November 20, 2017

9 Leadership Lessons To Learn From The Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden

Osama Bin Laden is deadThere is not a day that goes by that for some reason I don’t think of September 11, 2001.  I don’t know why, but I will see something, read an article or just be driving down the road, and suddenly the visions come rushing back to my memory.  While these memories are only from watching the news and reading what the journalists had to say, I just cannot shake the vision of:

  • Two planes crashing into the world trade center
  • Smoke filling the New York City sky
  • Men and women, performing the the Sign of The Cross, holding hands and jumping from 80 floors to their death…not because they wanted to die, but they had to make a choice.  Do I die from being burned to death or the quicker, more painless way of the fall either killing me instantly or injuring me to the point that I may never walk again?
  • The screams and tears as people in New York City watched this in horrid and ran from the smoke and white ash that filled the streets as if a nuclear bomb had exploded.
  • The thousands of family members who stood in shock and grief, knowing they would never see their loved ones again

I also cannot help but wonder about the people who were killed who were passengers on the planes that crashed into the building or in an open grassy field and the people who were inside the World Trade Center, simply starting their day when they went their grave either by being crushed by an airplane or flying debris or having to burn to death in flames, described by many as one of the most painful ways to die.

This sounds so dramatic, because it was and still is.  This is the reality of September 11, and the man we have to blame for it was finally put to death yesterday.  I do believe that someone like this needs to be severely punished, and it was just a matter of time.  You can run from the CIA, but you just can’t hide (although he did it pretty well for ten years).

Today, people are celebrating, and the peacemakers are as usual being critical that Osama Bin Laden’s murder was a kill mission and that violence only leads to more violence.  While this is somewhat true, all I have to say is this:  If you are an American citizen and you are criticizing our president for making this decision to go after a brutal murderer, then it is time for you to move to another country.  While I cannot stand violence, we are not talking about a person who stole a piece of candy.   We are talking about a brutal murderer and a “leader…if you can even call him that” who has given the Islamic religion a very bad reputation and a place to live called fear. I want to make clear that the people who are Islamic are not all members of this  Al Qaeda regime whose only mission seems to be to kill innocent people so that they can fly on some type of power trip, because they have been told by a higher power that the innocent must die in order to teach a lesson (or some such nonsense).  But, now, because Bin Laden did the unthinkable “in the name of Islam” the people of Bin Laden’s land have to face criticism, racism and are shunned in airports and in the public.  In my opinion, if this man were captured, it would not have been enough.  We would have captured him and then would have to drag out a trial that would last for years.  This mission was carried out in a way that all leaders should be studying today.  Here are the leadership skills I immediately see were at play during this operation…the skills which helped the mission to be achieved, and as a leader, I strongly encourage you to study this mission and learn from the skills applied:

1.  A clear mission: To kill Bin Laden.  Yes…this was a kill mission.  While there may have been a discussion around capture, this mission was to rid the earth of one of our greatest threats to humanity.  The mission was clear…not fuzzy and long written and long winded.

2. Laser focus on the mission: As the report goes, this mission to get Bin Laden has been in the planning stages for two years, and the focus has been razor sharp.

3. Responsibility. President Bush made it clear that he wanted Bin Laden “dead or alive”, and he did not accomplish that.  Unfortunately, President Obama inherited this duty, and not once has he criticized the former leadership for not capturing or killing Bin Laden.  He made this “mission critical” and obviously said “If no one else is going to do it, we are going after him, and we are going to succeed.”

4. Strategic Agility: This mission is not something that was talked about in a bar over a week-end retreat and then implemented.  I can guarantee you that every step of the process was calculated out to the very minute, the very second.  The President and the CIA met numerous times to plan out what would be one of the most historical events in our history.

5. Discretion: This mission nor the strategy were leaked.  We’ve been through that before, and the secret nature of this mission was airtight.  In leadership, there are times when you are going to need to practice the deepest level of discretion, especially when the stakes are so very high.

6. Delegation: Obama did not go into Bin Laden’s mansion and kill him.  He gave the order to the CIA and the military to do the job, and he empowered them to get the job done well.

7. Top talent placement: The mission was accomplished by a team of Navy Seals.  As you probably well know, the Navy Seals are are the U.S. Navy‘s principal special operations force and is a part of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC).  They are the best of the best, and while I am sure their knuckles were white, they have been trained for years for a mission such as this one.  They knew exactly what to do.

8.  Vigilance: This mission has been planned and coordinated over a two year period.  The focus, importance and desire did not wane or waver.  To wait two years for a mission to be accomplished will send many leaders into a state of frustration, and the mission then gets dropped.  Learn from this vigilance.  Well thought out missions take time, patience and commitment.

9.  Persistence: The mission to get Bin Laden did not stop until it was accomplished.  I am sure multiple road blocks were thrown into the path, but our leaders found ways around and over those obstacles to make this mission come to fruition.

I know that this day will not bring back the thousands of men and women who were lost in 9/11 and the thousands of men and women who have been murdered by this man.  But I hope in some way that the family members of the victims of the brutality of Bin Laden will find just a bit more peace and closure knowing a man who obviously found joy in killing innocent people is no longer roaming this earth just to do it again.

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