Former Navy SEAL Rob Roy is on a mission to toughen up American CEOs.
Sir! Yes, Sir! Rob Roy leads a combat-training session in the desert outside Los Angeles as part of an advanced course for executives.
For Rob Roy, warfare is more than just a business metaphor. A former Navy SEAL, Roy runs SOT-G, a Coronado, California, company that puts clients, most of them business leaders, through a hellish 80-hour leadership course inspired by military combat prep. Roy recently spoke with Inc.com's Eric Markowitz. Here are excerpts.
What's the idea behind your training program? The SEALs use physical fitness and challenging environments to bring people together. Our clients show up with very little knowledge of what they're getting into other than that they will be challenged outside the normal spectrum of their day-to-day lives.
What happens next? After midnight on Day One, we drop the trainees off the coast or in a nearby bay for a 2-mile swim. The key is not so much the water—it's the darkness, and to get them to face their fears with folks they've never met. The purpose is to show them that they can walk into any situation and come out ahead. They'll refer back to this time and say, "Yeah, this is difficult, but I can make it through."
Being cold, wet, and tired makes it hard to be an effective leader, though, right? Anybody can make a decision when everything is in their favor, but it's in turbulent times that great leaders are able to make those correct decisions and to think about the other people within their group.
How does this idea apply to the business world? Great leaders naturally think about the other guys first. That's how you create a sense of loyalty in an organization. Effective leadership is also about listening to people—after all, you won't always have the great ideas.
Can leadership be learned, or is it something someone is born with? We preach that everybody has leadership qualities that could make them good leaders, but whether they become great leaders depends on the situation. In business, a great leader is someone who is going to step up at a difficult moment and make that next decision. He'll go into it blind, but people will follow him, because they'll know he always has their best interests in mind.
For resources for veterans, service members, and military spouses on starting, running, and building their own businesses, go to inc.com/military-entrepreneurs.