It’s Not What You Preach, It’s What You Tolerate


Only Bad Leaders

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin are both former Navy Seals. They wrote a book together called Extreme Ownership. This book has had a major impact on my life personally. There are lessons in the book from cover to cover. We are going to talk about one chapter in particular here. I do recommend however that every single athlete pick up a copy of this book and inhale it. Absorb the information that it is rich with!

The 2nd chapter of the book is called No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders. In this chapter, Leif lays down a story that includes boat crews. If you know anything about Navy Seals is that during hell week they are tasked with doing things that are extremely difficult and using boats and navigating them through rough waters through a course happens to be one of these things.

During this evolution there happened to be one boat crew that was always lagging. Always coming in last. On the other hand, there was another team that was still coming in first. They decided at that point to take the leader of the boat crew that was always winning and switches him with the boat crew that was ever losing.

What happened from that point is fantastic. The team that was lagging became the top performer. The team that was always winning, however, kept up their performance and it became extremely competitive. All of that being said the leadership was the reason behind the significant change. This all comes down to this quote ” It’s Not What You Preach, Its What You Tolerate!”

What You Preach

What you are saying to others is not important. Your words are going to be listened to by team mates. What you say will lay the groundwork for the standard that you set. If you are harping on things. You’re adamant about the things you want to be done. If you have a vision in your mind of how you want this team to look and this team to be run. You first need to voice it to everyone.

People need to know what it is you want. Leaders need to have a voice. That is true. Having a clear set of standards is going to allow your team to know what to expect and what not to expect from you as a leader. It will give them a clear idea of how they should be performing. A guideline into what is expected of them and what is not expected of them. People need this to have a cohesive nature in the team.

However, it all means nothing if you are going to tolerate people in the team staying away from those sets of standards. At the end of the day if what you are preaching is being violated and you are ok with it means very little.

What You Tolerate

What you tolerate is going to become the standard. If you find people on the team taking their path, going over your head to do things that are not part of the core of the team and you allow these things to happen then that is going to be the new standard. If you have a teammate deliberately come late all the time and you allow that action to become commonplace, that is the new standard.

The things you tolerate become standards. If you as the leader are not steadfast in the criteria you want to be upheld for the team, then no one else is going to do it for you. You need to be willing to take action against those that want to disobey the standards. You must set the example as to what to expect. If others want to make it upon themselves to changes those standards, then repercussions need to be taken place.

In the book, they talk about living the standards. As a leader, you can’t just pay lip service to what it is you re doing. You must embody those things you hold dear. Talking about them does little to increase your respect amongst your team. You must be the living embodiment of your standards if you want others to step up and follow your lead. If not you can expect that team to go astray.

How To Implement It

Implementing  “it’s not what you preach its what you tolerate” starts with you. You must have an idea of the standards you want to uphold. If you are clear on that, you will have no problem bring it to the rest of the teams. If you become the living example of what you want the team to be like, then you can quickly expect others to follow your lead.

Having the ability to talk a big game can be significant. You need to be willing to preach the standards. There is no doubt about it. You always, more importantly even, need to be able to uphold those standards. Tolerating anything less than the standards you have set is going to lower the standards automatically. Must be a hard charger on the core values, and vision of the team you are on. I know this all sound very military and it is. However, if you are going to lead a team you need to be willing to hold everyone accountable for the standards set. Allowing any slack only brings the standards down.

Why It All Matters

When it comes down to it. As a leader, you need to uphold what you think is right. Without it, you are missing an entire aspect of leadership. Those on the team need to and want to be lead. Under a framework. People need guidelines. People also love to test guidelines. They want to push the envelope all the team. Which is great in the big picture. Allowing them to incorporate negative emotions into the team, however, is not good thing. There are certain things that just should not be tolerated on teams.

Bullying, punctuality, negativity, judgemental attitudes and the list goes on and on. There are a set of rules everyone needs to adhere to, and any wavering from those rules ends up becoming the new standard. So remember you can talk all day about how you want things to be but in reality what you tolerate becomes the real standards!

Sharing is caring!

Hidden Content


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here