In the military, especially SOF, we’re expected to give speeches and speak publicly to people above our status, regularly, Yet, public speaking isn’t a stressed skill. Public speaking should be the foundation of unconventional warfare. Imagine if Tony Robbins was sent around the world to help oppressed people gain the emotional strength to resist and fight back against a repressive regime? It would be a fantastic success. But, the unfortunate reality is that the ambitious and truly talented are underutilized in the government ecosystem and, as a result, either don’t consider special operations and intelligence work or leave as a result.

Much of what public speakers, therapists, executive coaches, and sports coaches do is undeniably emotional human trait of motivating others. Emotional intelligence has become a hot topic in the business world. The realization that emotionally intelligent leaders lead more effectively has caught like wildfire. I can attest to that, my first team daddy, while stern and exacting in his expectations and standards was – reflective and understanding. I feel as though I could come to him with a problem and I would not be judged, laughed at, or chastised for it. There is a real easing when you work with people who may not understand you, but understand humans and that we’re all imperfect beings. I wish that mentality was used in practice when so many of our greatest generals and warriors have either stepped aside or forced into retirement.

Life isn’t easy, and that rings true for life in the military. It’s worsened by both feckless and unyielding leaders. However, contrary to popular belief leadership in the military is one the most dynamic leadership duties available in society. The only other profession that might hold a candle is, somehow, becoming an international super-villain from a Bond film. But, one thing all of these successful leaders, fictitious and not, is the ability to move others with their presence, words and incite bold action. This is a skill that is fundamental to unconventional warfare and is not a focus in our training.

Furthermore, when you’re in a special ops unit, you’re expected to brief general officers, if need be, on a moment’s notice. Your work could range from mowing the group lawn to crafting a briefing for a staff delegation to providing advice to a senior foreign military or government official. They tell us to “be brief, be brilliant.” But, I don’t think “they” know what they’re saying, either. It’s a common mistake to say less and not say more. When the right prescription is probably what needs to be said, in a meaningful way. There again, I’m not an authority and, sadly, not many in the community can provide concrete guidance for public speaking outside of whatever we’ve been taught and learned on the job.

In the future, political partnerships and foreign engagement will hinder less on our ability to fight and more on our ability to persuade, connect and incite action. The value of money and the solicitation of information will run dry. If someone does not want to tell you a thing, they are unlikely to do it. I’m afraid much of our work and influence abroad has more to do with our wallet and global status as the world’s de facto leadership than likeability. But, we have no gauge that because our primary source of information on the topic is ourselves. A good start might be to get on the leading edge of persuading without equipment and money and utilizing our ability to inspire others.

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