Rancho Santa Fe resident translates Navy SEAL and corporate experience into management, leadership book

In the late 1990s, Brent Gleeson was cruising toward a successful career in the business world.

Then, he joined the Navy’s SEAL program, with overseas duty that included “capture or kill” missions in Iraq.

Nothing could have better prepared him for a leadership role in corporate America, the Rancho Santa Fe resident says.

After launching two money-making companies and becoming a highly sought-after speaker and consultant, as well as columnist for Forbes and Inc., Gleeson has distilled his formula for success in “TakingPoint: A Navy Seal’s 10 Fail-Safe Principles for Leading Through Change.”

As testament to the quality of Gleeson’s writing and message, publishing powerhouse Simon & Schuster bought the manuscript and put it out Feb. 27 under its Touchstone imprint.

Already, the 294-page volume can be found prominently displayed at Barnes & Nobles stores throughout the country and is available at amazon.com.

“It’s off to a good start,” said Gleeson during an interview at the hillside home he shares with his wife, Nicole, and three children in Rancho Santa Fe’s Cielo community.

“Amazon keeps buying more copies because it’s selling like hot cakes,” he said.

The text of “Taking Point” is preceded by praise from 17 sources, including retired U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal; Brad Thor, author of the best-seller “Use of Force”; Inc. Editor-in-Chief Eric Schurenberg, and former Burger King CEO Jeff Campbell.

The forward is penned by Gleeson’s fellow former SEAL Mark Owen, who also wrote the best-sellers “No Easy Day” and “No Hero.” The latter offered his own leadership concepts for application to organizations.

“But what I like about ‘TakingPoint’ and the principles you will learn in the following pages is that they are focused on a single mission: to transform an organization into something better,” Owen writes.

He concludes by saying, “If you are a leader — or have a desire to be one — and want to avoid the pitfalls of failed transformation efforts and need a road map for success, this is it.”

In contrast to many books written from the perspective of war veterans, Gleeson’s approach is to employ brief anecdotes from his SEAL training and combat experiences to illustrate lessons on how to create a thriving, profitable enterprise.

“I wrote it so it could be required or suggested reading for an MBA program,” Gleeson said. “This is not a war memoir. It is not ‘Lone Survivor.’ It is not ‘American Sniper.’”

The book’s chapters outline a 10-step prescription, each introduced by a pertinent statement from the Navy SEAL Ethos.

For instance, Chapter Three on accountability begins with the message, “In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.”

Chapter Seven on “Inclusion: The Power of Participation and Engagement” starts with “My loyalty to Team is beyond Reproach.”

Still, there are plenty of story-telling snippets from Gleeson’s experiences that are entertaining, enlightening and occasionally chilling.

He confesses during his early days of training to backing up a trailer into one of the poles supporting the net for the “legendary Team 5 volleyball court,” which had been the setting for an episode in the movie “Top Gun.”

He describes the grueling tests of the notorious “Hell Week,” used in SEAL training to separate the few toughest candidates from the many weak.

Gleeson talks about the complexities of the Iraq missions, and how he and his SEAL teammates responded to situations that changed rapidly due to inaccurate intelligence or unexpected obstacles.

“In SEAL teams, we are taught to be cool, calm and collected leaders even when there are bullets flying by our faces,” he said.

A Dallas native, Gleeson never anticipated dodging projectiles after he earned his degree from Southern Methodist University, where he studied finance and economics. During that time, he also went to England’s Oxford University, where he enhanced his writing skills.

While he took a job as a financial analyst with a global real estate investment company, he began spending much of his time working out with a schoolmate preparing to join the SEAL program.

Gleeson became so obsessed with the regimen and concept of the SEALs that he decided his career in the financial world could wait.

In 2000, he enlisted in the Navy and signed up for BUD/S: Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training. He was one of only 23 to graduate from among 235 in the class, he said.

No one at the time envisioned that within a year, their preparations would be put to use in fighting a real war, following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

“Looking back, we all thought it would be over in a matter of months or a year at the most,” he said.

Throughout his six years as a SEAL, however, Gleeson observed how its culture of leadership and transformation in response to constantly shifting circumstances could be used as a model in managing businesses.

Today, no longer faced with surviving firefights or coping in the frontline trenches of corporate skirmishes — and with a book zooming up the sales lists — Gleeson is focusing on building up his TakingPoint leadership and consulting brand, and spending time with his family, which is an ambassador family for March of Dimes.

Also, he is an executive board member with the SEAL Family Foundation, which is holding a fundraiser, Families First Dinner Gala, on April 14 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, San Diego. Information on the event can be obtained at www.sealfamilyfoundation.org.

Information on Gleeson and his book is available at brentgleesonspeaker.com.Gleeson’s book, “TakingPoint,” is available at amazon.com.

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