Search the site

Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Peace Keeper or Navy SEAL

navy seal

Yesterday, I blogged about the fact that our attitudes can decline, as leaders, over time. In other words, we frequently begin our work with young people in the right frame of mind, but eventually we grow weary and slip into a mindset that’s more punitive than redemptive. In fact, I contrasted two common perspectives in leaders today: Police Officers or Personal Trainers. Both inflict pain on the people they meet, but one is about punishing and the other is about developing. Far too often, we begin as “trainers” with students, and become correctional officers, more concerned with damage control than we are with preparing them for the future.

Today, I’d like to suggest another scenario we drift into, as leaders. It’s the Peace Keeper. This leader may begin with the right perspective, but in their attempt to connect with the young people they lead—they focus on staying close, on being hip and relevant, on remaining friends with the youth. They lose sight of the fact that while it’s important to be friendly, the leader’s job is to guide and provide a model for others to follow. It is not to be like them, or to be liked by them…it is to encourage the students to develop and mature in a healthy way.

Contrast a Peace Keeper in a foreign country with a Navy SEAL. Peace Keepers aren’t there to win a war. They’re present to simply keep the peace. They want to maintain civility and ensure everyone is living safely.  The Navy SEAL, however, has an entirely different mission. They are there to win a war; to resolve a conflict and achieve an outcome.

At the risk of sounding far too “military,” these are great pictures of so many faculty, administrators, staff, youth workers, and coaches. They began their work as Navy SEALS, on a mission with young people. But now…they are best described as “peace keepers.” If you observe them, they aren’t trying to win the battle of preparing our kids for the world that awaits them. They are buddies; anemic Facebook friends. Getting by. They just want to make it through the week and while nobody gets hurt.

May I say the obvious? We need you to be on a mission with your students.

How can you remain more like a Navy SEAL as you work with students?

Looking for ways to communicate better with the next generation?

Check out Habitudes for Communicators.


  1. Phil Bell on April 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Tim, I am loving these terms. Really helpful and practical! These are also some great training articles for my volunteers! Thanks so much!

    Phil <

    • Tim Elmore on April 16, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      Thanks for reading and taking time to comment. So glad that you’re finding this series helpful!

Leave a Comment

Peace Keeper or Navy SEAL