The Navy SEAL Art of War

The Navy SEAL Art of War explains how Special Forces training can help business professionals develop important leadership skills for.

In the dead of the night, a group of trainees in life vests are transported by rubber raiding craft to the middle of California’s San Diego Bay. Suddenly, instructor Rob Roy and his assistants push the trainees overboard, forcing them to swim to shore in the dark, icy waters. In his welcome speech just moments earlier, Roy had said, “I will not let you fail!”

This exercise, called Leadership Under Fire, is the first in one of the most popular training programs offered by Roy’s company, Special Operations Training Group, and the Young Presidents’ Organization, a network of more than 21,000 chief executives of companies. The program is tailored to business people who want to become leaders in their fields and improve their professional and personal lives.

Roy’s goal is to instil the fundamental principles that characterize the SEALs (Sea, Air and Land), the US navy’s elite special force. A proud navy veteran, Roy spent 20 of his 23-year career with the force, mostly with the vaunted SEAL Team Six, the unit famous for having carried out the 2011 mission to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. By the time he left in 2005, Roy had numerous exploits and dangerous missions under his belt.

Organized into 58 short chapters, The Navy SEAL Art of War was written in collaboration with speechwriter Chris Lawson. Roy’s principles are clear, concise and precise: “This training is supposed to hurt”; “The only way out is through”; “In the absence of leadership ... lead”; and “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

Roy makes references to military thinkers who had a strong influence over his career, such as Chinese Gen. Sun Tzu, US Gen. George S. Patton and former US secretary of state Colin Powell. He also credits his mother with teaching him about leadership.

According to the author, the battlefield and the corporate world require similar leadership skills. He finds parallels between them: both require continuous effort; the strength of a team and its individual members; discipline; front-sight focus (concentrating on one objective at a time); humility; and adaptability (for example, the raid on bin Laden included not one, but four courses of action). Roy considers these qualities critical to anchoring any combat or business strategy.

The Navy SEAL Art of War is an easy-to-read reference guide that shows how to apply the principles that have proven successful for the renowned military force to professional life.