Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category


Tonight I had an incredible leadership development experience. I completed an introductory metal welding course through a local art college – Vesper College. It may seem counterintuitive that metal welding, especially artsy metal welding, can be something that supports the personal capacity for leadership development, but let me share a few highlights with you. Let me start by asserting that three critical competencies for leadership are creativity, problem-solving, and adaptive ability.

During the course we completed a “conceptualization phase” activity which called on us to utilize our impressions and associations in naming a creative direction for what we were to construct from welded iron bars and thick wire. It was difficult for me to jump out of the rational thinking box and into a wider space of possibilities. Our activity consisted of naming our impressions of welded pieces, adding random words to the mix, taking associative feedback from other classmates, and finally naming our prospective welding project and creative direction. To be honest, I would appreciate more practice at it, because I can see how this mode of thinking is absolutely critical for thinking of something that either hasn’t been though of before or hasn’t been accomplished before. That’s the maelstrom of leadership.

The process of learning how to weld metal is a non-stop series of problem-solving situations. You start with two pieces of cold metal that won’t stick to each other, a cylinder of inert gas, some electrical and gas lines, and a vision in your mind of what you want to construct. That’s where the problem-solving starts. The iron bars need to be cut, the seam weld needs to be hot enough to hold the iron together but not so hot that I burn a hole through the pieces, etc. Needless to say, I burned my hand within the first 10 minutes (freshly cut iron is hot), burned a few holes through my iron bars, and never finished strong spot welds. Even so, the process of setting a vision and problem-solving my way toward it was a a true learning experience. At one point, my spot welds simply were not taking, and I felt like quitting and heading home as it was the scheduled end of class. Instead, I took 5 minutes, walked around, decided to stay after class since the instructor was keeping the studio open. I took a run at it again, this time finishing a decent enough spot weld. The process involved both technical problem-solving and adaptive problem-solving from me.

I started this whole process with an initial vision and plan. As I completed my project, some things did not work out as I had planned, and required me to be creative again and adapt. My final product was developed through a process of adaptation and evolution.

I walked out of the building tonight having engaged in a challenging creative mental process that got me out of my comfort zone, challenged me to define a personal vision, and work my way towards it through problem-solving and adaptation. The series of problem-solving challenges required both technical and adaptive solutions from me. I am a better leader because of this experience.

Want to work on your leadership ability? I’ll say “Always challenge your mind!” Get out of your comfort zone, seek new information and experiences that will require you to create, problem-solve and adapt in new ways. If you have an art school near you…think about it! Me? I’m going back for another class next month! Train hard, never quit, live well! – Tom Delaney (that’s me in the photo)

If you or your team would like to more meaningfully engage and work on the leadership principles of creativity, problem-solving and adaptation, contact me – Tom Delaney – at to select or custom design individual or team training professional development designs.


“I want to serve something bigger than myself,” is a phrase you will hear from people as the reason why they chose a commitment of service to others and to the nation, even when and especially when that choice involves sacrfice and acceptance of personal risk. I heard this phrase from Marines in the Assault Amphibious School Battalion (MCRD – San Diego) as the reason why they chose the Marine Corps. Robert Needham (Navy SEAL) describes commitment to a cause larger than self as a defining characteristic of SEAL Team members. The conception of a cause bigger than myself, and the determination of a conscious resolve to that cause, and the commitment to take direction in my life from that cause, is an important aspect of leadership development.

My experience in working with people has been that this kind of resolve and commitment is often not easy to arrive at. Two obstacles can happen. First, is the personal statement “I don’t believe things like higher causes and things bigger than myself are real.” Second is the personal statement on the other side, “I believe in things like higher causes and things bigger than myself, but I’m not important or cut out for that stuff.”

The first person is a risky person to have on a team because when things are at their absolute worst and only a belief in a higher cause will compel that person to do what they need to do for the team, that person cannot be counted on to come through for the team because they do not feel compelled by the cause. However, I don’t write off people like that. I invite people like that to get an open mind and experiment with the idea that there are higher causes and things bigger than him or her. Try it out and see how it works for you and others. “I don’t believe in something bigger than myself, but if i did, I guess I would …” OK, that’s a start! My experience has been that a lot of people will start out reluctant but will come around after experiencing life with a belief in a higher cause and something bigger than her or him. All of the sudden life has more meaning, and the person has a more noble identity and higher esteem for self and from others. It positively creates an aura and palpable energy around the person! Some people call this process “drinking the kool-aid” in reference to a cult tragedy back in the 70’s…but in this case we’re talking about drinking something that reveals and empowers.

The second person is also risky to have one a team because when things are at their absolute worst and only a belief in a higher cause will compel that person to do what they need to do for the team they will not feel they are the “chosen one” or up to the job. Like the first person, I don’t write off these people either. The problem is that this person has a preconceived notion about what a champion or hero looks like and has decided they don’t fit the bill, or grew up with people telling her or him that they don’t have the stuff of courage and heroism in them. This is of course negative self-talk and literally not true anyway. Peruse photos and biographies of heroes and you’ll see that they come in all shapes, sizes, races, backgrounds, etc. There are the big and burly classic looking heroes, and there are just as many wiry looking bad asses out there as well. Body type, gender, race — none of that selects the solid teammate or hero. Fateful matches between hard circumstance and even harder personal commitment makes heroism happen. Right away I think of Dick Couch writing how it isn’t the big burly guys who make it through BUD/S reliably. Watch the true story of Carl Brashear in the film Men of Honor, an African-American who rose out of poverty and racism to become a hero. Look at photos and read about the Night Witches of the 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment who flew decrepit biplanes against the German Army in World War II. There are many examples and it all goes to show that there is no formulaic hero or champion — it’s only about personal commitment and the brains to follow through on it. So to any person who thinks they’re too small for something bigger than him or herself, I invite that type of person to start dismantling their preconceived notions of what the higher cause and the hero looks like. They need to start looking into the mirror and considering the possibility that there’s a champion and a hero looking back at them, if they just commit to it being so.

OK, so that’s plenty of advice on how to work with people in either of those two circumstances. Where did it come from? It comes from my own personal experience of having been both of those people. Days when I didn’t have time for higher causes and things bigger than myself. Days when I thought “I’m too skinny” and then days when I thought “I’m too fat” to be of any use to a higher cause. Been there, done that. Worked through it all and now I stand on the other end and can give anyone the facts. All of this is to say that the best advice for others is once again usually the best advice for myself as well, and to never lose track of that. I can’t just state an example for others to follow, I gotta live it.

If you or your team want to engage more deeply and meaningfully with this aspect of leadership development, let me – Tom Delaney – know by sending an e-mail to, and I will be able to share with you workshop formats and complete a planning process with you. We’ll make it happen!

Tran hard, never quit, live well!

Tom Delaney


Today I would like to share with you more of my highlights and notes from Team Secrets of the Navy SEALs by Robert Needham (Navy SEAL). I finished this book last night and have to say that amongst all the flotsam and jetsam of leadership literature, this little $6 book was a real treasure to find! Best book on leadership and organizational theory I have ever read — and I’m a guy who has dropped a lot of money on leadership courses. In hsraing these notes with you, I hope to share some of the wisdom and save you a lot of wasted effort and money as well! Here goes…

Chapter 1 – Leading the Best (cont.)

“Never underestimate the value of a fresh , innovative and perhaps even abstract point of view. Diversity is good and can strengthen the Team.” — A team with no diversity has less potential ability for adaptation when the inevitable challenges arise. In addition, I read this and thought of the value of keeping my own thinking fresh, innovative and abstract. It helps me stay mentally strong and adaptive. Yeah, I am a guy who reads a lot of “weird stuff” all the time and maintains a lot of interests in arts, cultures, history and literature. Because of this, I am able to look at situations and problems from multiple perspectives, assess multiple risks, and come up with multiple possible solutions. I also just get a lot more out of life.

“Even in failure, a tight Team can learn, adapt, train, and get itself back in the fight.” — It’s never how many times I or my team gets knocked down, it’s about how many times we I get back up. What separates a team that can get back i the fight from one that is down for the count is the ability of that team to learn. As long as I and my team are learning, we’re still in the fight. In addition, there’s value in mistakes as learning opportunities. I humorously remember watching Don Shipley (Navy SEAL) remark on one occasion “You don’t learn shit without failure” — he’s right! As many failures as I have had in my life, I am happy to say I learned a lot from them! I’m a pretty smart guy! 😉

“You are expected, as are the rest of the [Team] members, to be of the highest caliber. Hold yourself to these standards as you would anyone else…no excuses.” — High standards is a lifestyle choice. I either choose high standards or I don’t. In my view, the choice is not dependent on wealth, brains, convenience or anything like that. Anyone is capable of adopting high standards without those things. Adopting high standards depends upon me recognizing my own potential to meet high standards, and the fact that the world needs me to do so. I am expected to adopt high standards by those who depend upon me — my family especially, but also my co-workers and my community. I make the choice, and because I see the potential in others, and because I see the world needs people with high standards in order for things like justice and prosperity to happen, I do expect high standards from others.

“Each block or phase will follow the same basic pattern: Learn, apply, review, evaluate, reapply, reevaluate, and then set SOP’s (standard operating procedures).” — A defined process for learning. Needham also emphasizes the value of documenting and frequently reviewing “lessons learned” in a notebook or electronic file.

“When you are planning a mission or a roadmap to complete an assigned task, set points along the way to realign and refocus your efforts. Bring the Team together and ensure that you are indeed headed in the correct direction…periodic checkpoints will ensure you’re on track.” — Land navigation and orienteering is a very concrete way to learn and practice this principle. It is not enough for me to set a course for a destination at the outset based on the limited information I have. I need to set checkpoints to ensure that I establish and maintain a course toward my destination that minimizes risk to acceptable levels. Project management and life itself functions the same way. Get your map, get your compass, AND be prepared to adjust and adapt!

I am preparing engaging leadership development modules, including practical exercises, for individuals and teams. If you or your team is interested in engaging with leadership development in a practical and meaningful work session, let me – Tom Delaney – know via e-mail to We’ll put it together and make it happen!


My definition of tactical fitness asserts that in any real “tactical” situation, mental ability is more important to a successful outcome than physical ability. “Tactical fitness” must integrate if not emphasize and prioritize mental fitness and situational capability. Based on this, anyone who tries to sell you a “tactical” fitness program that consists solely of physical exercise is working with a very small and ultimately unrealistic model of tactical fitness. If you review the testimony of successful candidates in BUD/S or other special operations assessment and selection processes, they consistently emphasize the premier importance of mental stamina in goal-setting, communication and decision-making. It’s not the big guys that consistently make it to the end, it’s the guys who can maintain a sharp and committed mind despite sleep deprivation, chaotic environments, and adverse conditions.

For this installment of Leadership in the Leaning Rest, I want to talk about informative communication and its importance for effective decision-making and problem-solving. Knowing how to formulate informative communication will set you apart as a capable leader, and as a capable member within a high performing team.

Let me begin by relating a story. Recently a co-worker came to me reporting that he had a number of questions from the field concerning my area of supervision. He described to me that agencies in the field reported they were not receiving information. When this happens, I go into a process of problem identification (“Where’s the breakdown?”) and formulating a targeted solution. So, I followed up with a series of questions. I asked him to identify the agencies who said they were not receiving information. He replied it was a focus group conversation and he could not identify the agencies. I asked him to identify the specific information that was not being received. He could not identify that for me either. Next I asked him to share with me any involved data he or the group had — a survey, meeting notes, anything! He said he did not have anything. At this point I am stymied. I think it is important to identify options as part of any problem-solving process, even in the absence of information. So, I asked him for a recommendation. He did not have one.

I will admit that the first reaction to my experience is some frustration with my co-worker. He was actually “on the scene” and in the best position to observe, collect information, and possibly even respond to the situation immediately … but did not do so. I did not need to ask “What did YOU do?” because it was clear from the other responses I had received him.

BUT, for me the smart thing to do is figure out that this is an opportunity for SELF-CHECK? — “Am I an informative communicator of actionable information to my co-workers and supervisor, or do I do the same thing?”

The way information was communicated in my experience did not enable me to be informed and engage a process of decision-making and problem-solving. This doesn’t mean there isn’t an actual problem still lurking out there, but it does highlight that the way information s being communicated in my work setting is disabling, not enabling when it comes to decision-making and problem-solving. I have to say that especially when you have co-workers or teammates reporting adverse or negative stories or hearsay, with no supporting data, what may be happening is either scapegoating or establishment of a negative work environment or culture. It’s a lose-lose deal for everyone and dangerous stuff.

So what’s the alternative? The alternative is self-checking my own communication style and making sure that when I communicate a situation to a teammate or supervisor, I cover the basics:

1. Who?
2. What?
3. When?
4. Where?
5. Why? (…as in “Why did it happen?” or “Why is it happening?”)

In addition, it is important to follow up #5 with at least one recommended option, if not three, that are aligned with my team and organization’s mission. Every time a problem gets reported to someone, it is separated one degree away from the problem situation itself. That separation can make it difficult to formulate a decision and a targeted effective response. The best way to minimize the risk that separation will cause error is to make sure the basics – #1 through #5 above – are covered. This is what your teammates are going to need in a tactical situation.

PRACTICAL EXERCISE: Have your team split up into pairs or triads and have each small group choose (or select for them) a report, memo or news article that details a situation requiring decision-making or problem-solving. The more immediate the situation, the better (i.e. choose events not theological problems). Select someone to verbally communicate the situation following my guidelines above. Have the other partner or partner pair track both the effectiveness and efficiency of the reporter’s communication. This is done in order to provide the person with feedback that will make them an effective and efficient communicator, and so that the partner and partner pair gets to pick up valuable points for their own Self-Check.

If you want to work on informative and actionable communication individually or with your team, integrating a version of the above practical exercise and other activities, contact me – Tom Delaney – at and we will set it up!


The Center for Complex Operations within the National Defense University (Washington DC) publicized U.S. Army Doctrine 2015 today. The Mission Command Center of Excellence at the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center states “Doctrine 2015 captures the essential lessons learned from 10+ years of persistent conflict,” and has made the series of Army Doctrine Publications (ADP’s) publicly available and accessible HERE. One of these is ADP 7-0, Training Units and Developing Leaders. I consistently find lessons in reviewing theoretical and applied leadership models, and reviewing ADP 7-0 was no exception. Here are a few key points on leadership development that I took away from looking at ADP 7-0:

1. “Self-development is as important as institutional training and operational assignments. Self-development is a personal responsibility. Self-development enhances qualifications for a current position or helps prepare an individual for future positions. Individuals are responsible for their own professional growth and for seeking out self-development opportunities. Soldiers and civilians sustain their individual strengths and address gaps in their skills and knowledge. However, for self-development to be effective, all Soldiers and civilians must be completely honest with themselves to understand both personal strengths and gaps in skills, knowledge, and behaviors—and then take the appropriate, continuing steps to enhance their capabilities.”

2. “The self-development training domain is planned, goal-oriented learning that reinforces and expands the depth and breadth of an individual’s knowledge base, self-awareness, and situational awareness; complements institutional and operational learning; enhances professional competence; and meets personal objectives. Within this domain, Army leaders expect Soldiers and Army civilians to fill in their skills, knowledge, and behavior gaps from institutional training and operational assignments.”

3. “Effective leaders understand that change is inevitable in any operational environment. The time to react to change can be short. Adaptability comes from training under complex, changing conditions, with minimal information available to make decisions.”

4. “Training prepares units and individuals to be resilient. Training must prepare units and Soldiers for the stress of operations. Unit training plans must incorporate programs that improve individual and collective mental and physical fitness.”

5. Principles of Leader Development
– Lead by example.
– Develop subordinate leaders.
– Create a learning environment for subordinate leaders.
– Train leaders in the art and science of mission command.
– Train to develop adaptive leaders.
– Train leaders to think critically and creatively.
– Train your leaders to know their subordinates and their families.

These are principles of leadership development that may justifiably be generalized to business, community work, family life and personal conduct. You can use this short list from my notes to review your own current status as a leader in development — and leaders are ALWAYS in development. If you or your team want to experientially engage with learning and applying these principles for purposes of leadership development, contact me – Tom Delaney – at You can access the original copy of ADP 7-0 HERE.


Today is a rest day in my current training program, and rest days are good days to re-focus on goals and reflect especially on developing leadership competence and character. I am reading an outstanding book entitled Team Secrets of the Navy SEALs by Robert Needham. Needham is a currently active Navy SEAL. I have a feeling that the publishers picked the long wordy esoteric sounding title, not Needham, because this is a very straightforward text on leadership in the context of high performing teams.

There is so much good info in this text that summarizing it would never capture it all sufficiently. My plan is to share my highlights and notes with you chapter by chapter. You’ll get some main points, and if you figure out you want the full story you can go out and hunt down a copy. Team leadership development is a core component of the Great River Tactical Fitness Center (GRTFC) training model. If you want more information or want to get yourself or your team engaged, contact me – Tom Delaney – at

Here is the first installment of my highlights and notes. In the text below, sections of text from Needham’s book are in quotes, and my notes follow. Write this stuff down. Think about it. Apply it in your own situation. Keep what works and throw the rest away! Adapt, adapt, adapt …

Chapter 1 – Leading the Best (Part 1)

“Every moment of a SEAL’s life is geared toward the development, education, and honing of the Team! The word ‘Team’ encompasses everything from the sixteen-man platoon to our entire country and way of life.” –See my previous post on Navy SEAL Ethos and consider the term “team” as referring to your friends and family, as well as the implications.

“You can’t think only of yourself and those factors affecting or stressing your life. Everyone’s life depends on each member thinking as one. The ‘poor me’ attitude is poison and is a mjor hurdle in any group dynamic.” – What I observe most often with the mentality that blames others for problems, is that it serves as a false excuse from taking responsibility. A person who wallows in self-pity and blames others for their problems will have a hard time taking charge of making positive change in their life, and repositioning themselves to be a support to others.

“If you have been assigned a task, you had better seriously evaluate your ability to complete it before accepting it…carefully assess the situations at hand and take on any challenge you feel that, through the combined effort of you and your Team, you will be able to accomplish.” – This places probability of success as the decisive factor. Not probability of fame, favor or fortune.

“Remember that once you have committed, you are in. If you suddenly find that you’re in over your head, you had better sprout gils and come up with a way to complete the task properly. …If you need to reset, do so after careful consideration of the consequences and after developing other possible solutions.” — I’ve talked about this quote in a previous post, in terms of technical versus adaptive problems and leadership. The ability to adapt is a core competency for team leadership, because the fundamental nature of reality is one of constant change. Failure to adapt inevitably leads to a failure to survive and thrive. On a deeper level, the ability to adapt is also linked to a leadership character trait of openness to change. Even better, a leadership attitude of expecting a necessity for change, and actively seeking out the advantageous opportunities for positive change. If you live your life expecting to regularly review your beliefs, views, attitudes and modes of living, and subsequently identifying and eliminating the unrealistic and outdated of these, you will be living well.

“Team Concepts for the Individual: Never Quit!” – Enough said!

“You are only as strong as your weakest team member.” – I look at this as a reminder to be realistic in goal setting and planning for contingencies. Overconfidence can result in worse problems than a plan was originally designed to solve. ON an individual level, if you look at your own body as your team, the implication is a caution against thinking that your strengths will compensate for your weaknesses or injuries. You have to address those weaknesses or injuries in your personal plan, whether they be underdeveloped muscle groups, your weight, or an unhealthy habit.

“Surround yourself with ‘operators,’ those who perform, always being mindful of the difference between the person you just like to have around and the one you and your Team need to succeed.” – There are obvious work implications, but on a personal level, the implication is that it is very important to surround yourself with people who actively share common commitments with you. There are plenty of fun people in this world, they’re good people, and they are liked. However, if you have set a difficult goal, are training hard to achieve it, are engaging with physical and psychological obstacles in a very involved and intense way, you need “operators” with you, not “good time people.” Sometimes you can get lucky and have an operator who is also a good time friend! But – AND THIS IS IMPORTANT – if you need to make a choice…go with the operator every time.

… stay tuned for more in this Leadership in the Leaning Rest series I am running. Train hard, never quit, live well! – Tom

NAVY SEAL ETHOS – LIVE IT!   Leave a comment

Take a look! YOU can adopt and live out many of the most important parts of the U.S. Navy SEAL Ethos, starting today!

1. “The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men. Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.”

2. “I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity.”

3. “If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”

4. “My training is never complete.”

5. “I will not fail.”

Train hard, never quit, live well!


In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call. A common man with uncommon desire to succeed. Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America’s finest special operations forces to serve his country, the American people, and protect their way of life. I am that man.

My Trident is a symbol of honor and heritage. Bestowed upon me by the heroes that have gone before, it embodies the trust of those I have sworn to protect. By wearing the Trident I accept the responsibility of my chosen profession and way of life. It is a privilege that I must earn every day.

My loyalty to Country and Team is beyond reproach. I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions. I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession, placing the welfare and security of others before my own.

I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men. Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.

We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.

I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.

We demand discipline. We expect innovation. The lives of my teammates and the success of our mission depend on me – my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail. My training is never complete.

We train for war and fight to win. I stand ready to bring the full spectrum of combat power to bear in order to achieve my mission and the goals established by my country. The execution of my duties will be swift and violent when required yet guided by the very principles that I serve to defend.

Brave men have fought and died building the proud tradition and feared reputation that I am bound to uphold. In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed. I will not fail.