Summary: The Wisdom of the Bullfrog By Admiral William H. McRaven
Summary: The Wisdom of the Bullfrog By Admiral William H. McRaven

Summary: The Wisdom of the Bullfrog By Admiral William H. McRaven

While being a person of character is the foundation of leadership, it alone is not sufficient for success. You must be competent as well. When you have both good character and competence, then you gain the trust of your bosses, your colleagues, and your subordinates. With trust, people will follow you. Without trust, you may find yourself charging the hill alone or guarding the pass alone.

As a leader you must have a little swagger, a healthy confidence that you are the right person for the job. Your self-assurance will instill confidence in others, confidence that they can meet the challenges, confidence that no matter the obstacles, you will rise to the occasion and lead them to success. But don’t mistake cockiness for confidence. You must be humble enough to see the value in every member of the team, and humble enough to seek counsel when needed. It is not mutually exclusive to be both confident and humble.

In our hearts, we all love a gambler: the coach who calls a trick play, the financier who bets on a penny stock, or the general who plans a daring raid. We love it when the odds are against us and we come out on top. We want our leaders to be risk-takers because everyone understands that “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” But always remember, there is a difference between taking risks and being too cavalier. As a leader you can’t be careless with the well-being of your employees, your company’s resources, or the future of the organization. Be a risk-taker, but manage that risk through extensive planning, preparation, and proper execution.

By definition, every leader is responsible for something. If you are responsible for the coffee shop, the burger joint, the retail store, the elementary school, the high school, the university, the corporate office, the hospital, the Wall Street bank, or the government agency, then you are also accountable: accountable to your workers, your customers, your employers, and your regulators. The buck stops with you. Great leaders accept the responsibility and the accountability. Always ensure your actions and decisions are moral, legal, and ethical.

Finally, no leader is immune from the pressures of the job. To be successful, we all need a strong partner who can pick us up when we fall, dust us off, and give us encouragement to move forward, a partner who will tell us the truth, offer tough love, criticize without judgment, and guide us through the difficult times. Behind every great leader is a great partner.


Death Before Dishonor

Be fair and honorable in your business dealings. It’s the only way that you and your employees can leave a legacy to be proud of. Never lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do. The culture of your organization starts with you. Own your lapses in judgment. It happens to everyone. Correct the problem and return to being a person of good character.


You Can’t Surge Trust

Engage with your employees on a personal level to show them you are a leader of good character, a trustworthy individual. Only promise what you can deliver. The quickest way to lose trust is to overpromise and underdeliver. Know that trust is built over time. Don’t rush it.


When in Command, Command

Be confident. You were given the job because you have talent and experience. Trust your instincts. Be decisive. Don’t take too much counsel of your fears. Be thoughtful, but not paralyzed by indecision. Be passionate. Show your employees you care about them and about the mission.


We All Have Our Frog Floats

Be humble in your demeanor and your expectations. Accept the fact that you will be asked to do jobs that are beneath your status. Do them to the best of your ability. Measure the strength of your employees by their willingness to do the little tasks and do them well.


The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday

You must bring energy and enthusiasm every single day. You are not entitled to anything but more hard work. The rank and file are working hard and getting paid less. Attack each day as though it were critical to the organization’s success.


Run to the Sound of the Guns

Be aggressive. When you see a problem, do something about it. That’s what is expected of leaders. Move to a place where you can best assess the nature of the problem and provide guidance and resources to resolve it as quickly as possible. Communicate your intent every step of the way.


Sua Sponte (Of Your Own Accord)

Foster a culture of action, allowing the rank and file to take the initiative and fix problems that need addressing. Accept the fact that this will lead to zealousness and the occasional screwup. This overenthusiasm is better than a culture of inaction. Praise those who attempt to solve problems on their own, even if the results are not as expected.


Who Dares Wins

Seek opportunities to take risks. No great leader was ever timid or weak-kneed. Mitigate the risk through extensive planning and preparation. Learn from your mistakes and be prepared to take the next big risk. Don’t let a single failure define you.


Hope Is Not a Strategy

Have a vision that says what you are going to do. Make it bold and inspiring. Have a strategy that tells how you are going to do it. Make it clear and concise. Have a plan that shows who is responsible and the details of implementation. They must all be connected.


No Plan Survives First Contact with the Enemy

Always consider the worst-case scenario and plan accordingly. Test the plan to ensure everyone in the organization knows how to react when things go poorly. Be prepared. Murphy was an optimist.


It Pays to Be a Winner

Establish a winning culture by setting high standards. Your employees want to be challenged. Hold people accountable when they fail to meet the standards. Accountability is the only thing separating the high performers from the pack. Acknowledge those who meet or exceed the standard. It will reinforce the winning culture.


A Shepherd Should Smell Like His Sheep

Share the hardships with your employees. You will gain their respect and learn about yourself as a leader. Share the camaraderie. Let the employees see you having fun (within reason). They want to know that their leader is human as well. Listen to the rank and file. They have solutions to most of the problems you struggle with.


Troop the Line

Get out of your office and talk to the employees at the far end of the chain of command. Find an opportunity to solve small but seemingly intractable problems. Ensure your senior staff know that these “little problems” can have major effects on morale.


Expect What You Inspect

Identify the core competencies within your organization. Develop a plan to inspect these areas on a regularly scheduled basis. Show up during an inspection to ensure the rank and file understand that you, the leader, value the process and their efforts.


Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Establish a means for communications to flow in both directions. Confirm that the values and the goals of the organization are understood down to the lowest-ranking member. Never take a significant action without having a plan for informing the rank and file.


When in Doubt, Overload

Work hard. Everyone expects it from their leader. Work harder. Give the extra effort. It will inspire the rank and file. Work your hardest. It will open opportunities that didn’t exist before.


Can You Stand Before the Long Green Table?

Ensure that all your decisions are moral, legal, and ethical. Ask yourself if reasonable people would accept what you are doing as good and decent. Sooner or later, you will be held to account for your actions. Always do the right thing.


Always Have a Swim Buddy

Find a person you can trust implicitly. Be prepared to lean on them in times of great stress. Accept both their support and criticism with equal grace. Be a swim buddy to others. Someone out there needs you!