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By Philip Dana – VP, Chief of People Operations at The Honor Foundation
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

“Phil, these Fellows are extremely impressive, but where do most of them go?” “What types of roles do Navy SEALs and other SpecOps Leaders from the military fit in my organization?”

These are just two of the questions I have the honor of answering daily, if not multiple times a day. Here is the answer based on learnings from 215 interviews of recently transitioned Navy SEALs conducted by Joe Musselman prior to building The Honor Foundation, 150+ interviews conducted by me while scouting SOF Alumni, 180 graduates of The Honor Foundation, and several well known books on the leadership culture and skills coming out of the SpecOps Forces (SOF) community….

After 180 graduates (Click for 2017’s report), I can honestly say that there are no trends other than two that standout. Entrepreneurialism and Intrapreneurialism. Entrepreneurialism is fairly common, and we are measuring nearly 55%, to include starting their own companies, side-gigging, or partnering with others in the early stages of a start-up. Intrapreneurialism is similar, but within an organization. Both worlds are defined by a CULTURE of the following terms and phrases:

  • Chaos (healthy chaos). SpecOps leaders are really good at bringing the calm to the workplace when most others are stressed and unable to make clear decisions. Watch this video to hear about this unusual ability from a CEO who hired one of our Fellows: CLICK.
  • Ambiguity. Leading Ops for Driverless Uber, the Customer Experience team at AirBnB, Global Sales at Envision Solar, or Ops for Clutter…all have never been done before. There is no cookbook. You have to have a high level of Intuition as a leader in this environment.
  • Influence skills. Leading in boundary-less, matrix’ed organizations, where you snap a disparate team together built on strengths and capabilities rather than hierarchy or seniority.
  • Flat, agile, nimble teams. Team-ability kung fu is strong with this group. Amazing results in Agile environments based on bringing the best out of those around them.
  • Growth or Transformation. The SpecOps Leader typically has a ADD/ADHD beast inside, with a desire and skill set to solve difficult problems and quickly move onto the next challenge. Your organization should be growing or transforming, in order to maximize the talents of this kind of hire.
  • Purpose-Driven work. Whether you’re disrupting an industry, creating new technologies, or impacting lives, a SpecOps Leader craves work that is much bigger than themselves or the team. You should have a feedback mechanism through data, on the impact of the work. Watch this video to hear our Founder describe what that may feel like.
  • Team. They will need to look around the room and see other passionate teammates who sharpen their iron on a daily basis, striving to grow and be better each day. They need to be around people who are Masters of their Craft, and diligently study to stay sharp.

There are many more attributes within a Culture that would allows a SOF leader to maximize their talents, but these are the stand-outs. So what type of roles do most of the Fellows go into, within a corporation?

  1. Chief of Staff. This is my personal favorite, because it gives a high-potential with a proven track record of learning, a front row seat to the business and CLT/SLT/ELT. Here is an excellent white paper on the COS role by Dr. Al Chase: Chief of Staff.
  2. Business Development. The ability to be customer obsessed and measurable goal oriented is ingrained into the SOF mindset. So is Winning, Not Quitting, and Working really hard.
  3. PM / PMO / Operations. The problem solving skill sets a SOF leader has is through the roof, from years of pulling teams together and knocking down ambiguous missions in austere environments, you would be hard pressed to find better. They have also been trained to adapt, read people, connect and influence. Uber, Amazon, Clutter, and many, many others can testify to this fact.
  4. HRBP/L&D/HR/Talent. I’m really excited about the upswing in SOF leaders going into HR. This field needs to be flipped on its head, and I cannot think of better leaders to help do it. The top Talent program in the world is in the SOF community, and many of our Fellows are degreed, certified, and have the DNA to be world class leaders within a HR Organization. Listen to Jack Welch and think about the SOF candidate.

So, now you know what it takes to Win the War for Talent. Hire SOF as force multipliers in your organization, and you will be better than the org across the street who does not. Join Us as an Mentor, Employer, or Donor. Time, Talent, and Treasure.