While the murder of Chris Kyle, the most lethal, Navy Seal sniper in U.S. history tragic loss for his family, friends and for the country, there are striking leadership incites to be garnered in the pages of Kyle’s memoir American Sniper, new in paperback.
Among the stories of Kyle’s training and testing to become a Navy Seal and the tales of his heroic actions in Iraq, I could help but be struck by a comment he made about the mindset of some in military leadership.
The paragraph reads as follows:
“Our top command wanted us to achieve 100 percent success, and to do it with 0 casualties. That may sound admirable—who doesn’t want to succeed, and who wants anyone to get hurt? But in war those are incompatible and unrealistic. If 100 percent success, 0 casualties is your goal, you’re going to conduct very few operations. You will never take any risks, realistic or otherwise.”
While taking risks may have some downsides, it is the upsides, the gains, the growth, the success; that leaders need to focus on. Risk averse leadership is oxymoronic; real leaders take risks. While most risk taking leaders aren’t facing loss of life or serious injury like those in the military, if you want to be truly successful you have to be willing to take some level of risk.
Leadership is the ability to carefully measure and balance the risk to the reward. Chris Kyle understood that balance and was successful because of that knowledge. May he rest in peace knowing he imparted that knowledge.