Part Two of Leadership Lessons Learned from The Navy Seals And Army Rangers

Career Planning, Leadership Stories

Mike Foley recently retired as CIO of Mass Mutual, a role he began in 2005 after serving as CIO of Babson Capital  Management, a subsidiary of the company. He now writes with The Parnassus Group and leads a strategy and consulting practice within IT and Healthcare IT segments.

In an earlier article we explored a generalized ethos combining the respective creeds of the Navy Seals and the Army Rangers and began to explore the personal imperatives for leadership suggested by them.  We are going to move deeper into that consideration in this post and consider what is underneath their collective ethos.

First, consider the path to becoming one of these elite warriors. Selection of candidates is extremely competitive. The training programs are quite long, intense and grueling with only the most elite making the grade.  The elite few that make it must then tackle the most challenging and dangerous assignments facing our nation.  All of this is done in the shadows with no glamour, notoriety and for low pay.

Second, imagine the multitude of reasons these warriors have to fear for themselves as they train for and conduct their missions.  In spite of the great personal risks they face their biggest fear, is not for themselves, it is the fear of not being there for their team or failing their country.  They fight not to defend themselves, but rather to defend their team members, our nation and its values.

Third, they prepare for and live in a world of combat in which almost everything is situational.  They focus solely on their leadership for guidance, follow their assignments to a T and yet are always prepared to selflessly lead and innovate when the situation demands it.

As I considered this and reviewed the generalized ethos these values came to mind – Altruism, Team First, Courage and Accountability. As the Navy Seals and Army Rangers have shown us, these high-minded values that both respect and transcend individual self-interest, are what motivates their greatness. Is it a wonder then, that excellence outside of their ranks is so rare? What does this realization imply for those, who aspire to lead others to excellence beyond the norm?

First, the leader’s role is paramount.  Leading by example is a must. Conduct of the leader must embody and bring to life the values of the team’s shared creed. The leader’s actions set the standard for everyone else. Actions always speak louder than words, particularly in an environment of such  great challenge and high stakes. To be sustainably effective, the leader must have the same personal excellence expectation as they have for the team they lead.  Anything less is fraudulent and erodes the respect required for leadership in a highly challenging environment. As with most things in life ultimate success or failure depends upon our values as well as our skills.  The Navy Seals and Army Rangers remind us that what is in our hearts is most critical to sustainable success.

We owe our elite military forces a great deal.  Not only do they safeguard our way of life, they also set a standard of conduct that is rare and exemplary.  Let’s honor them by incorporating their ethos into our professional and personal lives.  We’ll be better for it as will the world around us.

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