• Joe Valentic

Does Your Business Have A First Strike Mindset?

Updated: Apr 13, 2019

Does your business have a first strike mindset? Navy Seal, Lt. Commander (Ret.), Brian "Iron Ed" Hiner, makes a powerful case for business leaders to adopt a "First strike" mindset in his book First, Fast and Fearless, How to Lead Like a Navy Seal. He explains:

"Leadership is, first and foremost, a choice and a state of mind. You can and you must work to control your state of mind to be an elite leader. You don't leave things up to chance; you go on the offense."

At first blush this may not sound like something that applies to running a business, but it is actually critical to achieving sustained growth. Any business that is not leading from the front, with a offense mindset, is by definition leading from behind...or not leading at all. When a company operates as a follower, without a first strike mindset, it affects every aspect of the company. It especially affects the employees which greatly limits the ability for a company to successfully continue to grow.

Commander Hiner explains that in the absence of a first strike mindset, employees are left to operate from a perspective of speculation, which often leads to fear, doubt and stress. The more fearful employees become, the more stress they feel, the less likely they are to perform. From my experience, this is also a recipe for high turn over.

It has been my experience that most companies don't operate continuously in either end of the lead or follow spectrum, but ebb and flow in their life cycle. However, it is when companies stagnate somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, that they are most likely to back slide and lose their first strike mindset entirely. In order to overcome this risk, businesses should follow Hiner's suggested two prong attack. The first is to develop a "front sight focus" and the second is to fully adopt the first strike mindset.

A "front sight focus", as the name suggests, is literally the act of focusing one's eyes on the front site of a firearm. The concept here is simple but poignant. If your eyes are focused on the front sight, they cannot be looking backwards, sideways or in any other direction. They are facing forward. If everyone on the team is focused on their front sight, they are all facing forward. The team is aligned in formation. They are then prepared to focus on whatever target the company puts before them. They are prepared to follow a first strike leadership mindset.

The core principal of a first strike mindset is action. Hiner explains: "A first strike mindset is the path to action. Action is the antidote to stress and fear." In my career I have found this to be incredibly true. If people are focused and engaged in the battle, there is far less room for speculation, idle conversation, doubt or fear. It also has a way of galvanizing people, and the more significant the task, the more it has potential to pull the team together...if they have a first strike leader. Commander Hiner goes on to explain that this mindset is:

"...both an attitude... and an approach to planning, problem solving and leading...It means that at every moment, in every situation, you act first decisively and assertively to make the most of your time. You approach life and every task in a creative, energetic and positive puts you in control of every moment of your life...Your life becomes your own when you adopt a first strike mindset and make a habit of using it. "

For many entrepreneurs just starting out, they have that first strike mindset. They got into business precisely to make life their own. The challenge we see for most companies is in maintaining this mindset as they grow. The two biggest challenges we see to doing so, are one, a lack of clarity in their vision and two, a lack of integration of their vision into the organization's planning, people and processes. The lack of clarity in vision or a deviation from it, essentially makes it impossible for the company to prioritize resources or make challenging strategic decisions. It becomes impossible to effectively set goals or to delegate them. This can immobilize a company, or in the worst case, it can bring it to the brink of failure if the company pursues conflicting objectives that stretch its capital and people too thin.

By contrast, organizations that succeed in implementing and maintaining a first strike mindset have clearly defined their vision and successfully communicate it into all facets of the company, from strategic planning, to hiring, to resource decisions, to capital structure. Every decision, all goals and all accountability is informed by the vision. That is a first strike mindset in operation.

About Us

We are passionate about helping organizations to achieve their vision. We would love to help you optimize or reignite your first strike mindset. We have a unique approach that helps businesses truly integrate strategic planning with the capital and execution resources needed to achieve their vision. Please contact us at, to arrange an initial discussion.

Book Recommendation

We highly recommend reading Commander Hiner's book: First, Fast, and Fearless How to Lead Like a Navy Seal.

You can find it on Amazon.