Wisdom//

A Former Navy SEAL Commander Says You Can’t Be a Great Leader Without Knowing When to Be a Follower

It starts with knowing when to lead and when to follow.

Courtesy  tomertu / Getty Images    

By Richard Feloni

  • Leif Babin is a former Navy SEAL commander and the coauthor, with his former SEAL boss Jocko Willink, of “The Dichotomy of Leadership.”
  • Their leadership consulting firm Echelon Front has worked with more than 400 businesses since its founding in 2010.
  • Babin said strong leadership requires knowing when to be a follower, and that a mission he led with “ American Sniper” Chris Kyle on his team illustrates the point.

Former Navy SEAL commander Leif Babin knows that, as a leader, it can be difficult to keep an ego in check. But it’s necessary.

“As a leader, you’ve go to be decisive, you’ve got to make calls, you’ve got to be ready to step up and lead even in the most difficult circumstances,” he told Business Insider. “And yet, if you want to be the most effective leader, you absolutely have to be a follower as well.”

Babin was one of two platoon leaders reporting to Jocko Willink, who led US Navy SEAL Team 3 Task Unit Bruiser in the Iraq War. The two founded the leadership consulting firm Echelon Front in 2010, and their firm has worked with more than 400 businesses.

In their new book, “The Dichotomy of Leadership,” Babin shares a story of a mission that illustrates his point of how a leader must also be a follower.

Read more: Former Navy SEAL commanders say the ‘4 laws of combat’ are easily adapted to the business world

During the 2006 Battle of Ramadi, Babin led a night mission where his SEALs were providing cover for Army soldiers and Marines. The late Chris Kyle, of “American Sniper” fame, was Babin’s point man. At one point, the team gathered on a roof to determine where they would set up a sniper overwatch. Babin and his leaders decided they would move to a certain building for that, but Kyle countered with a different selection that was not close to Babin’s choice.

Babin outranked Kyle, but he also recognized that Kyle had the most experience with sniper missions of anyone on the team, including himself.

“‘Leading’ didn’t mean pushing my agenda or proving I had all the answers,” Babin wrote. “It was about collaborating with the rest of the team and determining how we could most effectively accomplish our mission. I deferred to Chris’ judgment.”

Read more: A dangerous mistake made by a former Navy SEAL commander in an early mission taught him a lesson about planning he never forgot

It was a call Babin said turned out to be the right one, and led to a successful mission. In the book, Babin reflected on a moment when he was a fresh platoon leader, and a stubborn refusal to acknowledge a suggestion from a team member who was lower in rank but had more experience led to a failed training exercise. It was fortunate he learned the lesson before deploying.

“Had we gone with my initial choice — had I disregarded Chris and overruled him because ‘I was in charge’ — we would have been highly ineffective, disrupting virtually no attacks, and that might very well have cost the lives of some of our brethren,” Babin wrote.

Follow us on Facebook for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

More from Thrive Global:

8 Things You Should Do After 8 P.M. If You Want to Be Happy and Successful

The One Relationship You’re Probably Ignoring

The One Word That Can Hurt Your Reputation at Work

Originally published at www.businessinsider.com

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.