Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink

Bottom Line: A leader has ultimate responsibility for the success or failure of an operation and should have extreme ownership of it. The laws of combat are: Cover and Move, Keep It Simple, Prioritize and Execute, and Decentralized Command.

INTRO

Leaders cast no blame. They make no excuses. Instead of complaining about challenges or setbacks, they develop solutions and solve problems. They leverage assets, relationships, and resources to get the job done.

Their own egos take a back seat to the mission and their troops.

Once people stop making excuses, stop blaming others, and take ownership of everything in their lives, they are compelled to take action to solve their problems.

Taking ownership for mistakes and failures is hard.

The principles of good leadership do not change.

Laws of Combat: Cover and Move, Simple, Prioritize and Execute, and Decentralized Command.

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.

Effective leaders lead successful teams that accomplish their mission and win.

Often our mistakes provided the greatest lessons, humbled us, and enabled us to grow and become better.

The best leaders are not driven by ego or personal agendas .

How a junior leader was brought up depended entirely on the strength, experience, and patient guidance of a mentor.

Leadership training curriculum builds a strong foundation for all SEAL leaders.

It’s a myth that military leadership is easy because subordinates robotically and blindly follow orders.

Military personnel must believe in the plan they are asked to execute, and most importantly, they must believe in and trust the leader they are asked to follow.

Combat leadership requires getting a diverse team of people in various groups to execute highly complex missions in order to achieve strategic goals.

Extreme Ownership: Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.

PART I: WINNING THE WAR WITHIN

CH 1: EXTREME OWNERSHIP

In any organization, all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader. The leader must own everything in his or her world. There is no one else to blame. The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win.

If an individual on the team is not performing at the level required for the team to succeed, the leader must train and mentor that underperformer.

if the underperformer continually fails to meet standards, then a leader who exercises Extreme Ownership must be loyal to the team and the mission above any individual. If underperformers cannot improve, the leader must make the tough call to terminate them and hire others who can get the job done.

A leader, however, does not take credit for his or her team’s successes.

It is the direct responsibility of a leader to get people to listen, support, and execute plans. You can’t make people do those things You have to lead them.

it was almost always the leaders’ attitudes that determined whether their SEAL units would ultimately succeed or fail.

The team sees Extreme Ownership in their leaders, and , as a result, they emulate Extreme Ownership throughout the chain of command down to the most junior personnel.

CH 2: NO BAD TEAMS, ONLY BAD LEADERS

One of the most fundamental and important truths at the heart of Extreme Ownership: there are no bad teams, only bad leaders.

Leadership is the single greatest factor in any team’s performance.

Leaders must accept total responsibility, own problems that inhibit performance, and develop solutions to those problems.

When it comes to standards, as a leader, it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.

If substandard performance is accepted and no one is held accountable, if there are no consequences, that poor performance becomes the new standard.

Leaders must enforce standards.

Leaders must pull the different elements within the team together to support one another.

Once a culture of Extreme Ownership is built into the team at every level, the entire team performs well, and performance continues to improve.

Every team must have junior leaders ready to step up.

The best teams anywhere, like the SEAL Teams, are constantly looking to improve, add capability, and push the standards higher.

This thinking starts with the leader and continues until this becomes the culture, the new standard.

CH 3: BELIEVE

A leader must be a true believer in the mission.

A resolute belief in the mission is critical for any team or organization to win.

If frontline leaders and troops understand why, they can move forward, fully believing in what they are doing.

Take the time to explain and answer the questions of the junior leaders.

Frontline troops never have as clear an understanding of the strategic picture as senior leaders might anticipate.

Belief in the mission ties in with the fourth Law of Combat: Decentralized Command. The leader must explain not just what to do, but why.

CH 4: CHECK THE EGO

Discipline starts with the little things: high-and-tight haircuts, a clean shave every day, and uniforms maintained.

Ego clouds and disrupts everything.

Often, the most difficult ego to deal with is your own.

When personal agendas become more important than the team and the overarching mission’s success, performance suffers and failure ensues.

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.

Ego can prevent a leader from conducting an honest, realistic assessment of his or her own performance and the performance of the team.

We strive to be confident , but not cocky.

PART II: THE LAWS OF COMBAT

CH 5: COVER AND MOVE

Cover and Move: it is the most fundamental tactic.

Cover and Move means teamwork.

Departments and groups within the team must break down silos, depend on each other and understand who depends on them.

Leaders must continually keep perspective on the strategic mission and remind the team that they are part of the greater team and the strategic mission is paramount.

Each member of the team is critical to success.

If the overall team fails, everyone fails, even if a specific member or an element within the team did their job successfully.

Pointing fingers and placing blame on others contributes to further dissension between teams and individuals.

Individuals and teams must find a way to work together, communicate with each other, and mutually support one another.

Focus must always be on how to best accomplish the mission.

When the team succeeds, everyone within and supporting that team succeeds.

Accomplishing the strategic mission is the highest priority.

CH 6: SIMPLE

Simplifying as much as possible is crucial to success.

Plans and orders must be communicated in a manner that is simple, clear, and concise.

Frontline troops need to ask questions that clarify when they do not understand the mission or key tasks to be performed.

Simplicity is key. If the plan is simple enough, everyone understands it, which means each person can rapidly adjust and modify what he or she is doing.

If the plan is too complex, the team can’t make rapid adjustments to it, because there is no baseline understanding of it.

Standard operating procedures should always kept as simple as possible .

CH 7: PRIOTIZE AND EXECUTE

A leader must remain calm and make the best decisions possible.

Prioritize and Execute.

Relax, look around, make a call.

When overwhelmed, fall back upon this principle: Prioritize and Execute.

Stay at least a step or two ahead with contingency planning.

Through careful contingency planning, a leader can anticipate likely challenges that could arise during execution and map out an effective response to those challenges before they happen.

If the team has been briefed and understands what actions to take through such likely contingencies, the team can then rapidly execute when those problems arise, even without specific direction from leaders.

It is crucial for leaders to pull themselves off the firing line, step back, and maintain the strategic picture.

Senior leaders must help subordinate team leaders within their team prioritize their efforts.

Evaluate the highest priority problem. Then develop and determine a solution. Then direct the execution of that solution. Then move on to the next highest priority problem. Then repeat.

Don’t let the focus on one priority cause target fixation. Maintain the ability to see other problems developing and rapidly shift as needed.

CH 8: DECENTRALIZED COMMAND

Human beings are generally not capable of managing more than six to ten people.

Teams must be broken down into manageable elements of four to five operators, with a clearly designated leader.

Leaders must understand the overall mission and the Commander’s Intent.

Junior leaders must be empowered to make decisions.

Teams within teams are organized for maximum effectiveness.

Every tactical-level team leader must understand not just what to do but why they are doing it.

Junior leaders must fully understand what is within their decision-making authority.

Tactical leaders must be confident that they clearly understand the strategic mission and Commander’s Intent.

Situational awareness: senior leaders must communicate constantly to their subordinates.

When leaders try to take on too much themselves, there is chaos.

The fix is to empower frontline leaders through Decentralized Command and ensure they are running their teams to support the overall mission, without micromanagement from the top.

Battlefield aloofness: leaders who are so far removed from the troops executing on the frontline that they become ineffective.

Leaders must be free to move to where they are most needed, which changes throughout the course of an operation.

Understanding proper positioning as a leader is a key component of effective Decentralized Command.

In chaotic, dynamic, and rapidly changing environments, leaders at all levels must be empowered to make decisions.

Decentralized Command is a key component to victory.

PART III: SUSTAINING VICTORY

CH 9: PLAN

What’s the mission? Planning begins with mission analysis.

Leaders must identify clear directives for the team.

Once leaders themselves understand the mission, they can impart this knowledge to their key leaders and frontline troops tasked with executing the mission.

A broad and ambiguous mission results in lack of focus, ineffective execution, and mission creep.

The mission must be carefully refined and simplified so that it is explicitly clear and specifically focused to achieve the greater strategic vision for which that mission is a part.

The mission must explain the overall purpose and desired result.

Frontline troops tasked with executing the mission must understand the deeper purpose behind the mission.

The Commander’s Intent is actually the most important part of the brief.

Leaders must delegate the planning process down the chain as much as possible to key subordinate leaders.

Tactical-level leaders must have ownership of their tasks.

Giving the frontline troops ownership of even a small piece of the plan gives them buy in, helps them understand the reasons behind the plan, and better enables them to believe in the mission, which translates to far more effective implementation and execution.

Th senior leader supervises the entire planning process but must be careful not to get bogged down in the details.

Once the detailed plan has been developed, it must then be briefed to the entire team and all participants and supporting elements.

Leaders must prioritize the information to be presented in as simple, clear, and concise a format as possible.

The planning and briefing must be a forum that encourages discussion, questions, and clarification.

Leaders must ask questions of their troops to ensure understanding of the plan.

The test for a successful brief is simple: Do the team and the supporting elements understand it?

Detailed contingency plans help manage risk.

We conduct what we called a post-operational debrief after each combat operation to see what worked and what didn’t work and help improve future planning.

Planning must be standardized so that it can be repeatable and guide users with a checklist.

A leader’s checklist for planning:
Analyze the mission.
Identify personnel, assets, resources, and time available.
Decentralize the planning
Determine a specific (simple, if possible) course of action.
Empower key leaders to develop the plan for the selected course of action.
Plan for likely contingencies.
Mitigate risks.
Delegate portions of the plan and brief to key junior leaders.
Continually check and question the plan.
Brief the plan to all participants and supporting assets.
Conduct post – operational debrief after execution.
Establishing an effective and repeatable planning process is critical to the success of any team . ”

CH 10: LEADING UP AND DOWN THE CHAIN OF COMMAND

It is paramount that senior leaders explain to their junior leaders and troops executing the mission how their role contributes to big picture success.

Leaders must routinely communicate with their team members to help them understand their role in the overall mission.

Frontline leaders and troops can then connect the dots between what they do every day and how that impacts the company’s strategic goals.

This understanding helps the team members prioritize their efforts in a rapidly changing, dynamic environment.

It requires regularly stepping out of the office and personally engaging in face-to-face conversations with direct reports and observing the frontline troops in action to understand their particular challenges and read them into the Commander’s Intent.

The team must understand why they are doing what they are doing.

CH 11: DECISIVENESS AMID UNCERTAINTY

In order to succeed, leaders must be comfortable under pressure, and act on logic, not emotion.

Leaders cannot be paralyzed by fear .

It is critical for leaders to act decisively amid uncertainty.

There is no 100 percent right solution.

Waiting for the 100 percent right and certain solution leads to delay, indecision, and an inability to execute.

CH 12: DISCIPLINE EQUALS FREEDOM

Discipline starts every day when the first alarm clock goes off in the morning. I say “first alarm clock” because I have three – one electric, one battery powered, one windup. If you are mentally weak for that moment and you let that weakness keep you in bed, you fail.

Discipline was really the difference between being good and being exceptional.

The best SEALs had the most discipline. They worked out every day. They studied tactics and technology. They practiced their craft.

Although discipline demands control and asceticism, it actually results in freedom.

The more disciplined standard operating procedures (SOPs) a team employs, the more freedom they have to practice Decentralized Command.

Instead of making us more rigid and unable to improvise, the discipline of an SOP actually made us more flexible, more adaptable, and more efficient. It allowed us to be creative.

When things went wrong and the fog of war set in, we fell back on our disciplined procedures.

The balance between discipline and freedom must be found and carefully maintained.

Leaders who lose their temper also lose respect.

Confident but never cocky.

Brave but not foolhardy.

Competitive spirit but also be gracious losers.

Attentive to details but not obsessed by them.

Humble but not passive.

Quiet but not silent.

Leaders know to pace themselves and their teams so that they can maintain a solid performance indefinitely.

Leaders admit mistakes and failures.

Leaders are close with subordinates but not too close .

Leaders understand the motivations of their team members

Leaders exercise Extreme Ownership and also Decentralized Command.

Leaders take care of the team and look out for their long-term interests.

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