Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Winby Jocko Willink, Leif Babin
Written by two former Navy Seals, Extreme Ownership discusses the many facets of what being a good leader entails. With anecdotes from their experiences on the ground as well as stories from their corporate lives, Willink and Babin describe the key targets a leader should aim to achieve, as well as the steps you need to take to get there.
Part I: Winning The War Within
“Despite all the failures of individuals, units, and leaders, and despite the myriad mistakes that had been made, there was only one person to blame for everything that had gone wrong on the operation: me.”
A good leader doesn’t just take responsibility for their job, they take ownership of everything that impacts their mission. They do not shift blame to others as they understand that anything that happens under their jurisdiction - whether good or bad - is their fault. While it may be easy to blame a team member for screwing up, a good leader recognizes that the screw up only happened because they have not performed as well as they should.
Taking ownership in this manner not only builds trust and respect, but the rest of the team will also adopt the same mindset, and performance rates will be through the roof. Remember, leadership - whether senior or junior - is the most important factor when it comes to a team’s performance.
There are many other characteristics of a good leader, and they are all centered around one concept: letting go of your ego. While our ego can be a good thing, it can also cloud our judgment and prevent us from objectively viewing situations that we’re in. When your ego makes you feel like you are too good to fail and you get complacent, your ego is being destructive and you will not be able to meet your targets.
Actions to take
Part II: The Laws of Combat
“All elements within the greater team are crucial and must work together to accomplish the mission, mutually supporting one another for that singular purpose.”
Good leadership isn’t the only factor in achieving success, however. Teamwork is important as if your team does not function as one cohesive unit, it will splinter, and productivity and efficiency will suffer. While it is easy to blame failures on one person’s actions, this does not do anything to actually overcome these failures. Remember, when one person succeeds, the whole team succeeds and when one person fails, everyone fails.
When you emphasize teamwork and set clear activities for each team member to do, it will also be easier to identify where someone needs to improve, or what needs to be done to get the job done more efficiently and effectively.
The internal structure is another key aspect of success. A structured organization, with clear boundaries and chains of command, will function smoothly and efficiently. Teams should be between 4-6 people with one manager. This is the optimal size for collaboration and teamwork without being too large that it reduces productivity.
Actions to take
Part III: Sustaining Victory
“If your team isn’t doing what you need them to do, you have to first look at yourself.”
Good leaders can lead their team to success, but they can also ensure that success continues without faltering. Simply building the foundation of an effective team isn’t enough, there need to be detailed plans of action outlining the next steps for each project. When each team member understands their role as well as why the project needs to be completed, they will participate more enthusiastically. A good leader facilitates this process and thereby paves the way for innovation.
Detailed plans also help mitigate the issues that arise from the constant chaos of the corporate world. Outcomes are never certain - one mistake can cost a lot. Good leaders must therefore build a strong team where everyone is clear on the importance of planning so that they have the capacity to step back and oversee the project with a big-picture view. This will help them identify areas for improvement and develop strategies for efficiency.
Actions to take
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