Photo Credit: Echelon Front, Facebook
When we see individuals in the military with some form of Special Forces training and experience, we are captivated and sorely aware of how different they are from most of us. That level of discipline, courage, expertise and physicality is uncommon. Nothing I ever imagined for myself. Still what can we learn from these leaders that we can apply to life and work?
Although the book Extreme Ownership was published in 2015, it was unknown to me until this weekend. Thanks to my Twitter feed and then reading some reviews, I ordered my own personal copy. The authors, and former Navy SEAL team commanders, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin are heroes and the stuff of legend.
[OK…I haven’t read the book yet…pre-ordered the latest edition coming out November 21, 2017. however, the reviews and summaries (listed in the links below) have already been so informative, I will gush away even before reading the book. So sink your teeth into these bits below until we have both read the book…or have you already read it?]
The phrase extreme ownership really tantalized because it spoke to my own leader heart. It resonates with servant leadership which is hard to fathom as a norm in military structure and authority. The idea of everyone on a team, in an organization, owning their part of a vision or operation is thrilling to me. It makes sense that this would, of course, lead to highest performance…provided…and this is imperative: the leadership, up and down the organization, is equipping each team member, communicating thoroughly, and sharing decision-making as appropriate.
Leadership coach Brian Dodd was the one who first guided me to the book Extreme Leadership through his blog: 25 Lessons on Extreme Ownership – How the U.S. Navy SEALS LEAD And WIN. Some of his points from the book are:
- “Without a team – a group of individuals working to accomplish a mission – there can be no leadership. The only meaningful measure for a leader is whether the team succeeds or fails.”
- “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.”
- “Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.”
- “There are only two types of leaders: effective and ineffective. Effective leaders that lead successful, high-performance teams exhibit Extreme Ownership. Anything else is simply ineffective. Anything else is bad leadership.”
- “Leadership isn’t one person leading a team. It is a group of leaders working together, up and down the chain of command, to lead.”
- “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.”
- “As a leader, it doesn’t matter how well you feel you have presented the information or communicated an order, plan, tactic, or strategy. If your team doesn’t get it, you have not kept things simple and you have failed. You must brief to ensure the lowest common denominator on the team understands.”
- “Human beings are generally not capable of managing more than six to ten people.”
- “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.”
Business leader Tom Niesen also lists his takeaways from the book, and they align nicely with the other summaries I read:
- Mission (Commander’s Intent and Effectiveness)
- It is on the leader! (Assuming a good “hire,” now, it is the leader).
- Extreme Ownership – everyone believes in the “why”, understands the “why”, and then pursues the “what”. Beginning with the leader. But, everyone “owns it all”.
- Get rid of the undermining, not-carrying-the-load, under-performer [this should be a rare necessity in extreme ownership but it can happen].
- Get very good at information sharing.
- Simplify! Keep it simple. (Not simplistic – simple).
- Communicate – thoroughly communicate. Up and down and all around. Confirm that the communication was sent and received and understood.
- Prioritize and execute. – [Tom Niesen’s summary of Extreme Ownership]
I hope these two summaries (and others in the links below) will whet your appetite to consider reading Willink’s and Babin’s book. Especially consider taking steps toward extreme ownership in your business or organization.
Sometimes, we struggle in leadership to trust those around us to speak into decisions or even to carry out their assignments without us hovering. Worse is when we just don’t trust others and, as a result, take too much responsibility on ourselves or just a few trusted members of the team. I’ve learned through my life to take joy in the many…even with all its messiness.
I’m reminded of a proverb along these lines:
If we want processes neat and tidy, we must hold tight to control and keep our trust to a very few colleagues.
Extreme ownership requires a great deal from leaders. We must operate with wisdom and excellence to fully equip our teams and then to give them the freedom to execute. Clear and full communication, up and down the command chain, greases the tracks for this kind of operation. Shouldering personal responsibility at all levels is also crucial, but the key is ultimately the executive leader takes full responsibility in the end…especially if something goes wrong.
I love this concept of extreme ownership. Who’s with me? Fortunately we can apply these principles without having to go through the grueling process of being a Navy SEAL. Thanks, Gentlemen, for your incredible service.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
New Release (November 21, 2017) – Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALS Lead and Win – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin