The Winning Leader

“There are no shortcuts in life – only those we imagine”

Signalman First Class Douglas Munro provides covering fire to evacuating Marines at Guadalcanal. He was killed in action during this firefight after ensuring that all of the Marines were safe. He became the only Coast Guardsman to ever be awarded the Medal of Honor.


Everyone wants success, but few are willing to do what is necessary to succeed. Most look for and take short cuts abandoning the path that most probably would have led them to success.


This month’s topic is to give you insights on how to be a successful leader and a consistent winner.


We will start with 5 Fundamentals the Warrior Leader Follows to be a consistent winner.
  1. Sets clear Goals or visions.
  2. Picks the people best for the job and sticks with them.
  3. Sets high standards and maintains them.
  4. Extensive training and physical conditioning.
  5. Act and think like a winner.


I think the first 4 are obvious so we will spend most of the time on the 5th fundamental.


“To bring one’s self to a frame of mind and to the proper energy to accomplish things that require plain hard work continuously is the one big battle that everyone has. When this battle is won for all time, then everything is easy.”  

 – Thomas A. Buckner

Number five was “the leader must act and think like a winner.” But how does a winner act and think?


This is what I hope to pass on to you by breaking the process down into a progression of understanding certain principles essential to winning – that will put you on the path to success…if you have the will to win.


To become a good leader one must first learn to be a good follower and to learn how to be a winner one must learn how to lose correctly. Learning how to lose correctly takes great humility (teachability) and the correct perception of negatives and positives to evaluate, learn and advance from our failures.


 We all tend to think in terms of negatives and positives and most of us have been taught that negative thinking is bad and we should only think positive and if we stay positive good things will happen. But the truth is you can think all the positive things you want but that will never change reality. What I am getting at is the leader must learn to look at himself and circumstances with objectivity, otherwise misconceptions are created by lack of certain critical information and this lack of information often leads us to develop incorrect preconceived ideas. This means that recognizing the negative for what it is, is not only OK but necessary to produce an undistorted view and correct orientation to reality.


“You can choose to be discouraged by negatives or you can choose to be challenged by them.”


Recognizing a negative is not negative thinking. Negative thinking is when you allow the negatives to affect your mental attitude. The same is true of positive thinking if you only allow yourself to think positive without acknowledging the negatives you will fool yourself and wonder why you are losing when it should be obvious you are making the same mistakes over and over again not learning. True positive thinking is the ability to recognize the negatives without allowing them to affect your attitude.


“Hope is the denial of reality.”
– Margaret Weis


A best example of this that comes to mind is what is happening in our country today. There are a great number of people that do not want to acknowledge the negative effect most of our elected and non elected leaders are having on our country. They prefer to stay positive not wanting to consider the consequences of what is happening hoping that everything will somehow be OK or will not affect them. I am not advocating that they should worry which is useless, I am saying they should be concerned and acknowledge the negatives keeping a positive attitude and acting responsibly and voting responsibly even when it appears to not count and even if they are voting for the best of the pick or I like to say the lesser of two evils.


“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.”

  –  John F Kennedy


“The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear.”

 – Herbert Sebastien Agar


“Shame on the men who can court exemption from present trouble and expense at the price of their own posterity’s liberty!”

 – Samuel Adams


I feel like a short recap is in order here before we push on. True positive thinking is acknowledging and accepting negative things as a challenge not allowing them to affect your attitude.


“A leader must be able to remain normal in all circumstances.”


With the proper mindset you will not let negatives and positives affect your attitude. I include positives because one of the hardest tests is handling success properly. This is where most people fail by letting their guard down or getting a big head. Handling success without changing your attitude is the most difficult challenge of all.

To keep the winning mind set we must have the ability to refocus when met with distractions. So you need to develop the ability to recover your concentration rapidly when emotion takes control. Without this ability you will not stay objective in the face of adversity.


This simple technique will help you shift from your emotions to objective thinking. When confronted with a mistake or set back say to yourself – “What I do next is more important than what just happened.”


The trick is to grab control back from your emotions, freeing you to concentrate on solutions. This must be practiced daily until you master the ability to refocus from distractions.


“Success and failure are the same. The only difference is success gets up and keeps moving”

 – Jack Dempsey (Champion Heavyweight Boxer)


All negatives are not negative and all positives are not positive.


Most of us have a tendency to associate positive with doing something right and negative with doing something wrong, but we must look deeper. Just because we won does not mean we did something correctly and just because we lost doesn’t mean we did something incorrectly. Many times we have made mistakes from incorrect thinking but they worked out for the best. In these cases one must examine the correct thought process that should have been used because if we accept what happened for what it wasn’t we are setting ourselves up for failure in the future. I see this a lot in dealing with people where they made a mistake for the better but realized their thinking was incorrect. This is the easiest way to learn from a mistake.


All negatives are not negative. I will try and explain what I mean here using an example of the type of thinking that snipers must use. There are two types of snipers: 1. military on the battlefield at war — and 2. Police Snipers.


A police sniper is under great pressure to not miss a shot because he could kill an innocent person so all the conditions must be right he cannot afford to miss.


The military sniper is under a different pressure. He knows the enemy is always out to get him so if he slips up it would mean his life instead of his career but he can afford to miss a shot because his thought process is like a hunter waiting for that window of opportunity and giving it his best shot. If he misses it is not necessarily that he has done anything incorrect. He tells himself the next shot is more important than the last and shakes it off.  He knows that it is ok to take a low percentage shot in the chance that he might score a hit and it is Ok if he misses as long as his thinking was correct.


Whereas the police sniper cannot afford to miss so he cannot take a low percentage shot. One type of thinking permits taking a chance sometimes missing the shot and the other cannot because he can never afford to miss. What they do have in common is they both must think correctly and they must instinctively shut off their emotions to evaluate problems objectively so they can work out of impossible situations.


All negatives are not negative and all positives are not positive.


Evaluate on the basis of whether your thinking was right or wrong not on the basis of if you won or lost is the principle to learn. Great snipers are successful because they have acquired the ability to think objectively, evaluate realistically and come to a correct conclusion.


The winning leader creates an environment to win. How? By giving his enemy the greatest potential to lose by putting him under pressure. How? By creating a winning environment for yourself you make it more difficult for your enemy to win. If your mind constantly becomes discouraged by mistakes and failures, the only environment you are creating is one in which you, not your enemy will fail.


To create the winning environment you must learn to incorporate long term thinking into your thought process. Our emotions are good at letting us know when mistakes and failure come into play and that is where they should be stopped and thinking should take over and part of that thinking must include long term strategies.


Long term strategies call for mental toughness. It is easy to execute a short term strategy but it is difficult to execute a long term strategy because you must persevere through ups and downs to stay on track with doubt always lingering in the background. Without mental toughness doubt will cause you to second guess yourself causing you to be unsure giving opportunity to your enemy.


Mental toughness takes years to develop and it has its secrets.


“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us”

– Alexander Graham Bell


One “You do not win by trying to win”. Most people associate winning with doing something spectacular like hitting a home run. This is trying to win by winning which is a bad mindset for the Warrior Leader which places victory to chance. I will use baseball as an example to explain. It is the last inning the winning run is on third base. All I need to do is get a base hit that brings the runner home. But I want to hit a home run to win the game ignoring the fact that there are other options to win by. This is the “trying to win by winning” mind set. Instead of keeping all the options open like bunting, walking or getting a base hit to win the game I strike out trying to hit a home run. What I should have done was created an environment with the best chance to win by keeping all my options open with a relaxed and focused mindset waiting for the right opportunity to execute one of the many options to win. This is the difference between making it happen and letting it happen. The correct mindset is to create an environment that lets it happen. This is the winning mindset of the mentally tough warrior he seeks to win by controlling his emotions and utilizing his skills to the fullest, ready to take full advantage of all options and opportunities. This is letting it happen.


This same principle can be applied to every facet of life. Another good example is trying to get rich quick. This is the same as trying to win by winning. You put all your eggs in one basket trying to score big in some investment and you have created an environment with no options and the greatest potential to lose as opposed to creating an environment to let it happen by creating many options, low risk and no pressure to make hasty decisions.


“Winning is making yourself do what you do not want to do in order to achieve what you want to achieve.”


Most people want to win but

Four LST’s unload men and equipment on beach in Inchon on Sept. 15, 1950.

often do not want to do what it takes to win. This means consistency first and winners second. Consistent winners win by maintaining the proper mindset that thinks consciously and subconsciously with consistency. In other words they always take the path with the best options to succeed. This is not to say that you do not take risks because sometimes taking a risk is the best option. Here are some examples from history. General MacArthur’s strategy to land our troops in Inchon Bay during the Korean War was risky but gave the best chance for success, Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan Jackson bested the North for the first three plus years by taking bold risks but that was the best chance for success. When a small Army is out numbered sometimes its best chance to win is to attack with great energy this is risky but offers the best chance for success. To play this game the warrior must have mental toughness, great knowledge, skills and know the rules so he can know when to break the rules and win. If you understand military strategy and principals you can make decisions that may appear to be risky but in fact offer the best chance to win. I can think of countless examples from history where great people succeeded by creating the best environment to win through utilizing the proper mindset.


“Real leadership quality is demonstrated through both seeing the big picture, and through ensuring others see it creating a shared vision.”


I mentioned earlier that as the warrior gains mental toughness with the proper mind set he must learn to not just look at individual situations but to see the big picture.


 What is seeing the big picture?


Here are a few descriptions of what it means to see the big picture.
  • Knowing not just how and what to do, but knowing why.
  • Viewing the whole and not just its parts.
  • Seeing a vision, a sense of the bigger picture.
  • Having the ability to see significance in work, beyond the obvious.
  • Understanding what it takes for a legacy to live on, whether in creating something like our Constitution and Declaration of Independence or in some physical structure like a bridge or in the impact made on people.
The key to understanding and seeing the big picture is to realize how decisions impact future events.


The winning leader must ask himself this question “Do I have a sense of the bigger picture in what I do?” If the answer is no he needs think about how decisions he has made have affected the future.


“The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close-up.”


I will part with these characteristics of Winning leaders.

Winners know they cannot always dial in a perfect performance so they improvise and adapt to overcome obstacles and adverse situations.


In the long run victory will not be decided by how many mistakes they make but how they choose to deal with those mistakes.


Winners know that many physical and mental failures are overcome by taking responsibility for them and adopting the correct mental attitude.


Winners forget failure and move on in the face of negative feelings.


Winners understand that to win consistently, they must learn to control adverse situations and minimize their effect to create a winning environment.


Practicing your mental game develops mental toughness the same way physical training develops physical toughness.

“The highest reward for man’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.”
                                                                                 – John Ruskin



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