Liam Chambers: Another slant on leadership

Another slant on leadership

Article by: OCdt Liam Chambers

Liam Chambers

I wanted to start this article off by referencing a book I read over the weekend titled “The Operator,” by Robert O’Neill- another top choice for a summer reading list, especially for those combat arms cadets who want nothing more than to kick down doors and blow things up. It is an intense account of SEAL training, the mission to rescue Captain Phillips, a few quips about Officers that, coming from my previous NCM life are hilarious and remind us not to take ourselves so seriously all the time, and most notably, the mission to eliminate Bin Laden.

Regardless of your preference, and I tend to reference SEAL books a lot because that’s just my taste, any piece of literature you can get your hands on that can reference extreme situations, reactive military qualities and different points of view will help create a complete picture for yourself, should you ever find yourself in a situation where all hell is breaking loose, and people are looking at you to make the call. Referencing back to my earlier articles, it might be up to you to get to that ridge and make that call, and preparation of body and mind is essential.

So this guy, Robert O’Neill is the SEAL claiming the kill shot that took out the most wanted man in the world. That has literally nothing to do with the lessons I took from this book, and two, in particular, continue to stand out.

Firstly, O’Neill tells the reader that, after the famous sniper shots that took out the Somali pirates holding Captain Phillips hostage (which he did not shoot), the man responsible for the most difficult shot was, after doing his job, thrust into a sort of hellish fame within the unit that he did not ask for; colleagues were spiteful, resentful, even vindictive. This is a common thing you will all have to deal with in your careers – obviously not killing three Somali pirates… I’m talking about jealousy. If you haven’t noticed yet, we tend to get competitive and hungry for success, and that’s awesome when it comes to completing missions, but it can completely screw up your moral compass; let go of your self-interest and move forward- be a leader and grow the hell up.

Another one quick story that stuck with me refers to the authors time in BUD/S. During the pool phase, students must tie 5 knots underwater, with one breath in between each knot. One of the students, who lifelong dream it was to be a SEAL, actually passed out on the last attempt of his last knot and the instructors pulled him to the surface. Upon coughing up the chlorinated water and regaining consciousness, the student asked, “Did I pass?” The instructor laughed – “Yeah man, you passed.” To which the student replied, “I finally got the last knot, thank god.”

“No,” said the instructor. “You didn’t.” “My job here is not to see if you can tie knots… I really don’t care if you can tie a knot, I need to see how far you’ll push yourself. And you just died, so you pass the test.”

What I mean to say is this. Not everything you do will be easy to understand, meaning hides behind almost everything we do when it’s not visible. Understand that sometimes, it’s just to go through the motions, but it always has precedent. Doing things just to do them is totally useless, a waste of time, and the fastest way to destroy morale – don’t be afraid to explain to people why you are doing things. I once had to paint a railing… in Sea State stupid… at 2 am… after a 10 hour day because “it’s always been done that way,” until a superior showed up who’s brain was in the “ON” position.  What we do has meaning, even if you can’t see it immediately, but if you are the ones giving the orders, and you all will be, make sure it has a function.