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  • Writer's pictureSusan & Renée

Leadership Lessons from a Seal

Updated: Sep 6, 2023


Seals can sleep underwater.

Seals are found all over the world.

Seals use their whiskers to detect vibrations underwater.


Are you wondering how we are going to translate these fun facts into leadership lessons?


Well, we’re not.


The leadership lessons we are going to talk about come from a decorated Navy SEAL who had a storied career full of twists and turns and a whole lot of luck.


For those of you who are not familiar with the SEAL program, Navy SEALs carry out special operations missions on sea, air, and land that go beyond the means of standard military forces. These are the people who captured Sadam Hussein, rescued Captain Phillips from Somali pirates, and brought Osama bin Ladin to justice.


The man who oversaw all of the operations listed above was Admiral William McRaven. While many of the stories he tells of his 37 years as a SEAL seem straight out of a superhero comic book, there are also stories of bouncing back after failure and being humbled by the people he served beside.


What he learned through his truly death defying career can be used by business leaders at any level. Here are some of the things he says about leadership:


1. It's about people: Relationships are at the heart of success

“Like the small rubber boat we had in basic SEAL training, it takes a team of good people to get you to your destination in life. You cannot paddle the boat alone.”

2. Challenge your team : Bring the best out of your teams by holding yourself and your team to a high standard.

"It is about challenging them--establishing a standard of excellence and holding them accountable for reaching it....You had better be up to the task, because I have learned that they expect you to be good.”

3. Learn from failure: Failure is inevitable. How you respond is key.

"No officer I watched got it right every time. But the great ones know that when they fail, they must pick themselves up, learn from their mistakes and move on.

4. Be a good follower: Being a good leader means knowing when to trust your team.

"Great officers are equally good at following as they are at leading. Following is one of the most underrated aspects of leadership.”

5. Focus on Performance: Every person deserves a chance.

"The great leaders never accept indifference or injustice, and they only judge their soldiers based on the merit of their work. Nothing else is important."

While you may not be sending your people into enemy territory on a secret mission, McRaven’s advice is relevant to running your business today.


For some other very good life lessons, we recommend that you check out Admiral McCraven’s commencement speech about essential life lessons that went viral.


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