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Diversity Leadership Lessons from the Navy Seals with Julius Pryor III

July 20, 2011

The Navy Seals always operate as a high performance team. Understanding how they accomplish their goals can teach you how to deliver consistently superior results. The Seals are disciplined, focused, and always clear about objectives. They are Outcomes Driven, and ready to Extend Themselves to meet all contingencies.

As a Navy Officer, I had the opportunity to work with and support SEAL Teams on various Naval exercises and training evolutions. I had a chance to see how they did their jobs and to understand what they refer to as: “Extending Yourself to Complete the Mission” 3 Key Concepts:

  1. Clarity of Objectives: How they strategically communicate objectives is just as important as tactical execution. To speak to a diverse audience requires skills in managing diversity. Members of SEAL Teams come from disparate and diverse backgrounds. Yet they have to learn to trust each other. This level of trust is intrinsic; it comes from training together and understanding that everyone on the team has to meet the same requirements. Everyone is capable, but they are most effective as a team. They always function for the betterment of the team. The team is above all else what matters most. There is humility in what they do. They are not a “swagger” organization – in fact they believe that swagger and macho will deliver bad results. They are very clear about goals and objectives: how do we get in, how do we get out, what are contingency plans and what are contingencies to the contingency plan. How can they minimize lives lost–how can they use the least lethal force to get the efficacy desired. In other words, they are professionals.
  2. Benefits of a Requirements Driven Culture: Organizations that are requirements driven don’t rely on cronyism and personal preferences. A requirements driven culture leans toward competence and ability. It also indicates that they believe in training– realistic training. When they are not on a mission, they are training. Most of us spend a great deal of our time doing administrative work and wasting time in meetings. We may actually spend 30% of our time doing productive work, if that! The NAVSPECWAR (Naval Special Warfare) Command made a decision early on to create a separate administrative support staff, so that the Teams could focus 90% of their time on training. That is a hallmark of a requirements driven business model. It is completely focused on delivering desired outcomes. It also infers that in addition to individual competencies, the entire organization is supportive of their success. The larger team of other branches of the military and allies, the DOD (Department of Defense) at large, the JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) and civilian agencies are there to lend a hand. They are being nurtured and sponsored to succeed in their mission at every level.
  3. Leveraging Global Human Capital–Passionate Teams Always Win: To successfully leverage a global team requires trust. To win with a global team infers being able to lead from the middle or the side, not only from the front. SEAL Team decision-making is pushed down to lowest level appropriate; at anytime, any member of the team may be called upon to step up to make critical calls. To drive results, future leaders have to be able to inspire and have a passionate vision; they have to get out of the way. The goal is to deliver tangible, clearly defined results. SEALs are trained for physical factors: to be in top physical condition; to have cardiovascular endurance. They are trained to overcome environmental factors: cold, heat, sand, rain, and snow; to function effectively when tired and hungry. The psychological factors are most difficult to work through: mental toughness – the esprit de corps that comes from knowing everyone is capable, focused and disciplined. Everyone is there for the mission. Navy SEALS are a 21st century collaborative team. They utilize foundational principles of Diversity and Inclusion to Extend Themselves to Complete the Mission.

Linkage recently hosted a webinar in partnerhsip Julius Pryor III of J Pryor Group on Extending Yourself to Complete the Mission – Lessons from the Navy.  If you would like to download the recording, click here>>

About Julius Pryor III:




Julius Pryor III
 has 22 years of experience as a U.S. Navy Officer, serving in various commands, most notably as part of the historic re-commissioning crew of the USS Missouri (BB-63). He was on board for Missouri’s first major deployment: a circumnavigation of the world. He has been in a number of Navy leadership roles. He has completed course work at the National Defense University and the Naval Postgraduate School. Mr. Pryor holds the rank of Captain, and is a certified instructor for the Navy Officer Leadership Development Course.




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