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The Power of Shared Leadership

July 24, 2011
Updated May 25, 2015

Seal Team Six Coincidence is everything.

Just on the cusp of Osama bin Laden being killed by the U.S. Navy’s elite Seal Team Six, two related books hit the bookshelves. I profiled The Heart and the Fist in a blog post a few weeks. An outstanding book on leadership, author and former Navy Seal Eric Greitens shares his experiences before, during and after being a Seal. I highly recommend this book.

Shortly after, I learned of another book released at about the same time: SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper. While there are some similarities between the two books, author Howard Wasdin (and co-author Stephen Templin) gives a very personal account of growing up in an abusive home, how he joined the U.S. Navy and later entered the super secret Seal Team Six.

Wasdin shares a surprising amount of information in his book, something I thought would be difficult given the Navy Seal’s secrecy. Nevertheless, looking beyond the missions and firefights he was engaged in, in particular his graphic account of the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993 where he was shot three times in the legs, there’s a strong leadership element in this marvelous book.

Because of my long work in leadership and most notably in what’s called shared (distributed leadership), I found Wasdin’s experiences compelling. Here’s one short section from his book when he and three other Seal Team Six members are in Mogadishu.

In the Teams, we often followed leaders because of reputation they earned or a certain skill set they possessed. Unlike the conventional military, our enlisted men usually called officers by their first names or nicknames. We didn’t subscribe to the robot-like military mentally of top-down leadership, either.
Just because a person outranks someone else in the Teams doesn’t mean he’ll be leading anything–other than on paper. We adapted our weapons and tactics to changing environments and situations.

Think about your own organization or community volunteer work. How is leadership practiced?

If you’re in a leadership position, do you bark out orders expecting obedience and compliance?

Or is your ego sufficiently healthy where you share your power and authority with your team?

Read these two books. Not only will they help you gain a better appreciation of the immense sacrifices that people like Howard Wasdin and Eric Greitnens have made for their country, but there are many leadership lessons that will inspire you.

Here, again, is Wasdin in the final two sentences of his book:
“It is difficult for people to comprehend or appreciate the incredible amounts of training and risks these men undergo. For the most part, their commitment, sacrifice, and patriotism will continue to remain hidden.”

Book CoverClick here to download my complimentary e-book Discover Your Inner Leader: Reflections to Inspire and Motivate.

Visit my e-Books, Resources and Services pages.

Jim-Max2 CropTake a moment to meet Jim.

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