Jocko Willink and Leif Babin in combat

7 Leadership Lessons From Extreme Ownership

If you are like me and love leadership lessons from military examples, then you are going to like this book review of Extreme Ownership by Navy SEALS Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Sent to the most violent battlefield in Iraq, Willink and Babin’s SEAL task unit faced a seemingly impossible mission: help U.S. forces secure Ramadi, a city deemed “all but lost.” In gripping firsthand accounts of heroism, tragic loss, and hard-won victories in SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser, they learned that leadership—at every level—is the most important factor in whether a team succeeds or fails. Willink and Babin returned home from deployment and instituted SEAL leadership training that helped forge the next generation of SEAL leaders. After departing the SEAL Teams, they launched Echelon Front, a company that teaches these same leadership principles to businesses and organizations. From promising startups to Fortune 500 companies, they have helped scores of clients across a broad range of industries build their own high-performance teams and dominate their battlefields.

Now, detailing the mindset and principles that enable SEAL units to accomplish the most difficult missions in combat, Extreme Ownership shows how to apply them to any team, family or organization. Each chapter focuses on a specific topic such as Cover and Move, Decentralized Command, and Leading Up the Chain, explaining what they are, why they are important, and how to implement them in any leadership environment.

A compelling narrative with powerful instruction and direct application, Extreme Ownership revolutionizes business management and challenges leaders everywhere to fulfill their ultimate purpose: lead and win.


My 7 Takeaways from Extreme Ownership


1. Seize accountability, don’t avoid it. 

When something goes wrong, you should seek responsibility instead of avoiding it. You, as the leader, need to figure out what you can do to correct the course for the team. When is a time you showed extreme ownership for less than stellar performance instead of blaming your team members or others close to you?


2. Standards are what you tolerate. 

As the leader, it is your fault when your team members display subpar performance because you accepted and tolerated it. Not standing for less than excellent performance is more important than setting lofty standards. Do you really believe your team can be better? Or do you feel you have been dealt a bad hand in that area? Your belief will determine the standards you tolerate.


3. All team members must be bought in to the mission. 

To do so, they must know the “why” behind the mission. When each team member understands the goals and reasons for a mission, everyone benefits. If you don’t understand, it’s your fault for not asking the leader above you. If your team does not understand, it’s your fault for not communicating effectively.


4. The plan must be simple, but it doesn’t mean that it’s easy.

As a leader, the simpler you can make the plan, the more likely your team members will understand it, and the more likely your team will succeed. Make sure that your team knows the difference between simple and easy, because they are not the same.


5. Prioritize, then execute.

As you can imagine, Willink and Babin were in many chaotic and high intensity, high pressure environments. In those situations, to be effective, prioritize the most important thing and tackle it first. Then, repeat.


6. Empower those around you.

This requires building trust and fostering continuous communication between every team member. Whether you are a manager or a peer, trust the people around you to make decisions in their areas of expertise. Are there any areas where you feel you need to learn to better delegate responsibility?


7. Discipline brings freedom.

Every morning we are fortunate enough to wake up, we are all immediately faced with an act of discipline that can set the tone for the entire day. That being getting up with our alarm and making the bed. You may think that something as simple as making your bed is not a true test of your self-discipline, but I would argue that it absolutely is. By doing things others are not willing to do or feel as if they are not important enough to do, you are already exercising self-discipline and control that will continue to build throughout your day.



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