Review: Extreme Ownership

“Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Quick Hit

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin is an intense leadership book including principles of leadership the authors learned during their time as US Navy Seals. Each chapter is organized to teach the reader about a specific leadership principle. Chapters are organized into three sections. First, the authors share a relevant story from their military experience that brings to light a specific leadership principle, next they provide a detailed description on the principle, and finally they apply they share a story of how the principle is applied to the business world. I like the way the book is organized and the chapter structure does a good job of reaffirming key points the authors try to drive home; however, the dialogue can get a bit redundant across multiple chapters and the authors sometimes come off as overly congratulatory with excessive use of descriptive words to explain certain situations. With this all being said, there are some valuable lessons in these pages and many of the stories and principles are easy to remember and apply. Overall I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Key Points

  • “Relax, look around, make a call”
  • The core concept of Extreme Ownership is a leader owns everything. It is all your fault. Do not pass blame.
  • It is key for leaders to not get bogged down in tactics. It is essential for a leader to continuously align the team to strategic objectives and the greater mission.
  • Make plans as simple as possible. Excessive complexity can lead to death.
  • A leader should only manage 6–10 people at a given time. Leading teams larger than this is outside of human nature.
  • The “why” is equally as important as the “what.” Good leaders make sure to explain why something is being done, not just what needs to be done.
  • Information must flow up and down the chain of command.
  • The concept of Decentralized Command: Allowing subordinates to own projects and holding them accountable for the projects is critical for reaching success at scale.
  • All risk cannot be controlled. Only focus on the ones that can be.
  • Discipline = Freedom. Building processes that standardize basic workflow provides teams space to get creative and solve hard problems.
  • The goal of any leader should be to work themselves out of a job.

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