I am Ron White, Two Time USA Memory Champion, memory training expert and memory keynote speaker. I would like to pass on to you some valuable information my good friend and coach, former Navy Seal T.C. Cummings, has taught me about the traits of an effective leader.

Navy Seal training includes ensuring that each member of the team is a leader in his own right. Due to the dangerous nature of jobs they do, each Seal must be able to take the reins of leadership at any time in order to complete the mission, and help any surviving member of the team to get out of the situation in safety.

The keys of an effective leader are the ability to take charge, and motivate others to work independently – yet as part of a team, to reach the same goals.


“Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right.” – Professor Warren G. Bennis

Leaders know what is right, and what is wrong. They set limits that they expect everyone on their team to follow. It is all about mapping out your needs to accomplish your goals. Leaders are dynamic and inspiring. They are able to communicate their vision effectively, and be accountable for the actions of everyone on the team.

Seals use the term “Respecting their fire!” for the ability to motivate people without curbing their enthusiasm. The leader, who is the one ultimately accountable for all actions by their team, allows some latitude and independence, within parameters. Since each member of the Seal team is being groomed for leadership they have to be encouraged to think for themselves, and work independently.

A friend of mine once said about raising children, “As parents our job is not to keep our children in the nest, but teach them how to fly on their own.” As parents, and as leaders, we have to be able to allow our students to spread their own wings, make some mistakes, and learn to work independently. We teach them the lessons they need to know, and then stand back as observers in case we are needed. Not allowing them to become independent, by micro-managing or smothering them, will stunt their emotional growth.

Seize the best in them

“You must capture and keep the heart of the original and supremely able man before his brain can do its best.” – Andrew Carnegie

Navy Seals live on the cutting edge at all times – they work hard and they play hard, but must always keep in mind that, although they may occasionally get time off to relax their responsibilities to their team are not on vacation. The squad leader is in charge of them 24/7, and if they get into trouble the consequences of their actions hurt everyone on the team, especially the leader.

It is up to the leader to earn the respect that will motivate others to do their best. Gaining their trust and loyalty will follow. They see the potential in a person and encourage them to bring it out. A leader is available to listen with open ears, allowing questions, suggestions and even constructive criticism for the good of the team. The more encouragement a leader gives the more confidence is built, and a stronger team is formed.

The most powerful message I ever received was from a former boss who knew I was struggling at the time to get my own business going. He wrote a short and simple email that did more to encourage me to persevere than anything I have ever received. The message was simply four words – “I believe in you!”

Delegate and Relegate

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

There is a difference between these two terms, although slight, that a leader needs to understand.

To delegate means to assign a job or responsibility to someone else, allowing them to carry it out in the way they see fit. As a leader you are still accountable for the outcome, but it allows the assignee the ability to work independently, builds confidence and creativity, and is a fabulous leadership-building tool.

The opposite of delegation is micro-managing. Many people have a difficult time passing the baton to someone else. If you trained your people right, and hired the right people for the right job, you have to allow them to do what they do best. If you have to stand over their shoulder and critique every move, you show you do not trust them, did not hire the right person, and are not an effective leader.

To relegate a job is to abdicate control entirely, and make the other person totally responsible for every aspect. This is risky, and involves a higher degree of trust. The team member should feel complimented for this trust and inspired to outperform. This type of confidence will bring trust and respect for you as a leader.

If we UNINTENTIONALLY relegate a job, with no intention of giving up control, you are responsible for the outcome and can not make yourself a victim by blaming them for not following through (“I gave the job to Jim and he didn’t finish it,” or “I can’t believe he didn’t finish the job.”). If it was your responsibility, and you didn’t follow up, it’s your problem and you have to accept the consequences. NEVER react to your mistake by blaming someone else or pushing the blame, and NEVER berate or demean anyone in public. This will do more to lose any trust or respect you have gained, and people will not look to you for leadership in the future.

For more information on how you too can think like a Navy Seal, check out our “Mind of a SEAL” CD Package.



Wikipedia – Delegation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delegation

Brainy Quote – Andrew Carnegie: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/andrew_carnegie_2.html#ixzz1LWOiJzyh