Lessons in Leadership

I'm going to kind of walk you through my career and just give you this sense of some of the things that I have learned along the way and it really started right here at the University of Texas I went through the ROTC program here and in between your freshman and sophomore year they send you on what they euphemistically call a cruise I was I was on a ship fortunately out of Pearl Harbor Hawaii but what they do is as a young officer they put you in the enlisted ranks so you live with the enlisted men this was a nine week cruise you live with the enlisted men and you find out what life is like as an enlisted man for nine weeks and I will tell you it's absolutely the best experience you can have as an officer and one of the things you have to learn is you become more and more senior is you never ever want to lose sight of what the troops are doing what the troops are going through because you're going to make decisions that are going to affect their lives and if you don't have an appreciation for the problems that they have I guarantee you're probably going to be making the wrong decisions when you're in a leadership position you are always going to sometimes see what you think the right thing to do is if you don't communicate that if you don't constantly communicate that you will lose the troops and they won't know what you're doing so I will tell you as you go through your leadership position make sure you are communicating constantly it was a great lesson for me the other issue that you learn in Budds as a young officer is you're always expected to set the example now when I went through training we had four off at some point in time we had four officers that were left in training and about 50 enlisted guys and the enlisted guys watch you every second of the day and in fact as you become more senior you are scrutinized whether you know it or not they watch how you wear a uniform they watch how you walk they watch how you talk they watch how you do your actions they watch you all the time and all of my instructors in SEAL training were Vietnam veterans and they expected while the officers in the enlisted go through the same training they expected the officers to set the example always to be there on time to have the best looking uniform to run harder than anybody else because that's what leadership is all about you have to set the example and I will tell you in your leadership positions today if you think for a minute the people that work for you aren't watching you every minute of the day you're mistaken they are they want to see how well you perform your job and whether or not you're setting the example that they want to achieve you have to hold people accountable you have to hold people accountable because if other people's good behavior doesn't matter because all behavior is treated the same then why should anybody go above and beyond if working hard if doing the right things doesn't matter then why do it you have to hold people accountable later on became the commander of all the West Coast SEAL Teams and it was interesting because when I was the commanding officer of SEAL team 3 you're always concerned that the guy above you as Greg said nobody's got a boss and the military you got bosses bosses bosses bosses bosses but the boss right above me when I was a SEAL team commander I was a navy commander he was a navy captain we called him the Commodore and I always thought that the Commodore was watching everything I did and then every time a kid got in a bar fight in Coronado California which seemed to happen quite a bit but somehow you know he had his list out there and a McRaven's team they got another check on the block another kid went too you know and so when I became Commodore and I will tell you what that did when you had this kind of fear of the guy above you it did kind of constrain how you operated as a leader as a SEAL team so I told myself when I became the Commodore which I did I called in all of my commanding officers and I said look guys here's the deal I said I'm not watching your command every day I'm not I'm not seeing who screwed up and and what you could have done better what I want to do though is I want to make sure that when there is a problem you're solving that problem that's how I'm going to grade you it's not that there are problems unless they become consistent problems but I wanted to give them room to maneuver mental room to maneuver so that they could take some risks so that they could implement change so they could do the things they thought they needed to do without feeling that I was always pressuring them to do that yeah you really do have to own a problem I don't care whether you're the president university whether you're the Chancellor whether you're the Dean wherever you are something's going to happen under your watch and you can't you can't let somebody else deal with that you have to jump in the middle of it and you have to deal with it failure you know you're you're going to fail you know if you haven't failed a lot already you're probably going to fail a lot more if you're in a leadership position things go bad things go bad in combat things go bad and universities things go bad if you allow those failures to crush you then you're not going to make the next hard decision and you always need to be in a position to make the next hard decision but take into account the failures you've had and finally when I got the US Special Operations Command and this is really just weaves into what we're doing here and US Special Operations Command I'm a four-star Admiral and I had 12 subordinate units think think of them as the presidency University but 12 subordinate units three-star and four-star command two-star commands spread out all around the world and the one thing you learn is it's about servant leadership it's about servant leadership my job as the four-star was to make sure that the three stars and the two stars were successful my job was to give them the maximum latitude to do their job to provide them the resources to do their job to recognize that we hired them because they're the right people to do the job you have to have respect for the people that work for you but more importantly you as the guy in charge of the gallon charge you have to earn their respect it's not about them earning your respect you have to earn their respect every single day because when you're at that level when it's a seat when it's a servant leader it's not about you it's about the people that work for you and you spend every day trying to make sure you're doing right by them if you can do that all the organizations are going to succeed you

15 thoughts on “Lessons in Leadership”


  2. I had so many shitty leaders in the Marine Corps, NCOs, SNCOs, and officers. One example that I’ll never forget was when all of the units on our base were moving into new barracks and my unit was moved from a decent barracks to the oldest barracks on the base, it was literally condemned and infested with roaches, mold, had holes in the walls and ceiling, locks didn’t work, full of asbestos (we had to sign disclaimers stating that we had been informed of all of the sources of asbestos in the barracks, which was practically everything), etc. We all had to stay up until about 2 in the morning cleaning the outside, quarter deck, and common areas trying to make it look presentable because we had a 2 star General visiting the next day. After about a week our CO sent out an email that I intended on keeping as a reminder that leaving the Corps was a good idea (sadly, I’ve since lost it), simply stating that he was aware of the infestations, black mold, broken windows and doors, but that we were still expected to maintain clean rooms for field day inspection (he actually used the word “we” as if this actually impacted him at his giant ass house in base housing) and that the reason we were moved into this barracks was because him and the Sgt Major had “WALKED THROUGH THE WRONG BARRACKS.”

    I don’t know what’s worse, the idea that they were so stupid that they inspected the wrong fucking building, or the possibility that they just made that up because they cared so little about our living conditions and didn’t even bother to invent a more believable alibi.

    We stayed in that barracks for a few more years until it was finally condemned again and everyone was moved back to the original barracks.

    I don’t know if it was indifference or incompetence, but the lack of leadership in that command was staggering. I joined the Marines fully prepared to live in shitty conditions and learned to suffer in silence but I do think there’s a difference between sucking it up and getting the job done when shit gets heavy and being treated like shit simply because the leadership is too lazy to do their job and unwilling to fix their mistakes.

    Everything the Admiral said in this video always seemed like common sense to me, but clearly that sense is not common, at least among military leaders.

  3. Absolutely one of the best examples of true leadership and integrity. Humility, empowerment, ownership, continuous improvement, communication, standards… There are many managers, but not nearly enough good leaders.

  4. Lessons in Leadership:
    1. Know your troops.
    2. Communicate constantly
    3. Set the example
    4. Accountability matters
    5. Allow room to manoeuvre
    6. Own the problems
    7. Learn from failure and move on
    8. Be a servant leader
    Love this Video!

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