5 Rules for Leading a Navy SEAL Team

19155 2020-02-05 23:28

Imagine that you were a commander in one of the most violent battlefields in Iraq, and your decisions often had a significant impact on others’ lives. How would you lead? In the book Extreme Ownership, the authors, also former Navy SEAL task unit leaders, share their experience and insights of the success of Navy SEAL units, providing useful references for any organization that wants to succeed.

Take responsibility for failures

Jocko Willink, one of the authors, held all the responsibility for an accident where a soldier lost his life in friendly fire. By doing this, he managed to keep his job because his superiors knew good leaders take responsibility for mistakes and actively look for ways to improve. If the leader makes an excuse to pass the buck, his subordinates will then do the same.

Understand the importance of your mission

On the battlefield, when Willink was told that his elite team would be fighting side-by-side with the newly created Iraqi army, he doubted the capacity and loyalty of the Iraqi army as well as the correctness of the command. But later, he gradually realized this action could help the US forces to withdraw from Iraq. Then Willink passed his conviction onto his team, and then they finally accomplished the mission successfully.

Leaders should fully understand the importance of every mission and make sure every member is on the same page before carrying it out. If you consider the order received as questionable, think twice before speaking out against the plan. You may also try to seek explanations from your superiors.

Cooperate with your allies

“Cover and move” is one of the most fundamental Navy SEAL tactics, which indicates sometimes you need to cooperate with your allies. Leif Babin, the other author, failed to employ this tactic and put his team in extreme danger, which could have been avoided. Leaders should keep an eye on other teams that could provide strategic support instead of competing with them.

Stay effective by setting priorities

In Ramadi, Babin’s team was deep in enemy territory without backup. One team member was wounded and exposed. There was a bomb at the exit. Attention was required for a few problems at the same time. Babin calmly assessed the scenario, sorted out the top three priorities, and managed to escape from the dangerous situation.

In the battlefield where complicated situations often occur, leaders have to stay calm and find the optimal solution. That’s why “prioritize and execute” is thought as a useful principle. It is essential for leaders to decide on the top priority and then focus on it. After the problem is solved, you can move to the next priority and take action.

Identify and mitigate risks in advance

Before an operation to rescue an Iraqi hostage, Babin fully considered the potential target around the hostage, including explosives and guns, and moved forward as planned, mitigating all the risks.

Creating a comprehensive plan helps to identify and mitigate risks in advance and improve the possibility of success. Besides, leaders should keep members informed of these contingency plans. Concentrate on the risks that can be controlled and be aware that there are always some risks that can not be mitigated.

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