Spotlight: Navy SEALs – Extreme Leadership



U.S. Navy SEALs. Not many words in the English language command such instant recognition or deserve more honor and respect. But what is their secret? What makes their form of leadership work? Is it something you can replicate in your industry, your company, your position? Open your imagination to the possibilities as you read below.


Spotlight: Navy SEALs – Extreme Leadership

A business approach to leadership, the Navy SEALs way

This month’s feature article is dedicated to Scott Joseph, a true friend and co-founder of JMS Elite, who passed away three years ago this month. Scott was a long-time avid supporter of both the Navy SEAL Foundation and of the Wounded Warrior Project. He suggested the topic, “Extreme Leadership, the Navy SEAL Way” and we are re-sharing this article, first published by our client and friends at International Risk Consultants ( We all share Navy SEAL and author Mark DeLisle’s sentiments expressed in his dedication to Scott below, ‘…You will never be forgotten and your words of wisdom will always be remembered.’”

Extreme Leadership: The Navy SEAL Way

Extreme Leadership starts with attitude. In the SEAL Teams, the idea of failure was not an option, and in order to fathom this concept one must eliminate two words – “I can’t.”   We saw candidates’ capacity to perform at high levels drop just by letting doubt enter their minds.   If the desire is to be a corporate warrior, then you need to let go of any normal parameters that can restrain an average corporate executive’s way of thinking. I use the phrase, “the only limitations we face in life are the ones we place on ourselves.”


To be successful, one can’t be his or her worst enemy.   Ask, what is the objective? Then visualize it, believe it, and then achieve it!   No excuses.


Motivation comes from within, and unless you internalize your motivation, you are done. We call it “Gut check.” Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot achieve something. Gut check time is now.

Personal Limitations

The human body has a survival mechanism and it does not like to leave its comfort zone or be surprised. In order to guard against extremes of discomfort, fear and surprise, the body may place doubt as a roadblock to success. The body will do whatever it takes to keep you in its normal rut.


Doubt will come in many forms, from mental games, to limiting physical capacity to prohibiting emotional motivation. Time and time again, we saw a perfect specimen of a SEAL candidate quit just 30 minutes or even 10 minutes short of an activity’s termination point (or time limit) because the candidate lost focus on the goal.


The candidate fell short because of an unwillingness to sacrifice the energy and an inability to find the will to go on. He was not sure how much more he could take. Ten minutes from greatness and achieving a goal that would stand for the rest of their lives, and they stopped.


Perceived personal limitations or acceptance of incapacity from this day forward must be eliminated. Any doubt must be removed instantly.   Do not let the words “I can’t” ever come back into your vocabulary.



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Make It Happen

Now that you are willing to break down the walls and start from scratch, let’s look at the making of a corporate warrior. From the start of SEAL training to the end, we were empowered to achieve those things that others say are impossible. Many briefings were closed with a phrase that I will never forget: “Make it Happen.” Instead of saying, ‘I want you to figure out how to do this’ or ‘Do you feel you are ready?’ We were told, “Make it happen.”


The commanding officer, the boss, did not care how we did it or if we were ready. His confidence in us did not allow him to doubt that a task would be done.   It was as simple as “Make it happen.”


To empower yourself, or even better, empower your team, verbalize those three words. It shows that you have no doubt you or your team can get it done. It shows you have the confidence that the job will get done. Force your team to get out of their comfort zones, to be creative, and find ways to accomplish their assigned tasks.


Visualize walking into a meeting, giving your team your objectives and what needs to happen. You simply say, “Make it happen” and walk out. They may be puzzled at first but will soon switch into “survival mode” and figure out a way to make it happen.


You have just empowered your team to become an unstoppable force. You just showed a tremendous amount of confidence in them and what they can accomplish if they work together as a team. This will give you a chance to see hard chargers rise to the top.


Empowering others shows trust and confidence that they will not want to fall short of, and will not forget. You will be amazed at the level of creativity that can be achieved when someone goes into survival mode and must rely on themselves. You might be even surprised at the concepts or ideas that come out when they are asked to find the path to reach their goals.


A SEAL’s true potential was never achieved unless he was broken down and forced to rely on instinct and personal strength. True warriors learn how to do this for themselves first, then for the team.


A phrase we used often was, “You are only as strong as your weakest link.” Don’t be afraid to take the weakest person in your team and turn them into a strength. Maximize the strengths of those around you while strengthening those assets of someone’s weaknesses. A sign of a true corporate warrior is not being afraid to make those around you better than they are.


What sets SEAL training apart from other military branches or even that of other countries, is the assertion that SEAL training is the toughest in the world. In addition, there was no special treatment or exemptions for officers or executives. SEAL leaders went through the exact same training as enlisted men and they got dirty in the trenches alongside of us. There was nothing worse than being lead by a “cake eater” that could not lead by example. In the corporate world it happens time and time again. The managers or corporate executives become disconnected, and thus discounted or disrespected by their teams.


During Hell Week – final training week, done without sleep – by the third day without sleep you are tired, cold and miserable. Here is your platoon officer just as cold and miserable right next to you. He picks you up off the ground and looks at you as he says, “We are not going to let them beat us!”


You cannot help but have a mutual respect. The incredible respect for one another within a SEAL Team comes down to having sacrificed through the toughest of times together. We know that no matter how tough it gets, that my shipmate right next to me will have my back.


Do you have your team’s back? Are you willing to get dirty in the trenches alongside them? Are you willing to lead by example?

End Objective

Key factors to note. If a team feels disrespected by their leaders. If a team feels that their leadership is not willing to get into the trenches with them.   If a team is not allowed to get out of their comfort zones and to charge without fear of consequences, then they are not being utilized to the best of their ability.


How would you feel as a hard charger if you were allowed to drive hard, be creative, and make things happen, knowing that those above were pushing you in full support? It would be amazing.


Now, apply that same principle to yourself. Eliminate the parameters that are binding and restricting progress and do a gut check. Seek the internal motivation necessary to make things happen so it is not short lived. Do not limit yourself to what you think you are capable of doing, and set new powerful goals that will take you to the next level. “The only easy day was yesterday,” as we would say. Hooyah!


In honor of my dear friend, shipmate, mentor and true corporate warrior Scott Joseph, I wish you clear skies and smooth seas. You will never be forgotten and your words of wisdom will always be remembered.


Mark DeLisle is a nationally recognized fitness author and motivator.  Mark spent over 10 years with the Navy SEALs, and Mark’s books, “Navy SEAL Workout,” and “Special Ops Fitness, High Intensity Workouts of the Navy SEALs, Green Beret, Force Recon and Army Rangers,” can be found on Amazon.  If you wish to book Mark as a guest speaker or for a corporate wellness seminar, you can reach him at [email protected].


Mark works at Milk that Matters to help fight child sex trafficking.  Help Mark fight this heinous problem by going to  50% all of purchases go to Operation Underground Railroad (OUR).


For our readers interested in providing financial support to either of the two incredible foundations to which Scott Joseph was devoted, please go to the respective web sites for:


Wounded Warriors

Navy SEAL Foundation


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