Book Club: Extreme Ownership

Welcome to the Book Club where I will be doing short reviews and book digests of some of the more interesting pieces I am currently reading.


In recent years, there has been a lot of content coming out to the public about the US Army, SEALs, Special Ops, etc. Movies such as Lone Survivor, American Sniper, 12 Strong among many others have depicted the bravery of soldiers fighting to bring about change and improve people’s lives.  Personally, I have always been fascinated with the US Army and the NAVY SEALs, their courage, discipline, skills and hard work. A few months ago, I read The Making of a Navy Seal: My Story of Surviving the Toughest Challenge and Training the Best by Brandon Webb. Which was a great book guiding you through the process of becoming a Navy Seal and it’s mental and physical requirements. The processes, tests and challenges that the soldiers go through on their way to becoming one of the most elite military units on the planet demonstrate how adversity and physical exertion can build the mind and the body. 

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Considering my interests in this literary niche, I have recently become a fan of Jocko Willink’s work. His podcast Jocko Podcast: Leadership and Discipline and the books –Discipline equals Freedom, Extreme Ownership and the Way of the Warrior Kid – he has recently written are a great representation of the life, challenges, values, principles and mindset of the Navy SEALs. Today, I am going to quickly go through Jocko’s new revised edition of Extreme Ownership and some of the main takeaways.

Jocko Willink and Lief Babin are two U.S Navy Seal Officers who led one of the most decorated special units in the military called Task Unit Bruiser. Their team have persevered through the challenges and constant life-threatening situations of the Iraqi War. From the depths of combat where everything is at stake, lessons on leadership, discipline, team-work and intelligent hard work are to be learned and implemented to win and save lives. The Navy Officers take us through the daily perplexities of intense combat in one of the most violent battlefields in Ramadi, Iraq.

The book is divided into 3 parts.

Part I – Winning the War Within deals with the mindset and principles a leader must follow in order to win.

Part II – Laws of Combat are the set of principles you have to abide in terms of your surrounding environment, team and tasks you are dealing with.

Part III – Sustaining Victory is a combination of principles that complete a leader internally and externally.

Furthermore, within the book each chapter is divided into three sections. The first one deals with putting the reader into the intense daily actions of the Battle of Ramadi. Examples and a unique insider look at the daily intricacies of battle from the perspective of the soldiers fighting it are depicted throughout. Small details can be observed from the heat of the battlefield and behind the scene of life and death situations explored from the mind of the soldier. The second part is the principles that are learned and extracted from particular situations and challenges within the battle at hand. During every single military operation, the SEAL team abides by a set of rules that help them win and stay alive. The final third part of each chapter gives us a real-life example from the leadership consultancy business of the SEALs that implements the particular principle used in combat to deal with issues in the corporate environment.

The book is written in a very engaging way with a solid structure backed by examples. In addition, you can learn a lot of the day-to-day life and operations during a battle interpreted by someone who has experienced everything first hand.

Main Takeaways

  • Extreme Ownership of ones action is crucial to being a successful leader. There are no bad teams only bad leaders who don’t take responsibilty for their actions. A leader is responsible for everything that may go wrong within a team.
  • You have to believe in yourself and act confidently at all times.
  • Check your ego at the door, there is no space for ego within any team.
  • Being on the SEALs team is all about Great Leadership and Cohesive Teamwork. Being a great team player while checking your ego at the door is crucial for the survival of your teammates and the success of the mission.
  • Cover and Move – simply put team work. One of the most fundamental tactic of combat.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Victory Loves Preparation – have a clear plan and prepare for every outcome.
  • Prioritize and Execute – on the battlefield, countless problems compound in a snowball effect, every challenge complex in its own right, each demanding attention. But a leader must remain calm and make the best decision possible.
  • Decentralized Command – being able to delegate tasks and rely on lower level decision makers believing that they will have good judgement of the situation.

The structure and methodoly of laying out the book and teaching you the principles with examples is a great way of demonstrating the framework and discipline that the SEALs are preaching. And the best part of the book I believe is the Dichotomy of Leadership laid out by the authors, I think this should be on every manager’s office wall:

The Dichotomy of Leadership

A good leader must be:

  • confident but not cocky;
  • courageous but not foolhardy;
  • competitive but a gracious loser;
  • attentive to details but not obsessed by them;
  • strong but have endurance;
  • a leader and a follower;
  • humble not passive;
  • aggressive not overbearing;
  • quiet not silent;
  • calm but not robotic, logical but not devoid of emotions
  • close with the troops but not so close that one becomes more important than another or more important than the good of the team; not so close that they forget who is in charge.
  • abel to execute Extreme Ownership while exercising Decentralized Command.

A good leader has nothing to prove, but everything to prove.

Finally, I would encourage everyone who is in a leadership position within an organisation or simply need a set of rules to deal with life’s challenges and complicated situations to read Jocko’s book. In addition, the authors have got their own Leadership company called Echelon Front where they translate the combat lessons in leadership into business organisations and help companies grow and develop business leaders. The mindset and principles that help US Navy SEALs to save lives and accomplish combat missions can be applied to business and civilian organisations.

“There are two types of pain in the world. The temporary pain of self-discipline
and the permanent pain or regret” — Anonymous

 

 

 

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