Extreme Ownership, How US Navy Seals Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (St Martins 2015) is bound to be polarizing. It’s a book about leadership based on the real-life experiences of two combat officers in the US Navy SEAL Unit. I must admit, I read it with some scepticism, expecting it to be heavy on war-stories – not something I’m that into. I questioned what I could learn from it. But as so often happens, I was pleasantly surprised.
The concept of extreme ownership is one that has always resonated with me as a leader. If the team I am leading fails, no matter what has happened, I feel ownership for that failure. Dissecting where I could have been more effective in leading my team has always been the first step for me in doing any sort of project post-mortem. Much of Willink and Babin’s book focuses on hammering this message home. As the leader of your business, there can be no excuses. YOU are responsible for its success or failure.
The revelation came when the authors applied their lessons to the business world and demonstrated how extreme ownership is relevant at every level in the organization. Yes, as CEO you need to take responsibility, and be accountable. However, the most successful people will also practice extreme ownership whether they are an intern or a senior manager.
Don’t understand something? Ask. Don’t believe in what you are being asked to do? Question it (respectfully and with evidence). If everyone within an organization understands the concept of extreme ownership, communications will inevitably improve and everyone will become more efficient and effective in their roles.
Although this book might be best avoided by those with little interest in war, I am a big believer in this book’s message. I think this a great read, especially if you:
- are looking for a book that will give you leadership lessons based on real-world experience
- are interested in something different – ths is not a run-of-the-mill business book
- are fascinated with all things military.