Many  of  today’s  leadership  practices  are  rooted  in historical military testing, application, and refinement. But what can business leaders gain from current-day military, specifically Navy, leadership practices that have been honed for years and now are used with today’s more complex, competitive leadership environment? A lot!

The next time you hear a business leader complain about “the new generation worker” and how they cannot motivate them and how they take no initiative, consider this video from the USS Abraham Lincoln.

I had the privilege of spending a weekend aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, about 100 miles offshore as it prepared for a deployment. This aircraft carrier is the proud flagship of the Navy’s fleet and is a floating city.

Over 5,000 sailors live and work on it. They perform the most complex flight operations in the most tumultuous conditions, day and night, with zero degrees of freedom. The cost of error is tens of millions of dollars in damaged Navy assets or even loss of life. No Top Gun movie scene here. This is the real-life danger zone!

This type of environment demands nothing less than fully synchronized teamwork, passionate selflessness, relentless effort, and consistent execution. All this is delivered by sailors with an average age of 20 years old. So, this peak level of performance is achieved with thousands of 18- and 19-year-olds, most of whom did not have a clear direction after graduating high school, let alone have an MBA.

It is mind-boggling when I couch this against clients who are frustrated with their highly educated team’s performance while they are working in nicely appointed, air-conditioned, land-based offices.

At the core of this level of Naval performance is crystal-clear expectations. That’s positive coaching habit #1.

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