Extreme Ownership

I think that Jocko Willink and Leif Babin nailed this book. The layout of the chapters makes the principles easy to understand and learn from, and also makes the book an enjoyment to read from cover to cover.

3 min read

Chapter 1

  • Take extreme ownership. Take the blame.
  • All responsibility for success or failure rests with the leader.
  • The leader must own everything in his or her world.
  • The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win.
  • Do not take credit for your team's successes - that honor belongs to the team, not you.
  • Refusing to take responsibility will lead to poor performance and failure.

Chapter 2

  • There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.
  • Leadership is the single greatest factor in any team's performance.
  • Ensure that the team works together towards a focused goal, and enforce high standards of performance, working continuously to improve.
  • When it comes to the standards as a leader, it's not what you preach, it's what you tolerate.
  • If there are not consequences to bad performance, that bad performance becomes the new standard.
  • Always strive to improve. Never be satisfied.

Chapter 3

  • If you don't believe, why would anyone else? And if they do not believe, they will not commit. And then you will fail.
  • You must truly believe in your mission in order to inspire others to follow and accomplish the mission.
  • You must align your thoughts and visions with the mission.
  • Understand why you are doing it. Everyone on your team must understand it. And you have to understand it, so that you can explain it to them.

Chapter 4

  • Check your ego. Ego clouds and disrupts everything.
  • Often, the most difficult ego to deal with is your own.
  • Ego drives us - it makes us want to be the best. But when it clouds judgement and prevents us from seeing the world as it is, ego is destructive.
  • Be humble.

Chapter 5

  • Cover and move = Teamwork
  • Work together, because if you don't it will hurt your overall performance.
  • The focus must always be on how to best accomplish the mission.
  • Help each other, work together, and support each other to win.

Chapter 6

  • Plans and orders must be communicated in a manner that is simple, clear, and concise.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Everyone must know and understand their roles as well as what to do if anything happens.
  • Make it so simple that you can act upon it without thinking.

Chapter 7

  • Sometimes complex problems compound and hit you all at once.

    Then you have to remain calm and make the best decisions possible.

  • That is done with prioritize and execute.

    Determine the task with the highest priority and execute.

  • Stay 1-2 steps ahead of the problems.

  • Evaluate highest priority -> communicate it clearly (to your team) -> execute -> repeat.

    If priorities shift, communicate it.

    Keep a broad overview. Don't tunnel vision.

Chapter 8

  • It is generally not possible to manage more than 6-10 people at a time for one person, especially not if things go sideways.

  • Teams must be broken down into manageable sizes.

  • Junior leaders must be empowered to make decisions on their own.

    • But not 100% on their own. The decisions have to be made within a specific framework or with some limitations.
  • Everyone has to understand the why behind a mission. They must also trust in one another.

  • Some leaders try to manage everything by themselves.

    This results in chaos.

  • Leaders must have the right amount of involvement so that they always know what is going on.

Chapter 9

  • Develop a standardized planning process.
  • Explore different courses of action to take in order to accomplish the mission.
  • Let everyone have a say.
  • Develop a detailed plan.
  • Brief everyone, simply, clearly, and concisely. Everyone must understand the plan.
  • The plan must mitigate identified risk whenever possible.
  • After completion, analyse what went right and what didn't. Do not repeat mistakes.

Chapter 10

  • Leading down the chain.

    • Make sure that everyone knows how their role contributes to the big picture success.
      • So that everyone can connect the dots of what they do every day, and how that contributes tothe overall success.
    • Help them understand the what and the why.
    • This helps the team make better decisions and prioritise.
  • Leading up the chain.

    • If your boss isn't making a decision in a timely manner or isn't providing necessary support for you and your team, don't blame the boss.

      Blame yourself. Examine what you can do better to convey critical information.

    • Push situational awareness up the chain.

    • One of the most important jobs of any leader is to support their boss.

    • If there is something you don't understand: ASK!

    • Even if you disagree on the plan, execute it as if it were your own.

    • Don't ask your leader what you should do, tell them what you are going to do.

    • There is no them vs. us in a company. Everyone wants everyone to succeed and win.

Chapter 11

  • Leaders must act decisively amid uncertainty; to make the best decision they can with the information that they have.
  • There is never a 100% right decision. The picture is never complete. Leaders must be comfortable with this and make decisions promptly still, while being ready to adapt if the situation changes.
  • Be proactive rather than reactive.

Chapter 12

  • Discipline is paramount to ultimate success and victory for any leader and any team.
  • Discipline - strict order, regimen, and control - might appear to be the opposite of total freedom - the power to act, speak, or think without any restrictions. But, in fact, discipline is the pathway to freedom.
  • A true leader is not intimidated when others step up and take charge.
  • Be confident, but never cocky.

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