The 2 Biggest Mistakes New Leaders Always Make, According To Navy SEAL Commanders

Leadership
Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin have built their post-Navy SEAL careers around the art of leadership.


Willink was the head of US Navy SEAL Team 3 Task Unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated U.S. special operations unit of the Iraq War, and Babin was one of the two platoon leaders who reported to him. After their service, Willink and Babin founded Echelon Front in 2010 as a way to bring what they learned in the military to the business world.

Business Insider interviewed Willink and Babin about their new book on the subject, The Dichotomy of Leadership, and they told us that over their work with more than 400 businesses and their leadership conferences, they've found inexperienced leaders are regularly making the same mistakes.

1. They think they have to know everything

"The best possible thing you can do as a new leader is, if there's something that you don't know, raise your hand and say, 'Hey guys, I'm new at this. Do you know a better way to do this?' or, 'Do you know how to do this?' or, 'Can you give me a hand?'"

Willink said he's found that a fear of losing trust is what keeps leaders from asking these simple questions, but that this approach actually increases a team's respect because it shows honesty, and it will avoid problems in the long term because it won't require faking knowledge.

"So don't worry about saying, 'I don't know something,'" Willink said. "It's perfectly fine. You just showed up! No one expects you to know everything. Relax. And ask some questions."

2. They think their problems are unique

Babin said he also regularly finds new leaders become convinced that the problems they're facing are so specific to them that outside help wouldn't help. "And they think their problems are harder than everyone else's problems," he said. "It's very common. I've fallen into that trap, as well."

This tendency is ultimately about shifting responsibility.

"Because as long as you're making excuse for yourself, an excuse for your team, you're never going to actually solve the problems that are causing you to not perform the way you should, and therefore you're going to keep repeating those same mistakes," Babin said. "Step up, find a way to solve those problems, and win."

Read more from Business Insider:

Maj. Matthew Golsteyn in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of Philip Stackhouse.)

Army Special Forces Maj. Matthew Golsteyn – whom President Donald Trump has called "a U.S. Military hero" – will face an Article 32 hearing in March after being charged with murder for allegedly killing a suspected Taliban bomb-maker.

On Dec. 18, the convening authority for Golestyn's case decided to hold the preliminary hearing in connection with the Feb. 28, 2010 incident, Army officials have announced. The proceedings are slated to start on March 14 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Read More Show Less

In the city of Savannah, Georgia, an Army veteran and entrepreneur has a plan to end veteran homelessness in his community. It starts with building a village of tiny homes.

Read More Show Less
The new Marines of Delta Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, conduct a motivational run at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, January 10, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps/ Lance Cpl. Jose Gonzalez)

Editor's Note: This article by Hope Hodge Seck originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Coming to recruit training near you: American-made standard-issue sneakers.

Read More Show Less
(DoD photo)

A Middle Georgia man arrested last spring in an online child-sex sting set up by investigators at Robins Air Force Base will spend at least a decade in prison after pleading guilty in federal court here Tuesday.

Read More Show Less