How Do Your Leaders Compare to Navy SEALs?

Document created by 1017515 on Nov 9, 2015Last modified by 1017515 on Nov 16, 2015
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Ed Hiner, a former Navy SEAL of 20 years, has published a book entitled “First, Fast, Fearless:  How to Lead Like a Navy SEAL,” in which he describes how the leadership qualities of a Navy SEAL leader can be applicable to strong leadership in the business world.  In his 20 years as a Navy SEAL, Ed has seen both the right kind of leadership and the wrong kind of leadership – but mostly the right kind.  The definition of a good leader is someone who gets the job done by getting his or her team to move forward, together, in a rhythm which requires little prodding or correction.  Hiner feels his definition of a good leader applies as much in corporate America today as it did during his tenure in the Navy SEALs.


Ed describes five (5) pillars of leadership he learned from studying the writings of Admiral James Stockdale of the U.S. Navy, one of the most decorated officers in history. These pillars describe ideals which define a strong leader.  See how they compare with your own leadership skills.


  • Moralist – In the military, leaders insist on taking the high ground as the position easiest to defend.  In business, the high ground speaks to that of a moral high ground, as the morally right thing is always easy to defend.  Making the distinction between the rules of law and morality is extremely important.


  • Jurist – Anyone who has served on a jury knows you do not always get all the information you need to make a judgment.  As both sides present their case, the information you do get often contradicts some other piece of information.  In the end, you are compelled to act based on what you have heard, making the best decision possible with the information available to you.  Leaders often have to make decisions which are not always “black and white” and are not based on completeness of information.


  • Teacher – It is incumbent upon a good leader to guide and mentor those under them, passing their knowledge along.  For a military team, each person on the team must be prepared to take over should something happen to the leader.  Similarly, in business, there is too much risk if any one person in the chain is irreplaceable.  A good leader should always be working on a plan of succession.


  • Steward – Leadership carries with it a big responsibility to the organization, to your upper management and also to your team.  A good leader must be strong enough to lead and also humble enough to act as a servant to his/her team.  Remember the team you lead is also the shoulders you stand on each day.  Your decisions affect their jobs and to a large degree, their lives.  Such a position requires careful thought in everything you do.


  • Philosopher – A philosopher studies everything in great detail and seeks the true meaning of it.  Someone who is philosophical has the ability to remain calm during difficult times and unpleasant situations.  A good leader cannot expect their team to march forward during difficulty if their leader shows signs of stress or fear.


A strong leader is accomplished at building and encouraging a team to come together and accomplish something important.  Setting the direction and removing the roadblocks to success are a part of your job as a leader and essential when it comes to supporting your team.


How do the leaders in your organization measure against the profile given above?  Do you have a plan to fill the gaps?  We have experts on the Advice & Resolution team that can help you think through your leadership development and succession processes and prepare a plan that meets your company, culture, and budget. 

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