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Extreme Ownership

Book Summary: Extreme Ownership – How US Navy Seals Lead and Win

If you have ever wondered how Navy SEALs are taught to lead in the midst of war. Or how you are supposed to lead your team when the pressure is on and there are too many things to do. This book is for you.

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin cover all their lessons learned. From being deployed in Iraq, to leading the SEAL training program and teaching these principles to businesses.

The stories in this book are extremely captivating and you get a sense of the extreme pressure these learned to operate under. We all feel like our job are high pressured. But for these guys their decisions literally had life or death consequences. 

In this short video I summarise 5 of the most important principles from this book:

Here are just a few of my highlights from the book:

“The only meaningful measure for a leader is whether the team succeeds or fails.”

“Every leader and every team at some point or time will fail and must confront that failure.”

“For leaders, the humility to admit and own mistakes and develop a plan to overcome them is essential to success. The best leaders are not driven by ego or personal agendas. They are simply focused on the mission and how best to accomplish it.”

“If an individual on the team is not performing at the level required for the team to succeed, the leader must train and mentor that…..

But if the underperformer continually fails to meet standards, then a leader who exercises Extreme Ownership must be loyal to the team and the mission above any individual. If underperformers cannot improve, the leader must make the tough call to terminate them and hire others who can get the job done. It is all on the leader.”

“You can’t make people listen to you. You can’t make them execute. That might be a temporary solution for a simple task. But to implement real change, to drive people to accomplish something truly complex or difficult or dangerous— you can’t make people do those things. You have to lead them.”

“When a bad SEAL leader walked into a debrief and blamed everyone else, that attitude was picked up by subordinates and team members, who then followed suit. They all blamed everyone else, and inevitably the team was ineffective and unable to properly execute a plan.”

“Leaders should never be satisfied. They must always strive to improve, and they must build that mind-set into the team.”

“Junior leaders must ask questions and also provide feedback up the chain so that senior leaders can fully understand the ramifications of how strategic plans affect execution on the ground.”

“If you don’t ask questions so you can understand and believe in the mission, you are failing as a leader and you are failing your team.”

“Everyone has an ego. Ego drives the most successful people in life— in the SEAL Teams, in the military, in the business world. They want to win, to be the best. That is good. But when ego clouds our judgment and prevents us from seeing the world as it is, then ego becomes destructive.”

All elements within the greater team are crucial and must work together to accomplish the mission, mutually supporting one another for that singular purpose. Departments and groups within the team must break down silos, depend on each other and understand who depends on them. If they forsake this principle and operate independently or work against each other, the results can be catastrophic to the overall team’s performance.”

“If the overall team fails, everyone fails, even if a specific member or an element within the team did their job successfully.”

“If your team doesn’t get it, you have not kept things simple and you have failed. You must brief to ensure the lowest common denominator on the team understands.”

“Utilize Prioritize and Execute. We verbalize this principle with this direction: “Relax, look around, make a call.

“Instead, my leaders learned they must rely on their subordinate leaders to take charge of their smaller teams within the team and allow them to execute based on a good understanding of the broader mission (known as Commander’s Intent), and standard operating procedures. That was effective Decentralized Command.”

“While the senior leader supervises the entire planning process by team members, he or she must be careful not to get bogged down in the details. By maintaining a perspective above the microterrain of the plan, the senior leader can better ensure compliance with strategic objectives…..

Doing so enables senior leaders to “stand back and be the tactical genius”— to identify weaknesses or holes in the plan that those immersed in the details might have missed. This enables leaders to fill in those gaps before execution.”

“don’t blame the boss. First, blame yourself. Examine what you can do to better convey the critical information for decisions to be made and support allocated.”

“my default setting should be aggressive— proactive rather than reactive. This was critical to the success of any team. Instead of letting the situation dictate our decisions, we must dictate the situation.”

“Discipline starts every day when the first alarm clock goes off in the morning.”