Extreme Ownership, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Extreme Ownership, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

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If you go by the Business section of a Barnes & Noble store, no doubt you’ve seen Extreme Ownership on the shelf. Extreme Ownership is a leadership principle book written by two Navy Seal officers, and it pulls insights from their battles in Ramadi, Iraq and puts them into a leadership/business concept. The book was very useful to apply to scenarios I have faced.

The format of the content is the same in each chapter, which makes for an easier read, with each chapter starting within a scene from the battleground, followed by a short section titled “principle” and ending with a section titled, “application to business." As a comparison, this book was much better in layout and simpler in content than a similar book from a few years back by a military leader, entitled Team of Teams. If you are going to choose between the two, pick Extreme Ownership.  

The content itself was insightful in part because the authors are military. Not just any military, but Navy Seals. There is something innately trustworthy for me with that level of training, and because of the honor and loyalty that comes with our armed servicemen and women. But it goes beyond this distinction. Ownership is good because of the concepts contained in the book. Each chapter is an illustrated message about a principle that works in life, and it is told both in an interesting and very applicable way. Here is a quote from the opening chapter entitled, Extreme Ownership:

On any team, in any organization, all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader. The leader must own everything in his or her world. There is no one else to blame. The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win.
— Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

And this is the backbone of the rest of the book. Leadership in any capacity is difficult, and as leaders we try to execute, communicate, drive growth and cause our team to win. When that doesn’t happen, and we have put in so much blood, sweat and tears, we instinctively look to blame a subordinate for the failures that have occurred. Willink & Babin would disagree, place the blame squarely on our shoulders for everything, and ask us to take Extreme Ownership for the teams we lead. This concept is lost in our world today, and to read about it is a breath of fresh air.

Former Navy SEALs Leif Babin, left, and Jocko Willink.

Former Navy SEALs Leif Babin, left, and Jocko Willink.

“No bad teams, only bad leaders” is the theme in chapter two, which is equally as challenging to the status quo mindset as the opener. It is followed by a chapter on “believe”, which is the concept of alignment with the vision of company you work for, and provides a great counterbalance to the opening chapters. If we can believe in the mission, we can accomplish it.  Part two of the book covers Jocko Willink’s tactical standards he employed in the highly dangerous battle in Ramadi, which is 1) Cover and Move, 2) Simple, 3) Prioritize and Execute, and finally 4) Decentralized Command. Each of these is given a full chapter as well. In the last section of the book, the authors share several other thoughts about sustaining victory, which was very complimentary to the concepts found in the book Good to Great.

You will find some great material in this book, which I highly recommend for leaders.  Be warned—It will be personally challenging, but isn’t all of leadership? This book was truly helpful in Learning To Lead.