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Jocko Willink is a retired US Navy SEAL officer who currently hosts the top-rated Jocko Podcast. Jocko is the cofounder of Echelon Front, where he serves as chief executive officer, leadership instructor, speaker and strategic advisor.
Leif Babin is a former US Navy SEAL officer and a cofounder of Echelon Front. Here, he serves as president/chief operating officer, leadership instructor, speaker and strategic advisor. A graduate of the US Naval Academy, Leif served thirteen years in the Navy, including nine in the SEAL Teams.
Listen to the Audiobook Summary of Extreme Ownership
Extreme Ownership teaches readers the lessons that two US Navy SEAL officers obtained during their service. These officers led the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War. In Extreme Ownership, they apply powerful leadership principles from the battlefield to business and life. Through life-threatening experiences, the two authors learned that leadership is the most important factor responsible for success.
StoryShot #1: Leaders Have the Greatest Impact on a Team’s Performance
Leadership is the single greatest factor in any team’s performance. Whether a team succeeds or fails depends on the leader. Good leaders don’t make excuses. Instead, they figure out a way to succeed.
If leaders tolerate substandard performance and don’t hold team members accountable, poor performance becomes the new standard. So, it’s up to the leader to enforce standards and unite the team together, with everyone focused exclusively on how to best accomplish the mission. Then, once a culture of Extreme Ownership is built into the team, the entire team performs.
StoryShot #2: Actions Must Be Underpinned By Beliefs
The most important question you can answer is why you are adopting a certain approach. Once you understand the mission and the reason behind it, you can fully get behind the mission. And to convince and inspire others to follow and accomplish a mission, a leader must be a true believer in it. The leader must believe in the greater cause.
If a leader does not believe, they won’t take the risks required to overcome the inevitable challenges necessary to win. Their actions and words need to reflect a firm belief in the mission. And when subordinates can see this belief and understand the why, they can proceed while fully believing in what they are doing.
StoryShot #3: Take Ownership of Your Team’s Mistakes
Leaders must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures by taking ownership of them and developing a plan to win. The best leaders don’t just take responsibility for their job. Instead, they take Extreme Ownership of everything that impacts their mission. Taking this responsibility for failure is challenging and requires extraordinary humility and courage.
What’s more, a leader who exercises Extreme Ownership does not take credit for their team’s successes. They bestow that honor upon their subordinate leaders and team members. When a leader sets the example of Extreme Ownership, this mindset develops into the team’s culture at every level.
And when you take Extreme Ownership, you take complete ownership of what went wrong. You do this even if it means getting fired. By taking Extreme Ownership, both subordinates and superiors will start respecting you. Unlike the average person, you don’t blame other people. You accept responsibility for what went wrong, and you develop a strategy to get the job done.
StoryShot #4: Don’t Let Your Ego Influence You
Your ego is an obstacle to good leadership because it prevents you from exercising extreme ownership of the team’s performance. Egos can also prevent team members from cooperating and working towards an overarching goal.
Egos are a challenge anytime two people interact. A person with an outsized ego is more likely to hold an inflated sense of their abilities. They are also less likely to take responsibility for a mistake. Finally, they are unlikely to sympathize with individuals they see as below them. People with excessive egos tend to make decisions without consulting anyone else and put other people’s requests low on their priority lists.
Do not let your ego cloud your judgment. Ego clouds and disrupts everything: the planning process, the ability to take good advice, and the ability to accept constructive criticism. Egos prevent us from seeing the world as it is and can easily become destructive.
Extreme Ownership means checking your ego and making sure to stay humble. So, be confident but not arrogant. Often, the most difficult ego to deal with is your own.
StoryShot #5: Identify Your High Priority Tasks
Leaders must determine the highest priority task and execute it. When overwhelmed, fall back on this principle. A leader can prevent pressure by staying one or two steps ahead.
Plan possible contingencies that can occur in the mission and brief the team about these contingencies. Once the team has been briefed, they can act rapidly and execute when those problems arise. Priorities can rapidly shift and change when this happens. Communication of that shift to the rest of the team, both up and down the chain of command, is critical.
To Prioritize and Execute, a leader must:
- Evaluate the highest priority problem.
- Lay out this priority in simple, clear and concise terms.
- Develop and determine a solution. Seek input.
- Direct the execution of that solution, focusing all efforts and resources toward this priority.
- Move on to the next higher priority problem.
- When priorities shift, communicate both up and down the chain.
- Don’t let the focus on one priority cause target fixation. Target fixation prevents you from seeing the bigger picture.
StoryShot #6: Support Every Team Member
The authors describe Cover and Move as helping each other, working together and supporting one another. Consider a military operation with more than one team moving in the same direction in a dangerous environment. In these environments, one team will move forward while the other is stationary and provides covering security, watching for danger. After everything is clear the stationary team will move forward and the first team to move will provide covering security. This is Cover and Move. Cover is a vital component of any operation because moving without cover is a significant risk.
Cover and Move is all about teamwork. Each member of the team is critical to success, although the main effort and supporting efforts must be clearly identified. The focus should always be on how to best accomplish the mission. Team members, departments and supporting assets must always Cover and Move. This principle is integral for any team to achieve victory, and is the first of the Laws of Combat.
StoryShot #7: Simplify Concepts to Avoid Mistakes
To excel as a leader, it is vital that you simplify concepts. Simplifying as much as possible will help increase your chances of success. Simplicity is a key part of the military’s strategy in life or death situations. A simple plan allows the required information to be portrayed in a way that means soldiers don’t have to pause to understand a new plan. While soldiers have to carry maps, they don’t have the time nor opportunity to sit and review them in the middle of an operation.
As a leader, your role is to help your team excel and avoid making mistakes. When plans or orders are overly complicated, this opens up the opportunity for errors. These types of mistakes, which are based on misunderstanding instructions, are your fault as a leader. If an individual makes an individual mistake, the complexity of your instructions will only compound issues and potentially lead to a disaster. Plans and orders must be communicated in a manner that is simple, clear, and concise.
We rate Extreme Ownership 4.5/5.
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