Extreme Ownership4 min read

Extreme Ownership provides huge value for leaders at all levels. If you haven’t read Jacko Willink’s Extreme Ownership, you should! It’s a great book and a must read. Here is a link to the book on Amazon.ca.

Here are the lessons I got from the book:

Admit and own mistakes and develop a plan to overcome them, and blame no one else.

For leaders, the humility to admit and own mistakes and develop a plan to overcome them is essential to success. The best leaders are not driven by ego or personal agendas. They are simply focused on the mission and how best to accomplish it. Own everything in your world, and blame no one else. Extreme Ownership. Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.

As a Leader, you must demonstrate Extreme Ownership throughout the chain of command down. There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.

When a bad SEAL leader walked into a debrief and blamed everyone else, that attitude was picked up by subordinates and team members, who then followed suit. They all blamed everyone else, and inevitably the team was ineffective and unable to properly execute a plan. They see Extreme Ownership in their leaders, and, as a result, they emulate Extreme Ownership throughout the chain of command down to the most junior personnel. As a group, they try to figure out how to fix their problems — instead of trying to figure out who or what to blame.

As Leader, you must explain not just what to do, but WHY. Find out If You don’t know.

The leader must explain not just what to do, but why. It is the responsibility of the subordinate leader to reach out and ask if they do not understand. Only when leaders at all levels understand and believe in the mission can they pass that understanding and belief to their teams so that they can persevere through challenges, execute and win. So, if you ever get a task or guidance or a mission that you don’t believe in, don’t just sit back and accept it. Ask questions until you understand why so you can believe in what you are doing and you can pass that information down the chain to your team with confidence, so they can get out and execute the mission. That is leadership.

Control your own Ego.

Ego clouds and disrupts everything: the planning process, the ability to take good advice, and the ability to accept constructive criticism. It can even stifle someone’s sense of self-preservation. Often, the most difficult ego to deal with is your own. It’s natural for anyone in a leadership position to blame subordinate leaders and direct reports when something goes wrong. Our egos don’t like to take the blame. But it’s on us as leaders to see where we failed to communicate effectively and help our troops clearly understand what their roles and responsibilities are and how their actions impact the bigger strategic picture.

Simplify the plan.

Almost no mission ever goes according to plan. There are simply too many variables to deal with. This is where simplicity is key. If the plan is simple enough, everyone understands it, which means each person can rapidly adjust and modify what he or she is doing. If the plan is too complex, the team can’t make rapid adjustments to it, because there is no baseline understanding of it.

Build trust with your members.

Trust is not blindly given. It must be built over time. Situations will sometimes require that the boss walk away from a problem and let junior leaders solve it, even if the boss knows he might solve it more efficiently. It is more important that the junior leaders are allowed to make decisions — and backed up even if they don’t make them correctly. Open conversations build trust. Overcoming stress and challenging environments builds trust. Working through emergencies and seeing how people react builds trust.

Discipline yourself.

Discipline starts every day when the alarm clock goes off in the morning. The moment the alarm goes off is the first test; it sets the tone for the rest of the day. 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.


I hope these lessons help you too. As I said, it’s a great book so make sure you pick it up and give it a read!

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