From Disney to Navy Seals: 7 Leadership Insights to Apply Now

You can’t have professional development without personal development. In most cases, if you’re looking for professional growth, you’ll end up working on yourself too. Yet organizations and individuals often treat them as separate objectives. What happens when you combine the two? You get wisdom—a combination of knowledge and leadership practices that you can immediately apply.

Close your textbooks and set aside your personal growth quizzes. Instead benefit from the practical wisdom of top leaders and achievers. From battling through homelessness to pushing the limits of the human body as an ultra-endurance athlete, these executives have lived the story of leadership in all its forms.

1. Be All in, All the Time

“One of the philosophies we have in the Navy Seals team is to be all in, all the time. I learned that phrase from one of my colleagues, one of my platoon mates who was a Seal Team 6 team leader, and he had learned it from one of our Seal Team 6 fallen leaders who would indoctrinate new guys into their command. He would ask them about what their level of participation should be, especially from a leadership perspective, knowing that the only answer was to be all in, all the time.”

-Brent Gleeson, Former US Navy Seal, Founder of TakingPoint Leadership

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2. Gain Clarity on the Win

“Understanding and picking up on the cues and clues of what this group of former Top Gun fighter pilots did, the key distinguishing factor was this focus or clarity on the win. What is winning? What does it mean? How do we make sure we’re progressing toward it each and every single day? How do we focus our time and energy on the win? How do we define it with specificity so that we can move towards it?”

-Holly Green, Founder of The Human Factor

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3. Appreciate Where You Are

“No matter where we are in our life, it’s so easy to look at the other side, at the other side of the fence. The grass is greener on the other side. For me, it’s to have that existentialist mindset, where I appreciate what I have now. Yes, there may be some other things that I strive to have, but don’t take for granted where you are right now.”


-Doug Lipp, Author of Disney U

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4. Embrace Change

“It’s amazing what change can do. The most important change is not the change in technology, not a change in the internet, not a change with Facebook and Twitter and all of those opportunities. The biggest change is the change in yourself. It is vital that you keep growing, and the most important phase of growth is the listening phase, and the reading phase, and the learning phase. Never stop learning, and never stop worrying about ‘Am I going to be able to adapt to change?’”

-Carolyn Warner, Founder, President of Corporate Education Consulting, Inc., former Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction

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5. Filter Out the Negatives

“I realized that oftentimes there are moments where you have to filter out all the negatives, which is the fact that the hill seemed endless. Just look down, stay in the moment, and keep pushing pedals. And sure enough, eventually, my most favorite sign of all the street signs is a picture of a big black truck with a wedge of cheese because that means that my hill is done.”

-Len Forkas, ultra-endurance athlete, Founder of Hopecam

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6. Change the System

“Leading by example started out with being a homeless teenager, walking down the streets of my senior year with a trash bag. I knew at that particular moment that I could make a choice. The choice could be that I could blame the system, or I could be a leader. For me, I chose to be a leader, and I really do believe that leading by example opens the door for a lot of us.”

-Rob Scheer, Founder of Comfort Cases

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7. Be Honest About Your Strengths

“I’ve also found that when I am just honest about what we bring to the table, I just get better results. People want to see honest and humble people succeed. They don’t need me to pretend to be something I’m not. I think that my life, and our business in general, has been successful, because I’ve been honest about what I do have and what I don’t have.

-Jennifer Case, CEO of NewLeaf Biofuels

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