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The Navy Seal Art of War

April 27, 2015

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Navy SEAL Rob Roy brings together The Art of War, and what he's learned from running his own leadership course, in The Navy Seal Art of War.

Sun Tsu's Art of War, a military treatise written over two thousand years ago on the other side of the globe, is often cited as a must-read for modern day business management. Managers find in its thoughts on military strategy and tactics lessons apt to today's hyper-competitive business environment. Sun Tsu's ruminations on topics such as positioning echo throughout some of the business literature of today. What's often missing is an underlying understanding of the warrior ethos of the original. Rob Roy straddles these two worlds admirably in his new book, The Navy Seal Art of War: Leadership Lessons from the World's Most Elite Fighting Force.

Roy spent twenty years as a Navy SEAL, and like Sun Tsu he knows that even an expertly designed and well laid plan is only good until it hits the ground (or market), and then it becomes a matter of conditions (battle field or marketplace) and real-life, real-time responses. As he writes in a chapter titled "The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday" (also Sot-G's motto):


It is imperative that we live in the moment. What we do right now, this moment, is what ultimately matters.

SEALs know that the only easy day was yesterday, because that day is over. Today's mission will most likely deliver new and unimagined challenges and difficulties. Consequently, we never rest on our laurels, because we fervently believe that what happened yesterday no longer counts.

Unlike Sun Tsu, Roy also knows something about the modern business world. He is the founder of Sot-G, an "eighty hour intensive leadership course that uses military combat training to teach executives and managers the leadership skills they need to succeed in business and life." So, while

The Navy Seal Art of War is "infused ... with the Spirit of Sun Tsu," it is filled with stories and lessons from his own life and experience. And he's put them all in quick, easy to digest chapters


While Sun Tsu offered thirteen chapters, each one devoted to one aspect of warfare, I've spread my thoughts over seventy-five chapters. And, of course, I navigate from the battlefield to the boardroom, finding the essential leadership parallels between miltary and corporate leaders, to make this of use in the corporate world...

Splitting his thoughts up in this way does two things: lets him speak directly and succinctly to specific points and subtopics, and offers readers a book they can take with them and digest in the shorter bursts of time we all seem to have available nowadays. So perhaps you have a tough decision to make with your team, and you're stuck. If you have Rob Roy's book handy, you could flip through the chapter titles and come across this quick, concise nugget of inspiration on "Team Ability" before proceeding.


Seals expect to lead, but they are also willing to be led by someone with a better plan. In the absence of orders we take charge, leading our teammates and accomplishing the mission. But if, in the heat of battle, someone else on the team has a better extraction plan than the team leader, the team leader will defer to the other's expertise. That kind of "team ability" requires trust, confidence, and respect from every member of the team. It's also what makes SEAL teams so special and effective. Rank may have its privilege, but it's usually moot on operations.

Those who think they always know what's right or, even worse, what's best, make poor teammates and bad leaders. That's especially true is the person leading starts dictating. A successful SEAL learns early on the vale of teamwork and does his best to fit into the team and know his place and play his role, rather than try to bend it to his will or desires. A good leader may not always have the best ideas, for example, but he may be great at getting them from others. Confident in his abilities, he doesn't need to conquer the or dominate the group. If he's a genuine professional, others will quickly realize it and respect his authority.

There is a popular notion in today's business world that today's leaders need to be "idea people" who lead their teams with a vision and are able to align others to it. This is a good reminder that leaders, first and foremost, need to be competent professionals that can lead their teams in the implementation and execution of ideas, wherever and whoever they come from. And, if you have The Navy Seal Art of War handy, you can find that reminder almost as easily as looking something up in a reference book, just by skimming the book's chapter titles.

It's the next best thing to getting out of the office altogether for 80 hours with Rob Roy and his Sot-G team, where they can literally drill these lessons into you.

It's also slightly less intimidating.

We have 20 copies available.



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