• Jorim Holtey-Weber

What You Can Learn From The US Navy SEALs (Book Summary: Extreme Ownership)

I am no fan of the army, war, etc. but I do have an open mind towards information. I’ve been recommended the book “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” and was pretty sceptic. I really had to remind myself to not judge the book by its cover! I did end up liking the content of the book and the examples – however very militaristic – served their purpose to make the points clearer. Below you find my bullet-point summary

Book title: Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

#1 NYT best seller

By Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, retired US Navy SEALs officers and leadership instructors

Part I Winning the War Within

  • Chapter 1: Extreme Ownership

  • Take ownership of wins AND losses! Take ownership of everything that happens under your command! If you subordinate or collaborator didn’t do something wrong, you seem to not have it explained/stressed well enough.

  • Chapter 2: No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders

  • Teams depend on their leader. If a team has a bad leader the team’s performance will be restricted. That’s why, in business, when a company or department doesn’t perform, the leader is replaced – not the workers!

  • Chapter 3: Believe

  • Everybody has to believe in the plan and the goal(s). Otherwise, they will not put all their attention and effort into it. Find out the why if you don’t know.

  • Chapter 4: Check the Ego

  • Don’t make decisions for the team or yourself based on your ego. Your ego might tell you: “that doesn’t make me look good” disregard that and do what’s logically correct or best.

Part II Laws of Combat

  • Chapter 5: Cover and Move

  • Assess the situation and move on/execute tasks.

  • Chapter 6: Simple

  • Simplify your goals and mission. That makes it easier for everybody to understand. And it is crucial everybody understands the goals or mission. Start with why (Simon Sinek): the why is important for people at every level!

  • Chapter 7: Prioritize and Execute

  • If we focus on many things at once, we get lost. We got lost in the details and neglect some things. We need to prioritise one task, then execute it. When it’s complete, prioritise again and move to the next execution phase. That way performance will be faster and the product of much better quality.

  • Chapter 8: Decentralized Command

  • A leader can only effectively lead around 4-8 people. When they have to lead more people they cannot pay enough attention to anyone and everybody’s performance drops. To prevent this, we have decentralised command. The leader should lead his section managers, who then lead their people (or however many levels). This should be built up in a way no one leads more than 8 people. Of course, for this to work, people have to know what’s happening. That’s why communication is paramount in leadership. Communicating well and having simple goals and missions will also help everyone to make sensible decisions on their own.

Part III Sustaining Victory

  • Chapter 9: Plan

  • Plan what to do and make sure people in key positions know AND understand the plan/know the why.

  • Chapter 10: Leading Up and Down the Chain of Command

  • Leadership is not only down the chain of command but also up the chain. If you get asked seemingly stupid questions from your boss or they request you to do things you don’t have resources for that’s a leadership issue. They could’ve done better. However, taking extreme ownership, we have to think about what we can change. If they request things that are not possible with our resources or just not seem sensible, they probably don’t understand the situation completely! You can and should change that. Explain, or even better, show them how the situation is, what you are working on and what your resources are. That way, you connect better and they can better estimate what and how much they can ask from you.

  • Chapter 11: Decisiveness amid Uncertainty

  • Don’t let the scenario play out. Determine it. Uncertainty is everywhere in life. And decisions are everywhere in life. We oftentimes have to make decisions in uncertain times or situations. It is important, then, to control the situation and take charge. Don’t watch what’s happening but go in and take responsibility.

  • Chapter 12: Discipline Equals Freedom-The Dichotomy of Leadership

  • If you want to have more: time, respect, resources you have to have discipline. Be disciplined in your daily tasks, execute them according to previous rules and make time for other things.

  • Confident but not cocky.

  • Courageous but not foolhardy.

  • Competitive but a gracious loser.

  • Attentive to detail but not obsessed with them.

  • Humble not passive.

  • Aggressive not overbearing.

  • Quiet, not silent.

  • Calm but not robotic.

  • Logical but not devoid of emotions.

  • Close with the team.

  • Able to execute extreme ownership while using decentralised command.

  • Communicate with respect.

Full Citation: Jocko Willink & Leif Babin (2015). Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. USA: St. Martin's Press

Photo credits in order of appearance

https://www.echelonfront.com/extremeownershipold / Dustin Lee John Sting Neon Brand Japheth Mast

#leadership #resilience #ego #booksummary


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