Building teams based on attributes, not just skills: Former Navy SEAL commander Rich Diviney

May 26, 2021

Building teams based on attributes, not just skills: Former Navy SEAL commander Rich Diviney

Rich Diviney

Former Navy SEAL, Author, Optimist, and Leadership Consultant

Rich Diviney discusses the difference between a skill and attribute, how to test for attributes, and how to think aerobically.

Building a high-performing team is of the utmost importance to a Navy SEAL commander, which Rich Diviney knows firsthand from his experience in that role. Since retiring, Rich has taken what he learned and discovered as a SEAL commander and is sharing it with the world. On the latest Walker Webcast, Rich discusses his book, The Attributes, the difference between a skill and an attribute, how to test for attributes, the importance of aerobic thinking, and more. 


To kick of this Walker Webcast, Willy introduces former Navy SEAL commander Rich Diviney to share about the extraordinary path he chose and what makes him a leader amongst leaders. Rich helped to spearhead the creation of the first ever “mind-gym” for SEAL training. Since retirement, Rich has continued as a speaker, facilitator, and consultant. Rich’s wisdom has been captured in his book, The Attributes. Willy asks Rich to share about the extraordinary path he chose as a SEAL and what led him there. Rich discusses the importance of surrounding yourself with people better than you. In thinking back to his first day of training, Rich says that predicting those who would make it through the training was nearly impossible - while many skills are visible from the outside, the game-changing attributes for training are hidden until grueling experiences reveal these unpredictable traits. SEAL training breaks the body to develop the mind. 

Willy dives deeper into discussing the unexpected attributes necessary for a successful SEAL and how this goes against the general depiction of how SEALs operate. Rich highlights the importance of being both cunning and creative for SEAL work as their primary goal is to strategically get in and out of a place without ever being visible. Hear about Rich’s face-to-face encounter with a “dragon” and how he had to learn to suspend the fight or flight response before taking action. Rich shares about the midst of controlling a SEAL’s 3 foot world and how they seek to complete tasks and step through challenges, stress, and uncertainty. 

The conversation shifts as Willy asks Rich to address the differences between dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. Rich is also an advocate of aerobic thinking, and touches on the differences between peak performance vs. optimal performance and how he seeks to evaluate innate attributes, instead of skills. Life is variable, SEAL training is about how one deals with these variables, so innate attributes are crucial as they serve to inform behavior, rather than direct it. These attributes are extremely hard to assess, measure, and correct. Rich says that to build a good team, one must look at attributes that live on the periphery, not just visible skills—this has implications in the business world too. Learn about how he interviews to test character. How can the core attributes discovered in the 6 week training and selection process of a SEAL be brought out in business interviews? Rich emphasizes that you must have a clear list of the attributes you’re looking for, and then develop some level of uncertainty in different contexts for the prospective employee to respond.

The episode draws to a close as Willy asks Rich to share about what makes him a leader amongst leaders and how he selects the most important attributes. Rich speaks to how a person cannot self-designate themselves as a leader, but rather others must decide if they want to follow you. Leadership is based on behavior—empathy and congruity of thought are crucial to this position. Rich reminds listeners that leaders must strive to feel how others feel and pursue consistency in the way they lead. Authenticity speaks to consistency, and he says this is a fundamental element to growing trust. Check out Rich’s book and website for further insights. 


Learn more about Rich Diviney and his book here
Connect with Rich Diviney on LinkedIn
Learn more about Willy Walker and connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Read Transcript

Related Walker Webcasts

The evolution of higher education with Mary Sue Coleman

April 3, 2024


Trailblazing for an Equitable Future with Gloria Steinem

March 13, 2024


Thriving with AI and digital tech: A chat with McKinsey & Company's Rodney Zemmel

February 28, 2024



Check out the latest relevant content from W&D

Learn more

News & Events

Find out what we're doing by regulary visiting our News & Events pages

Learn more