Leading by Extreme Ownership

Book review by Austin Fabel
In the New York Times bestseller Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win, two combat proven U.S. Navy SEAL officers, who lead the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq war, demonstrate how powerful SEAL leadership principles apply to business and life.

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Jocko Willink and Leif Babin were the commanders of the highly decorated SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser during the battle of Ramadi. The SEALs were charged with taking back the city of Ramadi which has deemed “all but lost.” Task Unit Bruiser played a key role in this hard fought battle and Jocko and Leif outline some of the key tactics and mindsets SEALs use to win such engagements and thrive.

Detailing the mindset and principles that enable SEAL units to accomplish the most difficult combat missions, Extreme Ownership shows how to apply them to any team or organization. The book is laid out in a very easy to read way with some major takeaways. Each chapter outlines a lesson learned while on deployment and how it applies to our lives and businesses. Beginning and ending with personal stories each chapter illustrates a story from battle with a guiding principle and lesson. Once illustrated in the field Jocko and Leif pivot to another personal story in the corporate world where the same principle applies and ultimately leads a team to success.

The book is made up of three parts…

Winning The War Within
Being an effective leader begins from within. In order to be able to lead a team to victory in either war or business a leader must first assess his or her own strengths, weaknesses, and biases and then apply them to their decision making. A leader must completely own the actions of his team and take full responsibility when things go wrong while also spreading praise when things go right. A leader must also be aware of and combat his or her own ego along the way as well. Part of great leadership is delegation and acknowledging when someone else may be a better fit for a certain job than you. In this section, Jocko and Leif describe the internal warfare a leader must fight in order to lead with strength, confidence, and without ego or bias.


Laws Of Combat
In this portion of the book Jocko and Leif share actual SEAL tactics that apply in business and leadership. Tactics such as “Cover and Move” outline that in order for a team to be successful they must work together. Each team must outline when it’s best to make a hard push for their agenda and when it’s best to hang back and provide support to those who are currently making big moves. Another useful tactics is “Simple”, keep orders simple. Not only does this cut down on confusion and time spent discussing but this also allows your team leaders to make their own calls and decisions within their team. In this section Jocko and Leif outline the specific leadership practices that lead to high performing teams!

Sustaining Victory
Just because the battle is won or you’ve hit your KPIs does not mean the war is over. It never will be. In this section Jocko and Leif outline the ongoing practices and mindsets that lead to continuously high performing teams and leaders. My favorite takeaway from this book is Discipline Equals Freedom. This principle essentially states that the more disciplined you go about your work and life the more freedom you will have. If you have the discipline to sit down and work on a project each day for the month leading up to your deadline, you will then have the freedom to enjoy your evenings as the deadline approaches because you’ve been consistency working on the task at hand. An example in life, if you have the discipline to get up early each morning and exercise, you will have the freedom in the afternoon to hang with friends after work instead of missing out and going to the gym. If you take care of your life and business with discipline, you will have the freedom to pivot and do what you want, when you want

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to take a no nonsense approach to leadership and develop discipline in their life and work. The book is half stories from the battlefield, which also helps break up the “self-help” feel of many books who lack stories and simply throw out tactics. This book was one of my favorite reads this past year and I highly recommend it to anyone who is or wants to be a leader.