Summary of Extreme Ownership

If you want to learn about teamwork by reading war stories from a couple of badass Navy SEALs, you should read “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

The life-and-death combat ops context for common sense teamwork goes a long way towards making sure the lessons are memorable.

  1. Extreme ownership.
    Seize accountability, don’t avoid it. When something goes wrong, you should seek responsibility instead of avoiding it, and figure out what you can do to correct course.
  2. Standards are what you tolerate.
    Subpar performance is your fault for accepting it. Not accepting substandard performance is more important than setting loftier standards.
  3. Everyone has to believe in the mission.
    When each team member understands the goals and reasons for a mission, everyone is better off. If you don’t understand, it’s your fault for not asking the leader. If your team doesn’t understand, it’s your fault for not communicating effectively. (see #1)
  4. Keep it simple, but not easy.
    The simpler the plan, the more likely your team will understand it, and the more likely your team will succeed. Easy to understand doesn’t mean that it’s easy to execute. If it’s not simple, it’s your fault for not simplifying it. (see #1)
  5. Prioritize.
    In a chaotic and high stakes environment, prioritize the most important thing and tackle it first. Repeat. No matter what, execute something.
  6. Empower those around you.
    Also known as decentralized command, this requires building trust and continuous information sharing between everyone on the team. Whether you’re a manager or a peer, trust the people around you to make decisions in their scope of work.
  7. Discipline. (see also #2)
    Discipline in execution helps the team out-maneuver the competition strategically. E.g If your team can release a product with discipline every 2 weeks, then you have the power to try something new 26 times a year.