The Four Essential Actions of High-Performance Leadership

By Alden Mills

Many leadership books talk about the whole organisation, but here Alden Mills talks about the uniqueness of small teams. And he draws upon his experience as a former SEALs team leader and rower. What they have in common is the aspect of being a small-unit team,  and he explains how to recruit the best candidates and how to foster and lead your team.

Key Learning Points

  • The team comes first — there is no time or space for individual heroes
  • Do your best to control what you can (and accept what you can’t)
  • Recruit team members who have complementary capabilities and talents
  • Connect physically, mentally and emotionally with your team members
  • To motivate team members, show them consideration and respect
  • To empower your team members, enable their ongoing education
  • The more your team members care for each other, the more effective your team will be

The CARE Loop

Mills introduces the concept of:

  • Connect
  • Achieve
  • Respect
  • Empower

And considers it the desired dynamic for unstoppable teams

The 5 As

He also talks of basic team goals as the 5 As of achievement:

  1. Aspire
  2. Assume
  3. Assess
  4. Assure 
  5. Appreciate

My takeaway

The Navy SEALs units aim for “over-the-horizon” (OTH) goals. Big goals involve the unknown. They call on teams and their leaders to handle something they can’t yet see and don’t know much about ahead of time.

Likewise, companies need committed, unstoppable teams to achieve OTH goals. The members of these teams must have diverse skills and work selflessly to achieve their objectives. 

An unstoppable team is a closely connected group of “ordinary people doing extraordinary things under difficult circumstances.” The members have different capabilities but share the same goals as well as a commitment to each other.

My perspective

If the book resonated with me in one dimension more than any other — was in the aspect of culture. How many organisations could support unstoppable teams? Why do I ask this? Because, typically, high-performers are attracted to roles that reward for personal excellence. Bonus schemes and promotions are handed out to individuals, not teams. 

Does your culture (and reward and recognition structure) support or hinder team-work? Does it encourage selflessness or self-promotion?