Lessons From The Mission That Killed bin Laden

I was up later than usual Sunday night, too late for a work night. I was caught up watching one of my favorite bank robber movies, Heat. Long movie. Just as I was about to go to bed I saw the alert on my computer, “Osama bin Laden Killed.” I’ll never forget that moment.

Just like I’ll never forget when my college roommate woke me up on a Tuesday morning in 2001 saying, “We’re being bombed!” Since Sunday I have probably read a dozen accounts of the night our military avenged the victims of 9/11. I think I will always remember the heroism of our soldiers, the surge of national pride, and Barak Obama telling a grateful nation, “Justice has been done.” I will also remember a few themes of leadership and professionalism inspiring me to be a better manager.

Take CIA director Leon Panetta as an example. He learned about the possible location of bin Laden last August. A lesser leader, eager for fast results, could have rushed into the Abbottabad compound prematurely. The United States made this mistake in 1980 with the failed “Operation Eagle Claw” during the Iran Hostage Crisis. The stakes were high this go around. Panetta displayed great diligence and patience as his intelligence team collected valuable information and details that would soon lead Navy Seal Team Six to their target.

Team Six practiced their plan constantly for weeks leading up to the big day. Besides, these heroes, with an average age of thirty-eight, have been preparing for nights like this their entire illustrious careers. Remember the three pirates who captured an American ship captain a couple of years ago? You know, the three pirates killed simultaneously by three snipers firing a single shot each. That was Team Six.

In the middle of the firefight this past Sunday, Team Six knew exactly how to handle the pressure. The actual execution of the mission Sunday night ran eight minutes long. Why? Because they had to blow up one of their own helicopters and shoot extra bad guys. Compare this to the reasons your last meeting ran eight minutes long.

The brave Seals fired their weapons almost continuously from the time their feet touched the Pakistani turf until they reached the third floor of the compound. In those final moments, a coward tried to use his wife as a shield. Unfortunately for him, the United States of America sent true professionals to do this job – a true inspiration for aspiring professionals everywhere. Patient, prepared, and precise. The woman was injured, but survived. The coward met his end. The Navy Seal Commander relayed a coded message communicating their results to the White House: “Geronimo, E-KIA.“