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Mike  Hayes

Mike Hayes

Former Commanding Officer of SEAL Team TWO & Author of Never Enough

Mike Hayes

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.

Mike is the author of the best-seller, Never Enough: A Navy SEAL Commander on Living a Life of Excellence, Agility, and Meaning, and he donates all profits to “The 1162 Foundation”, a 501c3 he founded to pay off mortgages for Gold Star families.

Hayes’ last job as a military leader in the Navy was as the Commanding Officer of SEAL Team TWO, which included 10 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. Before 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 Managing Director, Insight Partners, a global software investment firm based in New York with $80B+ in regulatory assets under management and 800+ portfolio companies across every stage of growth. Previously, he was the Chief Operating Officer at VMware where he led where led the company's worldwide business operations, their SaaS transition, and the successful acquisition into Broadcom for $69B, and SVP and Head of Strategic Operations at Cognizant Technology where he ran the $2B P&L for Cognizant’s global financial services clients. 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 business 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, American Equity Life, and of the National Medal of Honor Museum. He is a life-long Sox/Pats fan, but most enjoys laughing with his wife, Anita, and their daughter, Maeson.

Speaker Videos

Goal Setting

The Hard Things Drive Excellence

Decision Making

Never Enough

Team, Teammate, Self

Moving Beyond 99%

The Edge of Comfortable

It Takes Teammates

When to Lead, When to Follow

Speech Topics

Leading High Performance Teams

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 subjects like:

  • Determining strategic direction and balancing setting ambitious goals against overreaching.
  • How to really connect people to the mission.
  • Communicating organizational priorities.
  • How to think about prioritization; weighing short-term results against longer-term wins; and building for the future.
  • How actively to set and then maintain a culture.
  • High-performance organizational design and how to align responsibilities and authorities to enable effective decision-making.
  • How high-performance organizations think about hiring, discipline and firing.
  • How to get people to say and mean they would follow you anywhere.

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, team building, create and sustain a culture and lead their people to achieve more than they knew possible.

The High Performance Individual

Excellent organizations know they are never excellent enough. The same is true for individuals-excellent individuals who 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. Some of the points that transcend into any organization include:

  • Why integrity and honesty matter above all.
  • The mindset that does the “right thing” despite adversity.
  • Making no-fail decisions with zero margin for error.
  • Moving to the problem (not away!).
  • The more I hurt, the less my teammates hurt.
  • How to measure a person.
  • The power of direct communication.
  • Assuming the right risks.
  • Balancing self-confidence and humility.
  • Strong people ask for help.

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.

Inside Decision Making, Risk & Training

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:

  • What is your framework for solving problems you have no idea how to solve?
  • How do you see your blind spots?
  • How much risk is too much?
  • What can be learned from training people to make life-ending or life-saving decisions in split seconds?
  • Do you appropriately train people “how to think” versus “what to think”?

Mike tailors all of his topics by listening to and understanding the goals, problems and opportunities of an organization.