Hodges
- “Sun Tzu on Execution” by Steven Michaelson
- “Good to Great” by Jim Collins
- “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen
- Parker, S. & Anderson, M. (2005), 212 Degrees: The Extra Degree. The Walk the Talk Company. Aurora, IL.
- ThinkExist.com. “Edith Armstrong quotes.” 1 Dec. 2008