Everything Is Your Fault
This is one of the simplest principles you need to follow to be a better leader
Taking absolute ownership when something goes wrong is something not easy to do. But, realizing there is no one else to blame but yourself is one of the best things you can do to be a better leader. In fact is one of the best things you can do in any area of your life.
This principle is known as Extreme Ownership. It is proposed by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin in their book Extreme Ownership.
There are no bad teams, only bad leaders
Leif Babin tells the story of two teams performing boat races during the “Hell Week” of the Navy SEAL training program.
On this particular occasion, there were two teams drawing attention from SEAL instructors. Boat Crew II and Boat Crew VI.
Boat Crew II dominated the competition. They have won nearly every single race during this particular Hell Week. So far, they were the best-performing crew and their morale was high.
On the other hand, Boat Crew VI has placed last in nearly every single race. They were the worst-performing crew and they were devastated.
The Senior Chief Instructor supervising the races decide to try a little experiment: “Let’s swap out the boat crew leader from the best and the worst crews and see what happens…All other controls would remain the same…Only a single individual, the leader, would change.”
After performing the exchange, the Boat Crew VI won most of the races in the next hour. Then, the question was “how is it possible that switching a single individual had completely turned around the performance of an entire group?”
According to Leif Babin, the key difference was how one of the leaders exhibited Extreme Ownership.
“…the original leader of Boat Crew VI justified his team’s poor performance with any number of excuses. In his mind, the other boat crews were outperforming his own only because those leaders had been lucky enough to be assigned better crews. His attitude reflected victimization: life dealt him and his boat crew members a disadvantage, which justified poor performance. As a result, his attitude prevented his team from looking inwardly at themselves and where they could improve…
…When the leader of Boat Crew II took charge of Boat Crew IV, he exhibited Extreme Ownership to the fullest. He faced the facts: he recognized and accepted that Boat Crew IV performance was terrible…He didn’t blame anyone, nor did he make excuses to justify poor performance. He didn’t wait for others to solve his boat crew’s problems. His realistic assessment, acknowledgment of failure, and ownership of the problem were the key to developing a plan to improve performance and ultimately win.”
The core of Extreme Ownership lies in focusing on what you can do better and keep improving. It’s not about blaming anyone else but you.
If things go wrong you cannot be looking for people to blame. This will trigger the defense mechanism of your team and they will follow your example. They will look for other people to blame. Then, the team is going to be ineffective and unable to fix what has gone wrong.
Instead, you should realize that everything that goes wrong is your fault. There is no else to blame. Focus on what you can do better.
The most important thing is that when a leader adopts Extreme Ownership the subordinates emulate his behavior. They stop blaming anyone else. They start with themselves and focus on figuring out how to fix their problems.
Extreme Ownership has been a useful principle for me. Not only when it comes to leadership, but in many situations of my life.
For me, it started being curious about the things I usually complained about. Once something bothered me and I complained about it, I would say “Ok. This is my fault. What can I do better?” For example, this was a common script:
“They dont’ get it. They are doing everything wrong.”
So, I would stop and ask myself…
“Wait. Do they know how to do it? Do I asked if they know how to do it? Nope. Let’s try and see what happens.”
Then, I would talk to them and check how they were doing and I would realized I was right. They didn’t know how to do it and I was not helping. I was just complaining.
Things got better when I started focusing on the things I could do better. No excuses. No blaming anyone else. Just Extreme Ownership.
Don’t get me wrong. It may seem to be something easy, but it’s not. I still complain about some situations. So, take it easy. One step a time.
Next time something bothers you, take a second. Think about how adopting Extreme Ownership can help you, try and see how it goes.
Thanks for reading,
See you next time!