A few months after meeting Dave in Afghanistan, I had this talk with him about leadership. His website: DontFuckWithDad.com
Dave Snyper was born in the US in 1969. Grew up in The Bronx and he is what some would call a ”Freelance entrepreneur”. He is also a streetfight and martial arts expert. Repairs any vehicle using primarily duct tape. Walked in and out of jails most of his life. Can be hired for extreme jobs. At 18 the judge presented him with a choice. 10 years of hard time or the military. He chose the army and served 2 years before joining Special Forces and was sent to Kenya. After a year he joined Navy Seals to become a CQCI – Which means Close Quarter Combat Instructor.
His dad and granddad were originally bootleggers, and when the government passed laws that made whiskey production and distribution illegal, they unwillingly reinforced the mafia! People still had to make a living and that move just made the mafia a lot more organized. Robert Kennedy tried to eliminate the mafia but he got shot. It was not until 1986 where Rudy Giuliani indicted eleven people from the five mafia families in New York, and practically shut down the mafia. Some of them got 100 years behind bars!
One night we went for a stroll and ended up in a bar. Got a beer and some bikers apparently felt offended by our presence. Or at least Dave’s presence, because one of them got an eye for me and tried to maneuver Dave out of the bar. That was a mistake. After teaching five bikers some manners we left the bar and continued our talk which was about leadership.
– These guys we just tuned up… Think they have a shallow draft… D’you think people like them will ever learn? I asked while we walked away from the pub in the warm dusk where the sun was slowly getting ready to pass the horizon. I asked Dave.
– I think they will at some point. I mean… I hope they will. I was like them once. But they might have to go through a lot of shit that hurts like hell or get trapped in a dead-end or something. Like when I got trapped in a dead-end but the Judge unexpectedly opened a new door for me.
– You know…when the pain of status quo exceeds the fear of change something will happen, Dave continued after a short break.
– Wow! That is deep man!
– Nah. It’s simple math!
I took his arm and asked him:
– How many people do you have working for you in all of your business?
– I have 159 people employed on regular salary right now and around twenty loosely attached being paid in dirty money – you know… undeclared work. Supporting the shadow economy. A way to spend some of the incoming cash flow and on top of that, I have some contractors and associates I hire for special jobs.
– You know them all?
– I met them all but I don’t exactly know all of them. But I remember their names and most of their childrens’ names too. It’s good to have something to talk about or ask questions about when I meet them. I learned that people feel better and are happier if I ask how their kids are doing or talk about some other private or personal stuff.
– I learned that I pass value to my co-workers when I show interest in their lives, kids, cars, and hobbies. I try to leave people better than I met them. To give them a boost of energy or happiness. It doesn’t cost me anything and they feel appreciated. It works fantastic. I try to be my best authentic self because when I am open-minded it works like an invitation for them to be open-minded too. It creates a connection that I value a lot because I also need to be part of something.
– Yeh… I sure understand the part of being part of a group. By the way… You don’t strike me as the standard ass-kissing boring kind of leader that says what he thinks people wanna hear and do what he thinks his boss wants to see. You do what the fuck is needed no matter the consequence.
– I don’t wanna try to be something I am not. I have a desire, to be honest, and preserve my integrity. Pull off my masks and reveal who I really am. I have a lot to give and I love giving people what they need. Whether it’s attention, money, time… If I have it I will share it. Basically, I just want to be happy and I assume that pretty much all people want the same. And besides… I’m a huge believer in having fun!
– Most leaders try to be strong. They confuse power with leadership. I try to be authentic. Actually, I try to master the ten A’s of Class A Leadership. This is something I came up with in a bright moment.
– Ten A’s? What is that?
Ten A’s of Class A Leadership
– Well… The five masculine qualities are:
Agenda means having a plan for your life, your business or your project.
– The five feminine qualities are:
They are almost a result of mastering the Masculine A’s.
– Working with this has made me much more Appreciative, Attentive, and Amazing! Ok, bragging a little here but it is Amazing that things just happen when you want them to happen and it is Amazing to be able to give people what they desire.
– This work also made me an Achiever, an Accomplisher, an Adventurer, an Alchemist, and even the Author of my own friggin’ life!
– When I say Alchemist I mean I am now able to transform almost any negative situation into something positive.
– Man! I want you as my boss! These A’s are Awesome!!
– Don’t regard me as a boss. I just want to be human. I indeed started the companies, but we are all together in this, kinda like a huge family and I’m just the grease that makes the engine run smoothly with all its gears and bolts and nuts. I take care of things. Also my employees and associates. I try to build a good life for myself, my friends, my associates, and my employees and hope that I one day can contribute to a better world.
– That’s my A-game.
– I feel you man! I feel you. And I continued:
– Once in the army we had an international drill that involved a SAS platoon, as well as a Navy Seal platoon, and the biggest takeaway for me was the kind of leadership these guys had. They were sooooo committed and my conclusion was that bad leaders do what is easy or popular. Great leaders do what’s right! No matter the pain!
– That’s very, very true! Dave said. A Navy Seal HAS to do what’s right. Otherwise, it comes back to you and bites your ass. Wrong decisions can be lethal. Not only for you but for your people as well. And I am responsible for them. I have to give them the best possible chances to be able to see their families again when the assignment is over.
– In your opinion – What is the most important trait of a good leader?
– That’s a tough one. Dave paused for a long time while he searched for an answer.
– I think there are a few equally important traits.
- 200% responsibility for everything that you make happen – including what happens to you. Even taking responsibility for how you perceive the world and other humans. I call it Extreme Ownership because you have to be responsible for your feelings, your actions, your words, your health, your buddies, and so on.
- Integrity. Because I believe in honesty. If you want people to trust you, you can’t lie! You HAVE to be honest!
- And they are world-class listeners.
- Great leaders are obsessed with execution.
– And bad leaders would probably place Ambition as the most important trait, I commented.
– Yeah, they want status because their Dads never told them how proud they were of them. They still seek validation. Many of them use manipulation, control, and micromanagement. All of which are destructive and counterproductive. I guess 97% of all leaders out there are in that category!
– Wow! 97%! That’s a lot. But thinking about it you just might be right. So the no. one leadership skill is actually 4! Responsibility, integrity, listening, and execution.
-Yup! And as you maybe noticed I didn’t mention Motivation among the most important skills. That’s because a Leader who masters Responsibility, Integrity, Listening and Execution will be motivating people to follow him without asking them.
– The fuck you got that expression? I asked.
– What expression?
– One Love!
– Ohhh… Dave said and paused again for a long time while we slowly strolled around a corner and the shadows got longer in the warm evening.
– You know… I run this nightclub and the manager I hired is from London like you are. His name is also Dave. He is a great guy. Strange, funny, and very different. Has character. Smokes a lot of weed but does a great job and he is the right man for the job. He has a ton of contacts in the record industry and hires a lot of great DJs.
– He has a guru in India, and he has this edge of spirituality, you know. He says a lot of strange spiritual stuff I don’t understand, talks about karma and Zen, and every time we agree on something he confirms the conversation with this expression – One Love. To seal the deal – so to speak. It’s sticky and I kinda like it. Somewhat like a handshake but a little deeper.
– Do you believe in karma? Dave asked while he held the door for me and we went inside.
– I don’t believe in anything! I stated. And yet I believe in everything, I continued.
– That sounds like Zen! Dave commented.
– So now I’m your guru. I said laughing.