Why Special Forces Leadership Training?

Special Forces operations are complex endeavours. They push the boundaries of risk and reward and ultimately will at some point call upon the operators undertaking them to use their initiative, trust in each other and adapt to a changing operational picture in order to achieve mission success.

Despite many times being ‘romanticised’ they are at their core human endeavours, human endeavours that call for human values such as courage, integrity, perseverance and taking personal responsibility.

Because of the nature of the operations they are training for, the training needs to develop teams of leaders who can act for the common good on their own initiative.  

They need to absorb and work with the situations that are presented to them not just follow a plan that is made away from the front line of operations.

And it is this kind of situation that faces businesses today.  Sure it is less “dramatic” but the reality is that executive teams are more under pressure to deliver in busier, less predictable situations than they have ever been in and certainly miles away from what they are trained for.

Why is Special Forces Leadership training applicable to the business environment?

The bottom line is that Special Forces training is different. It creates teams that can act to drive the common goal forward and it is for this reason it is equally applicable to the pursuit of creating successful teams in the business environment.

As the economy bites harder, success will come down to your teams ability to react and deliver in whatever situation they find themselves in – and that is the ethos behind Special Forces training and just why so many executives teams are turning to a type of training that prepares them for the situations they encounter. 

Still the retort from some sceptical business leaders can often be – that it is different in the Special Forces due to the level of motivation and training of the personnel. On some level yes, the colleagues I had the honour of serving with were, high quality, motivated, talented individuals. However they also had their faults, as we all do.

Living and working in Special Forces teams had its challenges – personalities clashed, people disagreed and people made mistakes…it was life. As much as these challenges had to be worked through, the key to performance was still about people, human interaction and relationships.

It required leadership, good leadership and leadership at all levels. And this is where the key difference may come – the ethos and expected way of working in the Special Forces was that all operators would take responsibility and be leaders in their own right.

People in designated leadership positions (right through to the Commanding Officer) sought the input of their subordinates to draw upon individual expertise and initiative. This didn’t mean leaders didn’t still have ultimate responsibility and would not be called upon to make difficult decisions, but it did instil an atmosphere of trust and helped achieve crucial clarity in all areas of operations.

Feedback from Business

My experience in working with leadership teams in business has shown that programs that demonstrate the high performance ethos of Special Forces teams not only engage the attendees but also push them to ask serious questions of themselves and how they work.

This challenge gets to the very core of their personal leadership and in many cases opens the pathway to new behaviours and new ways of working with their teams and organisations. This increased awareness can and does have longer-term implications to their understanding and performance as leaders.

People recognise for themselves that the ethos and values that underpin Special Forces leadership can equally apply to their role, as they are universal principles which when applied, move numbers of people towards the common goal.

In many cases, people have attended previous leadership training programs but for a host of reasons these have largely had little longer-term impact on behaviour and the success of their teams. Teams remain dysfunctional and levels of discontent high. The single most important aspect to success remains lost in the ‘busyness’ of work schedules – good leadership.

When challenged against the criteria of Special Forces high performance leadership people can begin to take ownership of their individual performance. Yes in some cases, addressing the reality of falling short can be painful but unless this reality is recognised and faced then it becomes difficult to move forward.

Key Results

So what are the tangible differences people can take away from this learning?

Leaders and their teams begin to recognise they all have a responsibility to raise standards, set expectations, coach, mentor and support staff or in some cases hold accountable those team members who are ‘letting the side down.’

As the leaders really start to own responsibility and focus the team on its goals and objectives, a culture of support and performance can grow. The team can now pull together to overcome challenges, continue to strive to improve and gain momentum towards higher levels of sustained performance.

In order to facilitate this transition the leadership team need to be able to build trust and demonstrate their own changes in performance. Leaders on all levels need to be able to understand the strategic view of senior leaders and have the courage to ask and have potentially difficult conversations if unsure.

In Summary…

Although this may not be an easy process it is one that brings a whole range of longer-term benefits.

Where people initially may not have seen how Special Forces leadership principles are universal and could impact their businesses and teams, they now see that it really is the best way for them to build cohesion and ultimately achieve success.

These programmes bring clarity and alignment, increased speed and effectiveness (including decision making and focus around the main effort) and initiative where people can adapt to changing circumstances. The net result is competitive advantage for business leaders and increased motivation and morale amongst staff.

At the heart of this – high performance winning teams…


3rg work with people and organisations who are serious about performance. We offer practical, experienced based solutions to complex business challenges. Through our range of leadership courses, coaching programmes and workshops we help organisations build high performance, winning teams. 

For further information on Mission Leadership & Performance visit www.3rgleadership.uk



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