Speaking to the World
Boston | Chicago | San Diego | Atlanta
Former Commanding Officer of SEAL Team TWO & Author of Never Enough
A 20-year veteran of the US Navy SEALs, two White House administrations, and senior executive roles in the private sector, Mike Hayes translates the lessons he has learned to help organizations develop stronger leaders and improve their bottom line. Hayes has led and learned from many crises, from his service in the SEALs throughout South America, Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, including the conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, to national issues in the White House Situation Room, or to sensitive corporate strategy in the boardroom. Read More >
Hayes’ last job in the Navy was the Commanding Officer of SEAL Team TWO, which included ten months as the Commander of a 2,000-person Special Operations Task Force in southeastern Afghanistan. A White House Fellow (‘08/’09), he served two years as Director, Defense Policy and Strategy at the National Security Council. In the Bush Administration, Hayes was responsible for the START Treaty, where he produced a new proposed START Treaty and conducted negotiations with the Russians in Moscow. In the Obama administration, Hayes led the White House response to President Obama’s first major foreign policy showdown — the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama off the coast of Somalia. Prior to the White House Fellowship, Hayes served as the Deputy Commander for all Special Operations in Anbar Province, Iraq.
Beyond his military and governmental service, Mike is currently the Chief Operating Officer at VMware. He joined VMware in October 2020 and leads the company’s worldwide business operations and the acceleration of the company’s SaaS transition. Previously, he was SVP and Head of Strategic Operations at Cognizant Technology where he ran the $2B P&L for Financial Services. Mike also served in Chief of Staff and COO roles at Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest and most successful hedge fund.
In customized presentations, Hayes pulls out the overarching lessons he has learned to discuss topics such as leadership, how organizational design ties to outcomes, the essentials for decision making under duress, how cultures are a determinant of winning, crisis management, dealing with adversity, conflict resolution, communication, motivation, focused execution, workforce optimization, setting strategy, enhancing innovation, and personal and organizational impact. Drawing on examples from his illustrious career, he shares leadership principles such as teaching individuals how to think rather than what to think, how a leader’s job is not to make the best decision but rather to make sure the best decision gets made, and how comfort with discomfort is a key tenet of high-performance individuals and organizations.
Hayes has spoken at the White House, Harvard, and Goldman Sachs alongside President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. A Navy SEAL Commanding Officer overseas, a former leader in the National Security Council, and an experienced senior leader in the private sector, Hayes’ principles are sure to resonate with any audience.
Hayes holds an M.A. in Public Policy from Harvard’s J.F.K. School of Government and received his B.A. from Holy Cross College, where he was an active Big Brother. His military decorations include the Bronze Star for valor in combat in Iraq, a Bronze Star for Afghanistan, and the Defense Superior Service Medal from the White House. Hayes’ work has been published by the RAND Corporation, he is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the board of directors of Immuta, a data governance company, and of the National Medal of Honor Museum, and a senior advisor to Inherent Group, an impact investment firm. An avid Red Sox and Patriots fan, he lives in Westport, Connecticut with his wife and daughter. Read Less ^
Never Enough | Mike Hayes
Team, Teammate, Self
Moving Beyond 99%
The Edge of Comfortable
It Takes Teammates
When to Lead, When to Follow
Mike has successfully led teams in the most complex and difficult of circumstances, and has extracted over two decades of proven “lessons learned” from the SEALs and two White House administrations. Mike is passionate about sharing those lessons, discusses his approach to leading high performance teams, and tackles questions like: Read More >
This topic can be tailored based on specific organizational issues and is perfect for anyone who wants to learn how leaders in other high performance organizations deliver results, handle challenges, make hard decisions with imperfect information, build solid teams, create and sustain a culture, and lead their people to achieve more than they knew possible Read Less ^
Excellent organizations know they are never excellent enough. The same is true for individuals-excellent individuals constantly pursue increased excellence. This pursuit distinguishes high performance, successful people and organizations from the rest. Leaders who know they are only as good as their people and strengthen their people’s individual performance are consistently the most successful. Mike has many lessons to strengthen the individual, which subsequently strengthens the entire organization. Just some of the points that transcend into any organization include: Read More >
Mike’s lessons are universally applicable, provoke significant thought, and leave an audience stimulated, challenged, and eager to “try them on” in both professional and personal situations. Read Less ^
Mike’s decades of experiences as a leader in the SEALs yielded “hundreds of once-in-a-lifetime” experiences, developed and tested his principles, and enabled tremendous success. Examining the principles around decision-making, risk, and training can help any organization generate new ideas, renewed focus, or refinement of current approaches. Some of the salient questions include: Read More >
Mike tailors all of his topics by listening to and understanding the goals, problems, and opportunities of an organization. Read Less ^
"Mike’s career as a Navy SEAL placed him in situations and put him up against circumstances most of us will never see. But he possesses the remarkable ability to channel those unique experiences into thoughtful perspectives on leadership that anyone can relate to. Without a doubt, he can help your management team broaden its perspective to more sharply assess challenges and opportunities and make the important decisions exactly when you need them."
"It was fantastic. Mike hit a home run. Obviously, Mike is very engaging and his life experiences are very unique. More importantly, the intersections he drew between his experiences, his leadership and principles and how they are relevant for us as business leaders and individuals were spot on. The feedback was very good. It was exactly the experience I was looking for."
“Mike's session was received extremely well. It was not only powerful and practical, but humbling for most…. thrilled we were able to make it happen, thank you!”
"I wanted to send along my thanks and gratitude for Mike’s participation in the Veterans Day video. This is actively rolling to all our employees and the feedback we are already getting is great. Please thank Mike for us!"
"Mike worked with us to adapt his content and style to our audience, and he really nailed it. Mike's style is authentic, funny, humble, and to the point. He immediately wins over the audience because he's so likable, but then he teaches them essential management lessons, hard-learned on the front lines of Afghanistan, Iraq, and from the White House. He lulls you in with his affability, then wallops you with stories and lessons that resonate both emotionally and intellectually about managing a high performance organization under the toughest possible conditions. What do you do when you can't wait months to measure a manager's performance; you have to do it based on just a few moments under fire? At the end of Mike's talk, you feel like you've learned a lot in a short time about leadership and building winning organizations. But even better you feel like you've gotten to spend some up-close time with the kind of guy who represents America at its best."
"Mike Hayes brings powerful and inspiring leadership techniques that transfer from the battlefield to the corporate environment. At the core of his message is a captivating focus on winning, defending your team, and keeping perspective. In 25 years of building companies and hosting leaders from all industries, nobody has come close to Mike's ability to instill a sense of team and purpose within our people. If you want to inspire your leadership team to achieve stretch goals, Mike Hayes is a must hire."
Mike was a speaker at our inaugural Builders and Innovators conference, which brought together many emerging and high profile entrepreneurs from across the country. Based on his 20 years of experience on SEAL Teams and in the White House, Mike's message on the importance of recruiting the right people, contingency planning and decision making in the face of high pressure, unexpected outcomes resonated. His passion and genuineness was greatly appreciated by this group of important business leaders.
"If you haven't considered it, you should definitely write a book. You are the real deal and you have a lot to offer on the subject of genuine, authentic leadership."
"Mike exemplifies the leadership all organizations need to succeed in today's fast changing business environment. Mike's thoughts on problem solving, direct communication, and decisive action in situations of uncertainty provide a playbook for creating high performing teams. My team speaks regularly about Mike's visit and I find myself frequently repeating the lessons he shared!"
"Many, many thanks to you for taking the time to sit with our team today and share your thoughts and experiences. Your 15 rules to live by were so well received by the team and completely digested by all. I can't tell you how much I appreciated your casual and honest approach to the conversation. So often "speakers or presenters" miss the mark in terms of connecting with the audience and understanding who is in the room - this was absolutely not the case today. Our team walked away feeling that you were genuine, heart-felt and a person of true character; you truly left a lasting mark on all in the room."
"Unforgettable! Mike has a unique ability to take once-in-a-lifetime experiences from leading the SEALs, two White House administrations, and as a senior executive atop a Fortune 200 company, and applying them in very personalized, motivating, and enlightened ways. Mike translated his experiences to everyone in the room and connected in deeply moving and different ways. His laid back style coupled with such competence and focus are unlike anyone you’ve ever met. We’ve had many great speakers over the years, but the positive feedback, continued excitement, and insights from his session were very simply the best. Without hesitation, we would highly recommend Mike to any organization wanting to enjoy learning, thinking, growing, and improving."
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