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The Navy SEAL Art of War

Strategy is a hot topic for our clients. In Bookbuzz sessions we normally use “33 strategies of war” by Robert Greene or “The strategy book” by Max Mckeown.

Fundamental questions

“Why do you matter?” and “where are you going?” are fundamental questions in those sessions. Increasingly we have come to the conclusion that movement is more important than direction. That organisational design is more important than we thought it would be (culture is too slow).

Strategy is a mindset

That strategy is more about mindset than resources. Ultimately strategy all boils down to leadership. Which brought us to Rob Roy’s “The Navy SEAL Art of war”. Leadership, movement and mindset. And if you want an example of agility, extreme movement capability and mental strength, the SEALs are a prime example of what can be done.

Lessons from Navy SEALs

So there are lessons the be learned. In fact Rob Roy, who was a Navy SEAL for 20 years and part of team six, has a company that put CEOs through SEAL training to teach them leadership skills.

You pay for the privilege to be shouted at by instructors, carry huge logs, float in the ocean for a night, do as many push ups as you can (and then more) and you pay to storm a building with a toy gun. Ultimately it is not about that. It is about self awareness, inner strength, team and leadership.

Stoicism as the operating system

In that way the book is not different from “Being a fierce competitor” or “The obstacle is the way”. Stoicism as the operating system. Following the thinking of Marcus Aurilius, the first management guru of our time. Rob Roy would argue that Sun Tzu was the first.

The art of war

He uses the structure of “The art of war” to share 57 lessons. In your face, no bars hold, hard nosed, drum your chest and stop crying, type of lessons. It is all in the mind, try harder, train more, persevere, type of lessons.

But also about letting people get on with it, creating trust, purpose, honour, dignity, respect, loyalty, and integrity. A Navy SEAL cost 25 million to train. You might as well give them the tools and the trust to get on with it.

Lessons

Some great ones:

  • The importance of commanders intent, the ability to clearly define and articulate goal for a mission. Guiding principles if you will.
  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Front sight focus (using snipers as an example)
  • Dress for success (command presence)
  • No limits, every goal should be a stretch goal. In fact there is no finishing line. You keep pushing. Just one more. Why stop?
  • You can accomplish more then you think is possible if you are willing to give what it takes
  • OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) as the decision making loop
  • Team before self
  • Yesterday is over, it is only about today
  • Commitment to excellence. Everything is done with full attention and full effort. 100% all the time. There are no excuses. 360 degree security is not 359 degrees.
  • Have a servants heart and be humble. No egos allowed.
  • Pain tells you that you are still alive, embrace the suck
  • Trust your inner voice
  • Care about those you lead and lead from the front
  • Embrace technology (SEALs can play with the newest war toys)
  • Passion moves mountains
  • Vision is a rally cry
  • Excellence is a habit
  • Assign a swim buddy
  • Know who you are
  • Character is everything

No rocket science

There is no rocket science in it. Clear communication, team, transparency, common goals and trusting your people. In that way it is not different from “The rare find”, “Employees first, customer second” and “Reinventing organisations”. But is in the micro context of a SEAL team. It works.

Military leaders

Not only has it some great leadership tips, it also contains some great speeches by military leaders such as Patton, Roosevelt, Powell, Mattis and Schwarzkopf

What is your credo?

If you want an example of ethos and purpose and a mission statement, it is worthwhile reading the SEAL creed. I want to be a Navy SEAL. What is your companies creed? Would anyone sign up.

Ring the bell

The biggest lesson for me was the chapter about the bell. During SEAL training you can quit by ringing the bell three times. You have a choice. You can ring the bell, or you can commit fully. No amount of pain, cold, wet, tired can derail your devotion. Your either are committed or you are quitting. You can sleep when you are dead. Pain is good.

I suspect every entrepreneur and owner manager will recognise this as a sentiment. I wonder how many are ringing the bell? And how many have rung the bell and are not realising it?

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