The World at Night: Geopolitical MegaTrends
Eric Olson, USN, RET.
Former Commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command and Four-Star Admiral Navy SEAL
- First three- and then four-star Navy SEAL
- Described as “the most important man you’ve never heard of”
- Developed the special forces behind the most notable military operations of the last decade
- Insights on the megatrends affecting global security, economics, and politics
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“When the history of these wars is written, the first, last, and most pivotal chapters will be about Eric and the people he has led and trained and mentored his entire life.” Admiral Mike Mullen, Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Eric Olson is a retired United States Navy Admiral who served as the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) from 2007–2011. During his tenure as America’s top special operations officer, he was responsible for recruiting, training, equipping, and deploying broadly capable forces worldwide. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, “As a result of his hard work, we now have the best-trained, the best-equipped, and the most experienced Special Operations Force in the history of the United States.” A senior member of the United States National Defense team, Olson is often described as one of this century’s great military leaders and credited with developing the specialized forces that have accomplished some of the most notable military operations of the last decade.
Olson was the first three- and then the first four-star Navy SEAL, as well as the first naval officer to be USSOCOM’s combatant commander. He retired from active duty after more than 38 years of service, at which time he was the “Bull Frog,” the longest-serving Navy SEAL on duty. His personal operational experiences were diverse, marked by valor and strong leadership. Olson is also known as a visionary and action-oriented leader who stayed connected with his forces at all levels. Having developed the best of the best, Admiral Eric Olson addresses building, training, and leading highly effective teams and our nation’s geopolitical challenges. Described as “the most important man you never heard of,” he is exclusively represented by Leading Authorities, Inc. speakers bureau.
Career. Olson’s actions as a Navy SEAL have been of national importance and utmost secrecy; many details of his operations are still classified. His career has included major, historic geopolitical events, and he was key to the successes of special operations forces in our recent conflicts. Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “When the history of these wars is written, the first, last, and most pivotal chapters will be about Eric and the people he has led and trained and mentored his entire adult life. From the shadows of the Hindu Kush to the streets of Baghdad, our special operators have literally changed the face of modern warfare.”
Military Resume and Awards. Olson served in operational and leadership roles, where he developed many new tactics and techniques. In addition to leading USSOCOM, Olson was commander of a counter-terrorism unit and later the Naval Special Warfare Command. His overseas assignments included service as a United Nations military observer in Israel and Egypt and a Navy programs officer in Tunisia. He served on the Navy staff as assistant deputy chief of naval operations and as chief of staff at the Joint Special Operations Command. Olson has also been awarded myriad military awards, and he has been recognized for his service by several civilian organizations and three foreign governments. In 2017, he was recognized as a US Naval Academy Distinguished Graduate, making him the first member of his graduating class to be so honored.
Olson is now president of ETO Group, consulting on national security; an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs; a director of Iridium Communications; and a director of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.
The World at Night. Olson addresses the changing geopolitics of our modern world and shares insights on the megatrends affecting global security, economics, and politics and the importance of balancing our approach to international challenges. Referencing an image of the world at night, he describes how our military priorities have changed from the light areas of the map – where the electricity generates the most light (the industrialized countries), to where the land is dark (the poorer, less developed areas). He explains the demographic shifts, resource struggles, and nuclear proliferation that affect our security and our businesses. He also addresses how we must be change our perspective and be proactive rather than reactive to geopolitical issues and how solid strategic planning and micro-regional knowledge is a must for governments and businesses alike.
Teambuilding and Leadership in the 21st Century. Admiral Eric Olson describes the world’s “new normal” and the global challenges that leading in this new environment presents. Pulling from his vast military experience, he uses a series of fascinating vignettes and visuals to bring principles of leadership to life. Olson shares insights on leadership and how small and large organizations can develop highly productive teams – like what to do about the fact that most people will quit in the anticipation of a difficult challenge rather than in the middle of it. Olson believes that it is critical to an organization’s success that leaders intentionally challenge their people in order to expose their character and weaknesses and prove to them that they are stronger than they thought. He also discusses how to create an inclusive environment where it is ok to fail in front of one’s teammates. Credited with developing the specialized forces that have accomplished some of the most notable military operations of the last decade, Olson knows better than anyone how to get the most out of team members. His lessons and their applications are universal.
Admiral Olson speaks with the quiet authority of his extraordinary military experiences, and in his engaging presentations, he encourages interaction and audience Q&A sessions.
He is a FASCINATING speaker. I usually get these shows going and then let the students handle the rest on show day, but I couldn't stop listening to his talk. Incredibly gracious and awesomely professional; will be recommending him to all of my clients.
What a privilege it was to hear the Admiral’s experiences first-hand. The parallels he drew were relevant to our business and we can all apply them to our day-to-day work. Plan ahead and always think about possible scenarios. Build strong teams – big ones and small ones. When it comes to building large teams, include key stakeholders at critical times when developing a substantial plan. Don’t work in a vacuum; but instead make sure to get the necessary awareness and buy-in up front. When it comes to building small teams, put people in roles where they will excel. Play to their strengths, develop them, coach them and you will get strong execution. And finally, when in command, take command.
ADM Olson’s address to our company’s leadership meeting on March 15 was outstanding. Many thanks to you and Christine and the whole Leading Authorities team who helped put this together.
In addition to providing a gripping address filled with pithy illustrations of leadership, team building, training, and character that apply well beyond the special operations community, ADM Olson took the time and effort to join us for dinner the night before his speech, meet many of our field personnel from around the world, and learn enough about our operations to weave examples into his prepared remarks. The feedback we’ve received from our team is universally positive. For many of them, it was the highlight of the three-day meeting.
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