Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin



Extreme ownership is a must read for those that want to learn how to be a more efficient leader. The principles they lay out are pure gold. it is a fantastic blend between war storytelling and applying those stories to the business world. I love the way they lay this book out. Every chapter has one principle with a war story and business story to go along with it. So they all go war story -> principle description -> business story. It makes it easy to follow and pull relevant information out. My only knock on this book would be that the war stories are a little dry from time to time, and I found myself drifting off. But they’re well worth getting through to get to the meat of the book.

If you want a shortcut, I have laid out the extreme ownership principles below with brief descriptions. While these are a great starting point, I think it is important to read this one through to get the stories that back them up. They become more relatable and give you ideas where you can apply them in your life.


1. Extreme ownership - the leader takes the blame 100% of the time. People respect and trust you when you're willing to accept wrongdoing, especially when it's not solely your fault. The key to expanding this is to formulate a win to resolve this issue in the future and execute it.

2. There is no bad team, only bad leaders - with a great leader, an average team will outperform a great team with an average leader. Poor leaders blame losses on the situation and accept average. Great leaders don't make excuses, they own the problem, build a plan to change that, and focus on the mission.

3. Believe - if a leader does not believe, they will not be willing to take the risk or convince others to believe in the mission. When a leaders confidence breaks, others will see this and lose their confidence in the mission. If you ever get a task or mission that you don't understand, ask WHY until you believe and you will be able to lead properly.

4. Check the ego - ego clouds and disrupts everything. The planning process, ability to take good advice and constructive criticism. Be confident but not cocky. It's not about you, it's about the mission.

5. Cover or move - the most important thing you can do is work together in support of one another. Members of the group must create smaller teams and continue to coordinate with the other teams. Teamwork and communication are the keys to success.

6. Keep it simple - life has many layers of complexity, simplifying these as much as possible is crucial to success. When plans are to complicated, prior may not understand then, and when things go wing, complexity compound issues that can spiral out of control. Stay simple, clear, and concise.

7. Prioritize and execute - a number of problems will arise on your mission. They can compound and set you back if not handled properly. You must relax and make quick decisions. Once you’re get the team working on the top priority, you can pan the next priories and keep them working efficiently.

8. Decentralized command - every member of your team need to be a leader in their own right. When the time comes, everyone needs to be be able to make decisions and execute when necessary. One challenge as a higher up, you need to be sure your ego doesn't get in the way of your lower level leaders from making decisions. Your org should be split into teams of 4-5 with a designated Junior leader. These Junior leaders must know when they can make a decision and we they should advise senior leaders on what they believe should be done. Communication and trust are keys to success.

9. Whats the mission? - a mission must be carefully refined and simplified so that it is specifically clear and focused to achieved the greater specific vision for what that mission is a part of. Higher up leaders build the vision while junior leaders plan the details of execution. This allows for you to deliver on the mission while ensuring every member of the team both understand and believes in the plan.

10. Leading up and down the chain of command - senior leaders need to explain how their mission related to the overall vision of the mission. The junior leaders need to make the senior leaders aware of what is holding them back from completing their missions as efficiently as possible. Both senior and junior leaders need to constantly evaluate what they can do to better enable the other.

11. Decisiveness and uncertainty - you almost never have a fully clear picture of the situations you face. It is critical for leaders to use the facts they can find and make decisions quickly. With that being said, they must be prepared to adjust those decisions when new information is received.

12. The Dichotomy of Leadership - discipline = freedom. The trigger and more disciplined your procedures, the more efficient and precise you are. This allows you to be creative because you aren't thinking about the basics of the missions. The balance between discipline and freedom is the ultimate dichotomy of leadership.

Other areas great leaders need to find a balance on: calm but not robotic, confident but not cocky, competitive but gracious, detail oriented but not obsessed, strong but also have endurance, humble but not passive, quiet but not silent, close with subordinates but not too close, nothing to lose but everything to lose.

Review by Tyler Diderich

**NOTE - I believe they added this last chapter to lead into their new book called The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win which I will be reading and reviewing soon.
If you want to read this book for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here: Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win (New Edition)