This Story About Navy SEAL Hell Week Will Teach You How To Become A Better Leader
Leif Babin is a former Navy SEAL instructor who just co-authored a new book with his former commander Jocko Willink about Navy SEAL training, leadership, and hell week. The most profound takeaway from Babin’s time as a Navy Seal (and biggest catalyst for writing the book) was how he observed the impact of good and bad leadership on training, or as the program says “There are no bad teams — only bad leaders.”
If you’re looking for something new to read I HIGHLY suggest checking out Leif Babin’s new book, but before you make a decision on whether or not to buy the book I want you to read this story (pulled from Business Insider‘s review):
The SEALs candidates were grouped by height into boat crews of seven men and assigned to a WWII-relic inflatable boat that weighed more than 200 pounds. The most senior-ranking sailor became the boat crew leader responsible for receiving, transmitting, and overseeing the execution of the lead instructor’s orders.
In one exercise, the instructors had the teams engage in a constant string of boat races, requiring the teams to carry their boats atop their heads to shore, paddle the boat to a specific marker, dump themselves out of the boat and get back in, and carry through a path to the endpoint back on land.
There was a clear pattern emerging as the races proceeded, Babin writes. Boat Crew II was almost guaranteed to come in first place in every race, and Boat Crew VI was almost guaranteed to come in last place.
Babin and the most experienced instructor in attendance, whom Babin calls Senior Chief, kept their eyes on the leader of Boat Crew VI, an inexperienced officer who was losing his cool in every race. His behavior was unacceptable for a SEAL.
First off, it’s somewhat reassuring to know that Navy SEAL’s Hell Week training includes some of the same drills we used to run back when I was on Crew in high school. Now back to the story…
Before the start of one race, Senior Chief announced that the leaders of Boat Crews II and VI would be swapping teams. Babin says he saw the way the struggling crew leader seemed elated while his superior seemed to process frustration into resolve.
Over the next hour of races, Boat Crew II performed well but never took first; Boat Crew VI won nearly every race.
“Gone was their cursing and frustration,” Babin writes about Boat Crew VI. “And gone too was the constant scrutiny and individual attention they had received from the SEAL instructor staff. Had I not witnessed this amazing transformation, I might have doubted it.”
It was a perfect training example of the principle of “Extreme Ownership,” which Willink taught him as commander of Task Unit Bruiser when they were deployed in Ramadi. It’s the simple idea that all responsibility for any success or failure ultimately rests on a leader.
If these are the kinds of stories you enjoy reading then I suggest checking out Babin’s new book (it’s only been out for 9 days):