Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin Summary
Extreme Ownership will make you a better leader. In it, Navy SEALs Willink and Babin discuss essential leadership lessons, including practicing extreme ownership, killing your ego, enforcing standards, simplifying, prioritizing, and executing.
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Extreme ownership is taking absolute responsibility for everything that impacts your or your team’s mission. This includes challenges, successes, failures, and everything in between. With extreme ownership, you can start solving problems and stop playing the blame game.
Believe, communicate, and listen
Leaders must have a resolute belief in the team’s mission. They must also communicate the strategy very clearly to subordinates and allow them to ask questions until they also believe in the mission and strategy. Finally, the leader needs to continue listening and supporting subordinates in order to maintain belief and ensure flawless execution.
Put ego and personal motivations to the side
Your ego and personal motivations must be subordinate to the mission. As a leader, your job is to ensure that the mission gets done, not to worry about how people perceive your work or making life as easy as possible for you. It takes real strength of character to put your ego to the side.
Simplify and clarify
Keep the mission as simple and clear as possible. Complexity causes confusion and makes execution more difficult. The simpler the strategy, the better.
Do you get out of bed?
“The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win—you pass the test. If you are mentally weak for that moment and you let that weakness keep you in bed, you fail. Though it seems small, that weakness translates to more significant decisions. But if you exercise discipline, that too translates to more substantial elements of your life.”
To lead, you need to be disciplined. When you’re weak, you need to find strength. This starts with waking up on time. This small act signals the discipline that will flow through the rest of your day.
Work as a team
To achieve a mission requires multiple teams to work hand-in-hand. Do not fall into the trap of working as separate units on the same mission. Work as one team on one mission.
“When setting expectations, no matter what has been said or written, if substandard performance is accepted and no one is held accountable—if there are no consequences—that poor performance becomes the new standard.”
When you accept poor performance, it becomes the standard. While it may be difficult to communicate standards, it’s absolutely necessary. In the long-run, the team will fall into a pattern of poor performance if you don’t.
Prioritize, execute, and stay flexible
Define the vital few things that matter, and get to work. Situations or needs may change, so stay nimble. But always keep your eye on the priorities that you’re working on. Losing sight of those priorities will lead you to expend energy in directions that don’t serve the mission.
“Discipline equals freedom.”
“It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.”
“Prioritize your problems and take care of them one at a time, the highest priority first. Don’t try to do everything at once or you won’t be successful.” I explained how a leader who tries to take on too many problems simultaneously will likely fail at them all.”
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