Monday, October 6, 2014

I'm Not Building a Navy SEAL Team

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Quick rant this week.

I attend a lot of conferences where the focus is leadership and how to build and lead effective teams. One common type of speaker I see at these conferences is someone retired from the military (an ex-Navy SEAL Team member was the latest example), talking about their own experiences with team-building and team leadership. The talks are always interesting and inspiring. The people giving them always deserve our thanks and applause for the risks they have taken and for their service to our country.

But you know what? I'm not building or leading a Navy SEAL team. I'm running a 10-staff person trade association headquartered in Milwaukee with a $3 million budget. And I'm really not sure what one has to do with the other.

Do I need people who are willing to go the extra mile? Who are willing to do things they are not sure they can accomplish? Sure I do.

But am I going to tear people down the way intense military training does so that I can build them back up in that image? I'm I going to keep people up for seven days straight and dunk them in freezing cold water and make them run back-to-back marathons wearing combat gear?

Or better yet, do I have thousands of recruits to draw from, putting them all through these rigors and building my team out of the dozen or so with the physical and mental stamina to survive?

No, of course I don't. And neither do you. If you're anything like me, your challenges are nothing like those that face SEAL team members or Army Rangers or Green Berets. And, from my perspective, it's a little strange to think otherwise. There are, of course, universal lessons of leadership that apply in nearly every situation, but aren't those lessons better conveyed through a context that is more similar to the world I actually live in?

I think so.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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