“Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” is a #1 New York Times bestseller written by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. The book may seem to be aimed at the military and those aspiring to join the armed forces but it is also a take on leadership and is relevant in many ways for families in how they go about managing their affairs. It is partly a motivational book as the revelations have a profound effect on how the reality is perceived by people in general and in specific circumstances. There are precious life lessons in the book.
What is Extreme Ownership all about?
The authors Jocko Willink and Leif Babin were in a task unit of the United States Navy SEALs in Iraq when the forces secured a city called Ramadi. The daunting mission helped the authors realize heroism, leadership, loss and victory earned at great cost. They understood the significance of leadership and what it entails for the successes or failures of a team. Both Willink and Babin instituted the SEAL Leadership Training Program that worked on grooming the next generation of leaders in the elite force. Following their departure from SEAL, the duo founded Echelon Front to impart the same leadership training to professionals and businesses. They have worked with Fortune 500 companies as well as startups across industries. They have helped organizations develop reliable leaders and high performance teams that can dominate their distinct battlefields in the real world. After a plethora of clients and an array of programs, the authors have penned down the book to share their take on leadership in Extreme Ownership.
Extreme Ownership introduces readers to principles and mindsets that actually enable SEALs units to succeed in some of the most daunting missions in actual combat. The same principles and mindsets can be applied to any team, not necessarily in the armed forces, be it in an organization or family. The book covers distinct topics in chapters like Cover and Move, Decentralized Command and Leading Up the Chain. Each chapter discuses what the subject is, its importance, how to execute it and more. Extreme Ownership offers a unique opportunity for businesses, professionals and individuals to use powerful instructions, direct applications, lessons learned from overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges and the leadership needed to succeed at the end of the day in various aspects of life. This self help book is for everyone who intends to lead and win to accomplish the ultimate purpose.
Who are Jocko Willink and Leif Babin?
John Gretton Willink, nickname Jocko, is a former United States Navy Seal, an author and also a podcaster. He served in the Iraq War as a lieutenant commander. A graduate from University of San Diego with a degree in English, Willink is the recipient of Silver Star Medal and Bronze Star Medal with Combat V. His other awards include Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation and Good Conduct Medal. His service medals and training ribbons include National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon, Navy Rifle Marksmanship Badge and Navy Pistol Marksmanship Badge.
John G Willink hosts a weekly podcast called Jocko Podcast with Echo Charles, his friend and fellow jiu-jitsu practitioner. Willink has a black belt from Dean Lister. He is the owner of Victory MMA and Fitness at San Diego in California. He is the co-founder and co-owner of Echelon Front. Other than Extreme Ownership, Willink has authored “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual”, “The Way of the Warrior Kid”, “Marc’s Mission: Way of the Warrior Kid”, “The Dichotomy of Leadership:Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win” and “Mikey and the Dragons”.
Leif Babin is a former U.S. Navy SEAL. He serves as chief operating officer and president of Echelon Front that he co-founded with Willink. He is also the coauthor of “The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win”. Babin graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served in the U.S. Navy for thirteen years, of which nine were in SEAL Teams. He was the platoon commander of the SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser. Babin planned and lead the daunting combat operations during the Battle of Ramadi. Their Task Unit Bruiser was the most celebrated and decorated special operations unit of the war in Iraq.
Babin was the primary leadership instructor in SEAL training programs after his return from Iraq. He is credited with training the next generation leadership of Navy SEAL officers. His last tour was in Iraq as the Operations Officer and Executive Officer. He headed a SEAL Team with one Special Operations Task Force. Babin has received a Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars and one Silver Star. He is an expert on leadership and military strategy. He routinely writes editorials for the Wall Street Journal, covering his specializations and about foreign policy. He features regularly on national television, podcasts and radio programs.
Key Takeaways from Extreme Ownership
The very first takeaway from the book is the methodical approach the two former officers of an elite force bring to the table. It is unsurprising why they should be so methodical in anything they do. Besides, Willink has a degree in English, which makes him the more prominent voice as the writer while Babin is the more prominent leadership voice in the book. Every chapter has one leadership lesson. This lesson is an acquired by the two authors through their training and combat experience, not perceived or just created for impact on the readership. The chapter is broken down into three sections. The first one highlights the leadership lesson. The second section illustrates it and explains the principle at the crux of the leadership lesson. The third section extrapolates the lesson and the principle to be applicable in a corporate or business setting.
There are many interesting revelations and hence significant takeaways from Extreme Ownership. The fact that the lessons are being imparted with urgency and relevance only make them more effective. The authors write about how leaders do not blame their teams for failures or mistakes, how leaders successfully instil the belief in winning among all team members and that leaders always take up the most daunting job in the team on the boat.
The book speaks of good leadership, that someone who aspires to be a great leader should be confident but avoid being cocky, must be courageous but not to an extent of foolhardiness and has to be competitive but also gracious at a loss. Leaders have to be attentive but not obsessed with the details. They should have strength and endurance. Leaders must be able to lead and follow, be active and passive, be authoritative and humble, aggressive but also accommodating, quiet with unnerved calmness but not to the extent of silence, regimental but not robotic, rational but not lack of all emotions, distant enough from the troops but not so much that there ceases to be any connect whatsoever. This dichotomy of leadership is perhaps the most nuanced aspect of the book, also the most significant takeaway for anyone.
The dichotomy of leadership does not appear to be relevant only for Navy SEALs or armed forces in general. They are applicable to everyone in all leadership or even parental roles. It is perhaps owing to this reason why the book is rightly called Extreme Ownership. Leadership is about ownership but more importantly accountability. It entails centralizing many processes and also decentralizing the command. A leader, according to the authors, has everything to prove and at the same time nothing to prove.
Review of Extreme Ownership
Extreme Ownership is not the kind of book that you will expect from hardcore combatants. Combaters are often molded on the battlefield and their worldview changes in due course of time. At times, one event is sufficient to bring about a complete transformation. The two former Navy SEAL officers do not forego their experiences, realizations, training or even beliefs. They bring everything they have learned to this book but with a more nuanced worldview. They do not simply talk of war or combat. They do not get trapped in the conflict they have emerged unscathed from. They take the principles and mindsets forward and seamlessly integrate them into many more aspects of life that seem to be a natural fit.
The sheer ease with which every leadership lesson has been illustrated in Extreme Ownership makes the book a wonderful read. It is hardly a surprise why it had climbed up the charts of New York Times bestsellers soon after its release. Anyone who is looking for inspiration, motivation or some handheld guidance to become a better leader will find this book to be a treasure-trove. The fact that this comes from two elite and decorated officers makes the reading more relevant,satiating and rewarding.