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The Wisdom of the Bullfrog

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The Wisdom of the Bullfrog

Leadership Made Simple (But Not Easy)

Grand Central,

15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

William McRaven, former Commander of US Special Operations, outlines the tenets of great leadership.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


Admiral William H. McRaven, now retired, believes the principles of good leadership apply whether you are supervising a military maneuver or the morning rush at a coffee shop. In the US Navy, he oversaw such missions as the SEALs’ raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. McRaven discusses maxims — such as “No plan survives first contact with the enemy” — that he finds reveal the essential character traits, attitudes and habits of great leadership and a good life. He describes historical examples of principled leaders and tells personal anecdotes illustrating how he used — or failed to use — these precepts on his way to becoming “the Bull Frog,” the Navy’s longest-tenured active-duty frogman and SEAL.


The principles of great leadership may be difficult, but they aren’t complicated.

Great leaders in any organization, whether it’s a business or a military unit, adhere to similar fundamental principles. These requirements, such as good communication, detailed planning and a code of honorable conduct, are simple and straightforward, but executing them can be difficult.

Consider the ideal of honorable conduct. In any situation, it may be easy to discern the “ethical, legal and moral” course of action,but carrying it out may be difficult. Doing the right thing can have unpleasant consequences, such as imperiling a personal relationship or undermining your own interests. 

The importance of doing the right thing, regardless of the consequences, is a common credo in military organizations, but it also appears elsewhere, such as in the medical profession’s Hippocratic Oath and the Girl Scout and Boy Scout pledges. Military organizations have mottos and codes that offer guidance on maintaining your personal and professional integrity.

Be honest and fair in all your activities.

The US ...

About the Author

Admiral William H. McRaven (Ret.) is a former Navy SEAL and Commander of US Special Operations Forces. After retiring, he served as the Chancellor of the University of Texas System. He also wrote Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...and Maybe the World; Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations; The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived; Spec Ops: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare and for children, Make Your Bed with Skipper the Seal

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