Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

by Jocko Willink, Leif Babin

Written by two former Navy Seals, Extreme Ownership discusses the many facets of being a good leader. With anecdotes from their experiences on the ground and stories from their corporate lives, Willink and Babin describe the key targets a leader should aim to achieve, as well as the steps they need to take to get there.

Summary Notes

Leadership: The Single Most Important Factor

Most leadership books and programs available today are focused on individual practices and traits. However, leadership is only possible with a team. To succeed as a leader, you must be capable of leading teams who can accomplish and win the mission successfully.

The best leaders are those who are not driven by their egos or any other personal interests. They are humble, responsible, mission-focused, and, most importantly, know how to own up to mistakes. These characteristics are the main reasons their followers highly respect and adhere to them, leading to a team’s increased productivity and chances of success.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to become a great leader capable of rising above tragedies, achieving triumph in any project you lead, and inspiring your team to be the best they can be.

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.”

Good leaders don’t just take responsibility for their job; they also 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, good leaders recognize that it 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 that leadership is the most important factor when it comes to a team’s performance.

There are many other characteristics of a good leader, all of which revolve 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 viewing situations objectively. When your ego makes you feel like you are too good to fail and you get complacent, it becomes destructive, and you will not be able to meet your targets.

Actions to take

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. Teamwork is also important because if your team does not function as a 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 actually to overcome these failures. Remember, when one person succeeds, the whole team also succeeds. Similarly, when one person fails, everyone fails, too.

When you emphasize teamwork and set clear activities for each team member, it will also be easier to identify where someone needs to improve or what needs to be done to accomplish the project 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. Ideally, teams should consist of only 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

Sustaining Victory

“If your team isn’t doing what you need them to do, you have to first look at yourself.”

Good leaders don’t only lead their teams to success but also ensure it is sustained 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 and the purpose of the project, they will participate more enthusiastically. Good leaders are able to facilitate this process, thereby paving the way for innovation.

Detailed plans also help mitigate the issues arising from the corporate world's constant chaos. Outcomes are never certain, and one mistake can cost a lot. Good leaders must therefore build a strong team where everyone clearly understands the importance of planning so that they can step back and oversee the project with a big-picture view. This will help them identify areas for improvement and develop strategies for maximum efficiency.

Actions to take

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