Over. Under. Through.
There are a ton of ways to navigate obstacles—whether you’re on a race course or in a corporate setting.
I’ve helped companies like Apple, BMW Japan, and Mercedes use the Spartan principles of commitment, resilience, and integrity to fuel their company cultures. But adjustments to corporate culture don’t happen overnight, and they don’t happen in a silo. Creating a corporate environment that feels real and authentic—that feels human—takes strong leaders who are willing to embody change and crush every challenge.
Transformation is at the core of what we do at Spartan, and business leaders need to have the guts to make change happen. They have to be willing to get down and dirty, push through the bullshit, and get their teams across the finish line.
No matter what industry you’re in, these five Spartan principles will help you overcome obstacles and be a better leader.
Principle #1: Know Which Way Is North
Alexander Hamilton said, “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” It’s the truth. Leaders can’t be wishy-washy; they can’t be on the fence. There’s no room for watered-down, weak-kneed indecisiveness. Leaders need to be bold and steadfast.
That’s where your True North—your constant core values—come into play. When you are confronted with an obstacle, True North is the solid foundation that guides your next move.
Finding your True North is as easy as asking yourself five simple questions and answering them honestly. When you’re rooted in your True North, it’s impossible to be distracted by the things that won’t produce the business results you’re seeking.
Principle #2: You Don’t Try—You Do
You aren’t going to run through a wall for something you don’t think is worth is a few scrapes. But if leaders want to reach a desired result, there are going to be multiple walls. Commit to scaling them, bursting through them, taking a sledgehammer and knocking those bastards down. Commitment is a challenge in self-control and perseverance. It takes time, energy, and a lot of fucking heart.
But if you commit to your goals and create a solid action plan, you will persevere. After all, victory tastes sweeter when it is spiked with blood and tears.
Principle #3: Seek the Hard Way
To defeat mental obstacles, you need grit. This is something you can accomplish by putting yourself into situations of “deliberate adversity.” These are the situations that test your strength and skills, sharpen your ability to deal with surprises, and teach you what you’re made of.
People with grit don’t expect to face the same challenges all the time. They don’t expect the fight to be fair. They don’t expect anything—but they’re prepared for everything. Leaders with grit get their hands dirty. They put in the work. They solve problems creatively, any way they can. If you don’t have grit, you’re going to get burned.
Principle #4: Have an Adversity Action Plan
Mike Tyson said it best: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
What is your disaster plan? If you don’t have one, hang up your gloves and get out of the ring. Leaders need to be prepared for anything. If you’re not, you’re going to be stunned by the right-hook that’s inevitably coming.
Even the best leaders can’t predict every hurdle. But good leaders draw upon their experiences and resources to call the shots, even if the match isn’t going the way you expected. Having a plan for when things go wrong isn’t about setting yourself up for failure—it’s just another way to strategize and get back on your feet.
Principle #5: Never Compromise Integrity
When pursuing your goal, don’t succumb to shortcuts. Don’t compromise your values. There’s no honor in cheating your way through challenges.
As a leader, you have to be fair, truthful, and sincere. Take responsibility, constantly check your motivations, and practice empathy in all things. That’s how leaders earn the respect of their team members and effect change in their organizations.