Leading with Resilience Part One (of Three)

Leading with Resilience Part One (of Three)

The SEAL Trident is the coveted symbol of U.S. Naval Special Warfare Sea Air and Land Commandos. The trident is hard to get; almost 80-90% of those who even attempt to qualify never wear one on their chest. If you are one of the resilient and tenacious individuals that get to wear it, the sense of accomplishment is second to none. One important point of trivia about the trident, or SEAL pin. It is the only insignia in the Navy that only comes in gold. Traditionally, enlisted personnel in the U.S. Navy wear insignias that are silver and officers wear gold insignias. Not so for the trident. The fact that enlisted SEALs wear the exact same symbol as their officer counterparts epitomizes what it means to be a leader in the SEAL Teams. I will attempt over the next three weeks to share with you 12 of the best practices that I have learned from my experience in the SEAL Teams and coupled with my extensive studies in the art of being resilient.

The Little Things Are The Big Things

As a leader, you will be remembered for the little things that you did, not the big ones. How did you make your subordinates feel? Did they want to follow you? Or did they simply follow you because of your position. Natural leaders do the little things so well that the little things become the big things. I remember Admiral Olson, the 1st SEAL 4 star admiral to command United States Special Operaitons Command, coming up to me in the hallway and ask me by name how I was doing. He took time out of his busy schedule to talk to one of his subordinates. Admiral Olson was the most inspirational leader that I have known, not because he asked me how I was doing that day, but because he paid attention to the little things. When you come to work in the morning, know that everything that you do and everything that you say, even everything that you think, is important. It may not seem like it is, but it is. Make sure that you do the little things correctly and with as much enthusiasm and tenacity as the big things. Keeping an organized life and making sure that you don’t put crap into your body may sound petty, but when the big mission comes around, you want to have the little things under control. Leading with Resilience begins with the little things.

Take Care of Your People, and they will Take Care of You

Leading with resilience begins with taking care of your people. When you take care of your people first, you show them that they matter and that they are important. People are the most important aspect to any business or organization, military or otherwise. Taking care of your people often means placing your interests at the end of your people’s interest. At Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training, where officers go through the exact same training as enlisted personnel, officers eat last. Period. I remember sometimes not being able to eat and having to eat scraps off of my enlisted personnel’s plates as I left the chow hall. Taking care of your people means that you will make sacrifices. That is what it means to be a leader. Taking care of your people also means that when the chips are down, they will be there for you. Taken from the Golden Rule, taking care of your people pays off huge dividends when you need them the most. Leading with resilience begins with taking care of your people.

Take Care of Yourself, But Only To Improve Your Ability to Take Care of Your People

Leading with resilience begins with taking care of yourself. You can’t be an effective leader if you are sick, broken or your mental faculties are not all there. Getting the adequate amount of sleep, eating the right foods, exercising, mentally challenging yourself daily, being in touch with your own emotions and the emotions of others, and understanding intimately your purpose in both your home and work life are all essential elements of taking care of yourself. Remember that taking care of yourself is not a selfish act; you do it only to be able help take care of your people in order to maximize mission effectiveness. Having a written plan in how you will take care of yourself and following a strict schedule is a great way to maximize this leadership trait. Individuals that only take care of others without taking care of themselves are doing a disservice to those who are under their care/leadership. Only by taking care of yourself, will you be able to maximize the benefits that you give to others. Being selfish in this paradigm is not selfish at all. Leading with resilience begins with taking care of yourself, so that you improve your ability to take care of your people.

Lead By Example

Leading with resilience begins by leading by example. Not asking your followers to do anything that you would not do yourself is leading by example. Followers want to follow someone who is operationally competent. This does not mean that you have to be the best in your company at what you do. It only means that you are a professional and you are striving to be the best at what you do. If you are the head of a manufacturing company, you should know something about manufacturing or at least have a passion to learn everything you need to know about the craft. When you lead by example, others will naturally want to follow you. Admiral Olson was not the strongest SEAL or the fastest or the most knowledgable at SEAL tactics, but he was always out there bettering himself and improving his performance at everything that he did. I remember during a demolition shot, he halted the entire operation because he wanted to know the intimate purpose behind what we were about to do on the range instead of simply “going through the training motions” that we all do from time to time. He showed me that day that even the simplest training has value if you take the time to assimilate the concept of the training. Leading with resilience begins with leading by example.


This week, examine the 4 concepts (8 more to come in the following weeks) of leading with resilience in your own life and see how they apply. Are you taking care of yourself? Are you leading by example? Are you taking care of your people? Are you glancing over the little things and saving yourself for the big things? Remember that Leading with Resilience takes knowledge, time, and effort to accomplish. Tune in next week for Part 2!

“Lean into it!”

Dr. N