Extreme Ownership is a leadership philosophy taken from the U.S. Navy SEALS. It does not matter if you are leading a company with 40.000 employees, or a team of four. Any leader working in a company operating in a competitive market have a lot to learn from this book.
I have the utmost respect for the U.S. Navy SEAL’s. They are maybe the best-trained warriors in the world. They have some of the best training available to solve complex and demanding missions. The SEAL’s consistently have to face multiple high-risk elements that they have to prioritize and tackle as they move towards completing their mission.
When I heard about the book Extreme Ownership – How U.S.Navy SEALS Lead and Win, I knew I had to get my hands on it.
Business today is becoming more and more like a battlefield. It is fierce competition in a rapidly changing environment and a constant overload of information. Consequently, any plan is basically useless by the time of implementation.
I think that both companies and individuals have a lot to learn about leadership from SEAL leaders.
About the book
Each element of the Extreme Ownership concept outlined in the book starts with a history from the battleground in Iraq illustrating the leadership element used in war. Then the authors discuss the element before finally describing how to implement this in organizational leadership.
I have to say that I really like that the book is unlike any other leadership book I have read earlier. I like hearing the stories of the complex urban warfare, and how, what they learned on the ground in Iraq are skillfully transferred to civilian business
From the introduction: The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, gave birth to a generation of leaders forged not in classrooms through hypothetical training, but on the front lines of war through hands-on experience. U.S. Navy SEAL Teams were at the forefront of this transformation, emerging from the triumphs and tragedies of war with an understanding of leadership in the most challenging environments.
Jocko Willink and Leif Babin are just such leaders – highly decorated Navy SEAL officers who served together in some of the toughest combat of the Iraq War. Together, they developed leadership lessons and organizational practices through years of experience, alongside heroes such as sniper Chris Kyle.
Today, Babin and Willink apply these principles in the boardroom via their company Echelon Front. Across the country, they demonstrate how the SEAL approach to leadership that made them successful soldiers can help countless organizations and individuals achieve the highest level of success.
My best takeaways from Extreme Ownership
Check your ego: Operate with a high degree of humility. Admit mistakes and take responsibility. This also implies taking the full responsibilities for your team’s mistakes. As a leader, you own the problem.
Cover and move: Cover each other’s back and work together to accomplish the mission. Trust is a key element. Everyone has to participate if the team shall succeed.
There are no bad teams, only bad leaders: I had to think before I accepted this one. Ultimately, if your team is not performing, it’s your fault. Does the team understand the mission? Do each individual understand their role? It all comes down to you.
Decentralized command: This is the best explanation I have found on the importance of delegating responsibility and empower others to make decisions: Contrary to popular belief, a leaders place is not at the front. A leaders place is somewhere in the middle, being free to move and direct his attention to critical issues, all while keeping situational awareness.
Below is a video from a TEDx talk by Jocko Willink where he tells the story about Extreme Ownership.