In Rogue Heroes (2016), Ben MacIntyre tells the story of the formation of the British SAS (Special Air Service) in World War II. The SAS would eventually serve as the model for the U.S. Navy Seals and Delta Force as well as special forces in other countries around the world.
Lieutenant David Stirling of the Scots Guards originally proposed to British High Command the idea of a small group of commandos who could parachute behind enemy lines, disrupt enemy operations, and quickly slip away—guerrilla warfare. It was a novel idea in World War II.
To prepare, Stirling recruited a small group of men and they “got ready.” The training regimen was unlike anything that regular military personnel experienced.
To simulate parachute landings in a wind-swept desert (and lacking a plane to make actual drops), Stirling and his men jumped off the back of Jeeps traveling at 35 miles per hour. Broken bones, sprained limbs, cuts, abrasions, and bruises quickly brought the haphazard training practice to an end. But they were “getting ready.”
Those first SAS troops studied maps and learned star navigation. In the deserts of northern Africa, where sand dunes swept as far as the eye could see, they could not navigate by landmarks…and nobody had GPS.
Then there were the long desert marches to build stamina and endurance. The unit would take minimal water, to condition their bodies to require as little hydration as possible. Later this would save the life of one SAS member, Jack Sillito, who was thought to be lost or captured but trekked 180 miles across the desert back to the base camp, on his own.
The extraordinary feats of the SAS required extraordinary preparation; learning about explosives, conditioning their bodies for grueling conditions, understanding weaponry, and developing nerves of steel. And the SAS had a profound impact on the Allied war effort.
Transformational leadership today requires no less dedication and preparation. The journey ahead for us (as parents, pastors, or business leaders) will involve unknown challenges, expansive stretches of desert, and minimal resources at times. What are you doing to not only survive the conditions but to complete the mission despite the conditions?
When God entrusts leadership to us, we have a stewardship responsibility to get ready and be ready. What might you do today and this week to prepare? What might you read, write, practice, or seek advice about? Intentionality is everything.
Leaders get ready; leaders are ready.
David Timms is Dean of the School of Christian Leadership at William Jessup University.