How do Navy SEALs win? Extreme Ownership. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin open the book of the same name with the following definition.
Of the many exceptional leaders we served alongside throughout our military careers, the consistent attribute that made them great was that they took absolute ownership — Extreme Ownership — not just of those things for which they were responsible, but for everything that impacted their mission.
— Jocko Willink, Leif Babin (foreward)
Great leaders own it. They don't throw around blame, they don't succumb to their own egos and they don't make excuses. They take charge and do what it takes to win. That almost palpable charisma of great leaders is a gravity well of confidence and stability that is rooted in the repeated act of owning everything in their world.
In "Extreme Ownership," the authors share what they first learned as SEAL Team leaders and then as consultants applying those same lessons to business. Each lesson starts with a story from SEAL Team training or combat operations in the Iraq War, followed by the main principle of the lesson and its application to a real-life business scenario. This effective formula first puts in sharp relief the importance of each lesson on the battlefield where death confronts you violently and without warning. Swap out the enemy in combat with competitors in business, and although life and death scenarios are rare, your are still left with a hyper-competitive marketplace that ruthlessly snuffs out competitors who don't heed these lessons.
My top 5 takeaways:
There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.
— Leif Babin (p.51)
The best illustration of "no bad teams, only bad leaders" is the SEAL Hell Week story in Chapter 2. Crews of seven young men, on the edge of mental and physical exhaustion, have to row, lift and lug two hundred pound inflatable boats through a tortuous and changing course over and over again. At one point in the story, the leaders from the best and worst performing crews are swapped. Astonishingly, the best crew continues excelling at or near the top while the worst crew wins most of the races from that point on.
Great leadership is critical to a high performing team. Leaders make no excuses. They find a way to win, and in so doing, exemplify a "winning attitude." Even when such great leaders move on, the lasting impact to a team and its individual members is substantial, because they too now demonstrate that same attitude.
If a team is failing, look only to the leader when seeking blame. The leader owns it all.
When it comes to standards, as a leader, it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.
— Leif Babin (p.57)
What a leader expects and allows forms the foundation of team culture. Team standards reduce to what is tolerated by a leader, not what is written or spoken. You must be an active example of what you expect from your team each and every day. Every team has the potential to be great. Good leaders inspire by example. Bad leaders sow discord.
Creating an environment in which team members can establish trust is an absolute must. A team's most valuable asset is the bond between its members, the loss of which imperils the team and its mission. Your example forms the glue that binds the rest of the team. With that bond in place, you and the team can achieve more than you believe possible in the most challenging situations imaginable.
In any organization, goals must always be in alignment.
— Jocko Willink (p.80)
Teamwork requires coordinated movement with a singular purpose. Independent operators have no place here. Seek to limit external dependencies within your team, but if one or more persist, develop relationships, align on objectives and succeed together as one larger team. An ineffective organization is one in which goals are not in alignment. No amount of heroic effort can correct an uncharted course.
Alignment is a key ingredient in many of the strategies presented in this book. A team cannot believe in the mission without it. "Decentralized command," effective planning, sensible prioritization and efficient execution are simply not possible without it. A team without alignment is destined for failure.
Good communication is a precursor to alignment. Every mission must have a clear purpose and end state. Every plan must be clear, concise and simple. Both must be explained in terms that every member of the team can understand. Team members must ask questions until the mission and its constituent parts are fully understood. Failure here is the responsibility of the leader who did not encourage such questions or who failed to respond with adequate explanation.
If your boss isn’t making a decision in a timely manner or providing necessary support for you and your team, don’t blame the boss. First, blame yourself. Examine what you can do to better convey the critical information for decisions to be made and support allocated.
— Leif Babin (p.237)
Lead every person in your world, even your own leader. If you aren't getting what you need from your boss, blame yourself first. How can you be more effective leading up the chain of command? It is possible that you have a bad leader, but unless you can honestly say your leader wants the team to fail, then you must drop the ego and get objective.
The questions and associated problems are endless. Complaining will not solve them. You must act. You must step up and lead. Don't ask what you should do next, tell your leader what you will do next.
Discipline equals freedom.
— Jock Willink (p.272)
Discipline starts with your ability to get moving at the sound of the alarm clock. Discipline, when practiced for the sake of efficiency, consistency and quality, frees you and your team to operate at a higher level. With each new level of efficiency, you move faster and achieve more. You win.
Need help adopting Extreme Ownership? Are you interested in other works from these authors? Check out Echelon Front. You can get the book "Extreme Ownership" or read reviews at the following sites: