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By Reagan Hilton

Photo Credit: Jeramie Lu

Leif Babin is a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, best-selling author, leadership instructor, and co-founder of Echelon Front. With 13 years of service in the U.S. Navy, including nine in the SEAL Teams, Babin deployed three times to Iraq and learned critical leadership lessons under fire. As a SEAL platoon commander alongside Jocko Willink in the Battle of Ramadi in 2006, he faced some of the most intense combat situations. Upon his return, Babin led SEAL leadership training and served in executive management positions within a SEAL Team. Since founding Echelon Front in 2011, he has imparted these leadership principles to business leaders across various industries, helping them build high-performance, winning teams. Babin is the co-author of Extreme Ownership and The Dichotomy of Leadership.

At TEDxReno, Leif Babin captivated the audience with his profound insights on navigating through seemingly impossible situations, drawn from his experiences as a Navy SEAL. He began with a gripping personal story of being dragged underwater, tangled in a rope, and unable to breathe. This near-death experience taught him the importance of perseverance, quick thinking, and leadership under extreme pressure. Babin emphasizes that leadership is not limited to those in command; anyone interacting with others is a leader and must use leadership skills to achieve success.

Photo Credit: Jeramie Lu

Babin’s talk revolved around key principles of leadership that can guide us through challenging times:

1. Belief in Victory: Babin recounted his second combat deployment to Iraq, where his SEAL task unit was deployed to the violent war zone of Ramadi. Despite the dire situation, they believed victory was possible. This belief kept them going and enabled them to take ownership of their mission. Babin stressed that in any challenging situation, having faith that things will improve is crucial. Hanging on just a little longer and maintaining hope can make all the difference.

2. Take Ownership: Babin highlighted the importance of taking ownership of problems rather than waiting for others to solve them. In Ramadi, soldiers and Marines took responsibility for the situation and developed a plan to take back the city, one neighborhood at a time. Similarly, Babin’s SEAL teammates took swift action to save his life when he was trapped underwater. Ownership means coming up with a plan and executing it decisively, even in the face of adversity.

3. Lead Up the Chain of Command: Babin learned that effective leadership also involves leading up the chain of command. When frustrated by the scrutiny of his commanding officers, he realized the need to provide them with the information they required. By building a relationship with his superiors and earning their trust, he ensured the success of their combat missions. Babin advises that in any organization, clear communication and understanding the perspective of higher-ups are essential for achieving common goals.

Babin’s experiences illustrate that leadership is about taking responsibility, believing in success, and communicating effectively. Whether in a warzone or daily life, these principles can help navigate difficult situations and lead to successful outcomes. His talk is a powerful reminder that leadership wins, even in the most challenging of times.

For those interested in gaining more insights from Leif Babin’s experiences and leadership principles, watch his full TEDxReno talk below.

(Note from TED: This talk contains a discussion of violence and warfare, which some viewers may find distressing.)

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