This is a common theme in the military and a philosophy embraced by good leaders. It embodies the reality that if leaders have built a great team and are providing sound leadership, there is no reason the team can’t succeed and win.
In their New York Times best-selling book, Extreme Ownership, former Navy SEALs and co-authors Jocko Willkin and Leif Babin provide a simple but fascinating example of this. When Leif spent time teaching the junior officer leadership training course he would often fill in as the Officer in Charge during Hell Week. During Hell Week, the students are divided into seven-man boat crews and spend much of their time performing all kinds of competitions against the other crews. It pays to be a winner!
During one particular Hell Week, the instructors were noticing that one of the crews was consistently winning every races while another was consistently losing. The losing crew started to fall apart. The leader was blaming the crew members. The crew members were blaming each other. Bickering ensued. Nobody, including the leader, believed they could win.
The instructors discussed this and decided to try an experiment. They swapped the two leaders, sending the winning crew’s leader to the losing crew and vice versa. And guess what happened? Under new leadership, the losing crew consecutively won the next few races. The crew that had been previously winning was however hot on their tails in every race. What does this tell us?
The leader with the driven mentality had the ability to instantly create a winning team. The boat crew that had previously been winning and was assigned the leader with the defeated mentality still came in second in every race. Why? Because their previous leader had built a great team that knew how to win.