An Interview with Michael Durant: Inspiration for Academy Award-Winning Movie Black Hawk Down

Security Industry Association (SIA)

Michael Durant, retired Chief warrant officer four and inspiration for the Academy Award-winning movie Black Hawk Down, will keynote at the 2017 SIA Honors Night on Nov. 15.

In a recent interview with Durant, he discussed how his experiences as a Black Hawk Pilot relate to business and leadership. The Security Industry Association (SIA) invites you to register for SIA Honors Night at the Current at Chelsea Piers in New York City to hear more from Michael Durant.

Related to human and personal motivation, what lessons do you hope people take away from your talk?

Michael Durant: The things I like to focus on during the discussion is leadership because leadership is so important for any organization. Some of the things that happened in this situation you could argue are a result of failures by the leadership. The story itself lends itself to a discussion of overcoming adversity and facing challenges and how to both prepare yourself prior to encountering these things in life, how to get through it and how to deal with it in the aftermath.

On the business leadership side, how will business leaders find value in your talk? What are lessons from your extraordinary journey applicable to a growing business, managing people or inspiring innovation?

I like to talk about the characteristics and traits that make a good leader and how to become a leader. Some people are exposed to it because of who they are at a very young age. Others don’t get an opportunity to be put in leadership positions, but we all have the potential to be great leaders. And there is a way to get there if people establish that as a goal.

Looking back on your life, who were major influencers in your character development and life?

There were so many. You almost need to separate your life into different pieces to identify who affected you the most at what point in your life. As a young person, one of my heroes was Bobby Ore. He was a professional athlete, and to me what I saw at that age, he was everything an athlete should be: great on the ice, well spoken, great personality and everyone looked up to him. At that age, that’s what mattered to me.

As I became older, I became friends with a helicopter pilot. At that point in my life, I’m thinking I’m not going to be a professional hockey player, I need to be thinking about who are the role models that I can try to emulate for my professional life. When I saw what he did for a living and what he developed and built—he owned his own business and a few aircrafts—I thought that’s who I want to try and emulate.

When I got to the military I had many great commanders and subordinate leaders who gave me little tidbits of information along the way that were invaluable about honesty and integrity, fulfilling your commitments, being where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there and doing your best—all those things that when rolled up all together that’s got me where I am today.

There’s not a just small handful of people that I would say have influenced me; it’s a large group and collectively that have gotten me where I am today.

On a softer side, which movies do you enjoy watching or books do you enjoy reading?

One of my favorite movies is Elf. It’s just such a funny movie. We as a family watch it every year around the holidays. The whole family loves it; we always quote from the movie. And it just strikes a chord with all of us and our sense of humor. It’s one of my all-time favorites to experience with the family year after year.

As far as books go, I was always inspired by adventure stories and spy novels. Those types of things really intrigued me. Anything with a hero in it. When you’re young and reading, you’re thinking about putting yourself in those situations and if you could do what the character did. Those are the kind of things that really interested me.

Lately, I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell books. I just like digging into specific topics the way he does. And understanding certain aspects of culture and society and life that I found interesting.

In this ever-changing, almost divisive, the world we live in, where do you find your un-dimming optimism?

It’s a great country. It always has been and with any luck, it always will be. I am optimistic about being an American because I have been to a lot of places that are not even close to being as secure, as enjoyable, as productive and as peaceful of a society as we live in.

An easy way to not focus on our troubles is to focus on all the things that are great about this country. If we all took the time to do that more often, we would realize that it’s not a perfect system and we are not a perfect society, but we certainly are arguably in the front of the pack when it comes to quality of life, security and job opportunities. It’s a great country to have been blessed to have been born in. I appreciate it, and I try not to ever forget that.

Registration is open for SIA Honors Night on Nov. 15! Learn more at

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts and/or profiles are those of the authors or sources and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Security Industry Association (SIA).