Podcast: Rorke Denver on Leading With Character


What are you training for? Are you prepared for the inevitable high-pressure situations every leader faces? Do you spend time learning about your industry and expanding your skill set?

If you want to make sure you’re set up to succeed in high-pressure situations, the best thing you can do is be prepared. In moments when you’re in the thick of it, you’ll only be able to draw on the training you’ve already done to be able to put your head down and get to work, says Rorke Denver, Navy SEAL commander, New York Times best-selling author and founder of Ever Onward.

In our latest episode of The Leadercast Podcast, Rorke draws from his 20-plus years of military training to share his biggest insights on staying calm in high-stress situations and leading with character as you navigate the challenges of business and life. Rorke is a past Leadercast Live speaker and has previously shared with us on the idea that “calm is contagious”—one of the most impactful things he learned while training in the Navy. Here are three highlights from Rorke’s interview on The Leadercast Podcast.

1. How you train is how you perform.

As a leader, you must step up when things get tough and big decisions have to be made, and you’re only going to be able to do that well if you’ve invested in training for those moments.

“People don’t rise to the occasion, they degrade to their level of training,” says Rorke in the podcast. TWEET

If you train to only do OK, you’ll only act OK in a real-life scenario. If you train for excellence, you’re going to act with excellence and be more than up to the task.

When it comes the training of others, it’s your job as a leader to set up challenges and training opportunities for your employees. Throw out some curveballs and give them chances to fail to make it a learning point. Then, when these scenarios become real, they’ll easily fall back on their training—just like muscle memory.


2. Build a culture where people feel part of something bigger than themselves.

In the episode, Rorke speaks about subjugation—the idea that what you are part of is bigger than yourself. If you’re a part of something you believe in and want to see thrive, it’s easy for you to see it as bigger than yourself.

It’s an ethos felt across military personnel, firefighters, law enforcement and the like: You either put in the effort to win with a bigger-than-me mentality, or you literally don’t go home.

For business leaders, you may not face life-or-death situations on the job like first responders do, but you should strive to create a culture where people believe in something bigger than themselves.

To make this happen, think about how you talk about the organization. How do you talk about your colleagues and employees? Do people seem comfortable being themselves at work? Asking these questions can help you see what kind of culture you currently have and, importantly, what kind of culture your customers feel you have.


3. Develop your leadership ethos.

Rorke shares, “To lead is a choice. If you make that choice, own it.” TWEET

Leadership is a choice to constantly train and to keep advancing your knowledge and skill set, he explains. Have you defined your core leadership beliefs? What’s your leadership ethos? What’s elemental to your beliefs and what’s nonnegotiable? Write these answers down and consider it a living document that you can add and subtract from as you learn and grow. Write one for your company, too, incorporating your organization’s culture.

Hold to your core principles, but adapt as you go. Remember, as a leader, you don’t take from people, you serve them.

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This post is based on an episode of The Leadercast Podcast with Rorke Denver, Navy SEAL commander, New York Times best-selling author and founder of Ever Onward. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. To hear this episode, and many more like it, please subscribe to The Leadercast Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher.

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