Former Delta Force officer says the elite military unit taught him why it’s so important to ‘manage your boss’

Dalton fury
Former Delta Force commander with the pseudonym of Dalton Fury appeared on ’60 Minutes’ wearing prosthetics and coloured contact lenses in 2008. Fury led a unit in the 2001 Delta Force mission intended to kill Osama bin Laden in the wake of 9/11. ’60 Minutes’/CBS News

Over more than 20 years in the US Army as a Ranger and then a Delta Force operator, Dalton Fury learned that the best leaders not only manage their subordinates, but also manage their superiors.

Fury is the pseudonym he uses for both his nonfiction and fiction writing, since his time in the highly secretive Delta Force has required him to conceal his true identity.

In an emailed list of leadership lessons sent to Business Insider, Fury explained that his time as a Delta Force commander taught him whether he was in a situation that fit nicely into the mission plan or one that fell far outside of it, “managing the boss on target is equally important.”

If his superior lost confidence in him in the middle of a mission, then the ensuing hasty decisions could result in not only a botched mission, but the deaths of Fury and his men.

The key then, whether it’s in a highly confidential military operation in the Middle East or a conference room meeting between a company and its client, is the existence of trust between yourself and your boss. It’s a trust that isn’t only built by previously demonstrating your competence, but by working through how to tackle possible snafus with your superior before a weighty task.

Fury notes that in the 2011 Navy SEAL mission that eliminated Osama bin Laden, the plan almost immediately went off course when one of the team’s helicopters crashed while attempting to land. The reason the mission ended successfully, Fury argues, is that the SEAL team had assured their superiors they knew how to handle any aspect of their plan going badly by working through contingencies, like the response to the possibility of a botched helicopter landing.

He says the same concept applies in the office.

“Develop and work through your contingencies well ahead of time,” Fury writes. “When they are needed, before someone hastily calls to abort or retreat, remind your boss that you have already anticipated the problem and are prepared for it. If he wants to remain on the [helicopter] during the assault, or in the employee lounge, that’s fine. But on target, or on task, you’re driving until you need something from your boss.”

Delta force
Delta Force operators in Afghanistan, their faces censored to protect their privacy. Courtesy of Dalton Fury.

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