Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win
Willink and Babin returned home from deployment and instituted SEAL leadership training to pass on their harsh lessons learned in combat to help forge the next generation of SEAL leaders. After leaving the SEAL Teams, they launched a company, Echelon Front, to teach those same leadership principles to leaders in businesses, companies, and organizations across the civilian sector.

Extreme Ownership By. Jocko Willink & Leif Babin

Key Insights

When you think Navy Seals, you think of leadership skills.

And, though their skills may seem pretty extreme, they can actually be applied to your own life, no matter who you are!

In “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, you get the chance to gain leadership advice from two Navy Seals, who know that the skills they learn in training can be applied anywhere.

“Implementing Extreme Ownership requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and developing a plan to overcome challenges are integral to any successful team.”- Jocko Willink

With complicated tasks and hard life decisions, sometimes you need to get a little extreme in terms of your leadership.

Key Points

  • Take Responsibility

It’s important to take ownership when you make a mistake. Even in the Navy, mistakes happen. The author, Willink, tells of a time when he was in Iraq as a task unit commander and his team was attacked. Willink assumed that it meant it was the enemy and commanded his team to fire back. However, later they discovered it was another SEAL unit. And, because of this incident one of their men lost their lives. Willink, however, took responsibility for the reaction and actually saved his job in the process.

He kept his job because good leaders know that good leaders take responsibility for when they make mistakes. And, the best teams are led by leaders who never blame others and who eagerly take criticism.

When a leader starts to blame his team, then the negative energy is spread throughout the team and they begin to perform poorly because they are not working cooperatively. Rather, they are pinned against each other.

“Extreme Ownership. Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.”- Jocko Willink

Leaders are there not just to lead, but also to be a good example to the people under them.

  • You Must Understand Your Mission

In order to successfully fulfill a mission, you must understand its importance in the grand scheme of things.

During Willink’s time in the military, he was told he was going to be fighting with a new Iraqi team alongside his team. He was not a fan of this proposal, but he kept quiet and tried to understand why this was being put to action.

Once, he understood why the mission was happening, he was able to fully get behind it and support it, while encouraging his team to do the same.

When you fully understand your mission you are able to fully commit and carry out the game-plan successfully. But, if you don’t understand what you’re fighting for, then where is your motivation?

As a leader, you must make sure all the objectives of the mission align with your overall goal in order to command your troops to carry it out.

  • Support Network

Your allies should feel like a support network, not your competition.

“Cover and Move” is a tactic that Navy SEALS are given during training. It basically sums up to the idea of working as a team.

All of the components of a company, or a family, or a military unit must work together in order to protect and succeed in their mission.

The enemy is external, not internal.

  • Clear Priorities Under Pressure

During stressful and heightened situations, it’s important for the leader of the troops to stay calm and act wisely by thinking of the team as a whole, rather than an individual.

In training, Navy SEALS learn “prioritize and execute”, which means they must stay calm, evaluate the situation, and take action.

“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.”- Jocko Willink

In a high-stress situation, it’s important to identify the priority. This could be saving someone’s life or saving an important business account. The leader must then communicate that to the team and be open to input from other leaders and their team. Once, the team has come to a decision on how to solve the problem, they must work together to put it into action.

  • Planning For Success

When planning for success, it’s important to be on your toes and anticipate risk.

Leaders should always be prepared for what could happen, even if the chance is slim. This is why military troops go through months and months of training.

With thorough planning, leaders will not be thrown off-guard or be unable to succeed with the task at hand.

Every plan should include all potential risks, including risks that leaders cannot control. And, all plans should be easy to follow and understand by everyone on the team.

  • Give the Right Information

When higher-ups in your company or in your military troop begin asking questions about what you’re doing, do not take it as an attack. Rather, ask yourself, “am I telling them everything they need to know?”

Communication in any job setting is the key to success. And, it’s imperative to keep a clean relationship with your supervisors in order to be trusted and part of the team mission.

A good leader communicates with their higher-ups and their team effectively, so that no one feels as if they are not apart of the mission.

Main Take-Away

As a leader, you must take responsibility and communicate well with your team in order to succeed in the overall mission. You must also plan for all potential risks, even ones that are out of your control.


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