Review: Former Navy SEAL Mark Devine writes leadership book

“Staring Down the Wolf: 7 Leadership Commitments That Forge Elite Teams,” St. Martin’s Press, by Mark Divine

Safe to say that Navy SEALs are considered to be the most elite of special forces.

That heritage gives former SEAL Mark Divine, author of “Staring Down the Wolf: 7 Leadership Commitments That Forge Elite Teams,” a near-instant credibility and audience to explore how his seven commitments can help make a business team military-strong. Who would argue that infusions of courage, trust, respect, growth, excellence, resiliency and alignment wouldn’t enhance any workplace?

Military culture and practices can be hard to transfer to civilian institutions, especially given the diminishing percentage of the population that claims some military service and therefore understands the military way. Just 0.5 percent of the population has served in the armed forces since Sept. 11, 2001, compared with 9 percent who served during World War II. That means military culture is an abstraction rather than a reality to most Americans.

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Divine seems to be aware of that but his examples nonetheless often relate to his commando experiences and the book is punctuated with references such as “battle rhythm,” “dropping grenades of negativity” and VUCA, an Army acronym for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

No question, that’s our world but can SEAL values help civilian organizations?

Divine fervently believes they can.

Americans do engage in “warrior envy,” which explains the nonstop flow of books striving to apply military values to the business world. A recent Pew Research Center survey found the military to be America’s most respected institution and at least three of the lead characters on network television shows are former Navy SEALs and they portray their characters as tough, resourceful, daring, fit, calm, courteous and direct.

So how to weave the seven commitments and SEAL mentality into a business where no one likely claims any military experience or even knows anyone in the armed forces?

This is where the metaphor of the wolves emerges. The “fear wolf” in Divine’s book is what is holding you back emotionally; the fear wolf must be stared down. Then you become the courage wolf, a “heart-centered, world-centric” leader serious about the seven commitments.

Difficult as transmitting the values Divine outlines into a civilian organization might be, the book nonetheless brims with practical asides that can be applied to any organization:

(asterisk) Check your ego at the door.

(asterisk) Be open to other people’s ideas and perspective.

(asterisk) Be completely transparent.

(asterisk) The devil really is in the details.

(asterisk) Connect to your spiritual center, which is humility.

(asterisk) Even if you are largely responsible for the outcome, always give credit to the team.

(asterisk) Do not fear failure, as it is your best chance to grow.

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