Extreme Ownership is a book that explains the different leadership strategies used by the special forces to achieve success in pressurized situations. The book takes us into Iraq in the days, weeks, and months following the September 11 attacks and into the Middle East as the war on terror continued. Jocko Willink is a former Navy SEAL who links every lesson for business leaders in his book to a real-life situation he and his team faced during the war on terror.
As Navy SEALs the two men faced many difficult situations. The early days of the war could have led to the end of the leadership career of Jocko Willink when his team came under fire from what they believed was an enemy. In fact, the bullets were flying from members of another U.S. unit who would eventually kill a member of Willink's team. The truth behind the incident showed Willink had failed in his mission and took all the responsibility for the problems his team faced. Another fun book to read about team building is the 7 Secrets Of The Perfect Team.
This is the first lesson of many in Extreme Ownership: taking full responsibility can take many forms.
When things are going right, it is easy for any leader to take the plaudits and enjoy the success that follows. However, it is more difficult to take responsibility for a project failing, even if it means a greater level of respect is earned with your employees and management team.
One of the most impressive things Navy SEALs can teach business leaders is that leadership is a great challenge that changes everything about an organization. The aim of being a leader for a business is to lead your team to success no matter how difficult this might be. More information on this can be found in the book High Output Management.
In the eyes of Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, there are no bad teams, only leaders who have failed them.
Extreme Ownership means there is no room for members of any team not to take responsibility for their actions. If a business leader takes responsibility for the failings of their team and gives the plaudits for success to their team, this attitude will run through your company. In contrast, poor leadership will lead to a culture of failing that will inhibit growth at every level. Another book that touches on this is The Messy Middle.
There are many ways ego can cause issues for a business or a team of any kind. Initially, a team may see the ego of a manager or executive as being a sign of confidence. Jocko Willink sees ego in a different light with the issue of taking responsibility for failings again rising to the top of the problems being faced.
Jocko Willink believes a leader with an ego will not be able to see the problems they face realisticallyand not face the issues head-on. This leads to the issues of every member of a team working together to achieve their goals. Ego can get in the way of any leader as they move forward to achieve their goals and complete their tasks. The perfect follow up book for this topic is Ego Is The Enemy.
It may seem as though the lessons being learned all focus on the way the individual leader gets involved with their team. Extreme Ownership means the leader must make sure every member of their team understands both their role and the overall task being undertaken.
There are three aspects to making sure every task is completely understood, which are: It must be simple, concise, and clear.
Any aspect of a task should be simplified to make sure the team or the business leader completely understands what is expected of them. By making a task too complex, the business leader risks their project being derailed by misunderstanding.
One of the biggest problems Jocko Willink identifies in his book is how most leaders take too much upon themselves. This can include trying to manage too many people in a way that leaves them grappling with many different problems. For more on building a delegated team read the book Ready Fire Aim or E-Myth Revisted.
Willink says the Navy SEALs try to manage no more than six to ten people at a time. This is the maximum number of people that can be managed effectively by a leader.
Willink believes delegation is the best option with each leader given a role they completely understand. The leader should manage their small group managers to make sure they are capable of leading small groups effectively, leaving you to concentrate on the bigger picture. This 7 person structure is consistent across many other business books. Ready Fire Aim has much more information on this subject.
In the final chapter of Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink explains the book details ways he has learned to remain disciplined at all times. Discipline is a key part of achieving a great deal of success with the former Navy SEAL explaining an effective leader is close to their team but maintains just enough distance to retain the respect they have fought to achieve. For much more on the importance and power of discipline read Jocko’s other book Discipline Equals Freedom.