Extreme Ownership

Extreme Ownership

Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

- - - - - - - - - - Notes - - - - - - - - - - - -

Why it's important: Transferring leadership principles from the battlefield to business organisations. The concept of "Extreme Ownership” assumes the leader is truly and ultimately responsible for everything.
- Rating: 7 / 10
- Reading time: ~10 minutes
Enjoy, share and comment 

- - - - - - - - - - Extracts - - - - - - - - - - - - 

“The only meaningful measure for a leader is whether the team succeeds or fails. For all the definitions, descriptions, and characterizations of leaders, there are only two that matter: effective and ineffective. Effective leaders lead successful teams that accomplish their mission and win. Ineffective leaders do not.”

“The best leaders are not driven by ego or personal agendas. They are simply focused on the mission and how best to accomplish it.”

“the leader is truly and ultimately responsible for everything.”

“That is Extreme Ownership, the fundamental core of what constitutes an effective leader in the SEAL Teams or in any leadership endeavor.”

“On any team, 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.”

“The best leaders don’t just take responsibility for their job. They take Extreme Ownership of everything that impacts their mission.”

“When subordinates aren’t doing what they should, leaders that exercise Extreme Ownership cannot blame the subordinates. They must first look in the mirror at themselves. The leader bears full responsibility for explaining the strategic mission, developing the tactics, and securing the training and resources to enable the team to properly and successfully execute.”

“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. But 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. It is all on the leader.” 

“Extreme Ownership requires leaders to look at an organization’s problems through the objective lens of reality, without emotional attachments to agendas or plans. It mandates that a leader set ego aside, accept responsibility for failures, attack weaknesses, and consistently work to a build a better and more effective team. Such a leader, however, does not take credit for his or her team’s successes but bestows that honor upon his subordinate leaders and team members. When a leader sets such an example and expects this from junior leaders within the team, the mind-set develops into the team’s culture at every level. With Extreme Ownership, junior leaders take charge of their smaller teams and their piece of the mission. Efficiency and effectiveness increase exponentially and a high-performance, winning team is the result.”

“I explained that the direct responsibility of a leader included getting people to listen, support, and execute plans.”

“When leaders who epitomize Extreme Ownership drive their teams to achieve a higher standard of performance, they must recognize that when it comes to standards, as a leader, it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate. When setting expectations, no matter what has been said or written, if substandard performance is accepted and no one is held accountable—if there are no consequences—that poor performance becomes the new standard. Therefore, leaders must enforce standards. Consequences for failing need not be immediately severe, but leaders must ensure that tasks are repeated until the higher expected standard is achieved. Leaders must push the standards in a way that encourages and enables the team to utilize Extreme Ownership.”

“In order to convince and inspire others to follow and accomplish a mission, a leader must be a true believer in the mission.”

“If a leader does not believe, he or she will not take the risks required to overcome the inevitable challenges necessary to win. And they will not be able to convince others—especially the frontline troops who must execute the mission—to do so. Leaders must always operate with the understanding that they are part of something greater than themselves and their own personal interests. They must impart this understanding to their teams down to the tactical-level operators on the ground. Far more important than training or equipment, a resolute belief in the mission is critical for any team or organization to win and achieve big results.”

“The challenge comes when that alignment isn’t explicitly clear. When a leader’s confidence breaks, those who are supposed to follow him or her see this and begin to question their own belief in the mission.”

“Every leader must be able to detach from the immediate tactical mission and understand how it fits into strategic goals.”

“The leader must explain not just what to do, but why. It is the responsibility of the subordinate leader to reach out and ask if they do not understand. Only when leaders at all levels understand and believe in the mission can they pass that understanding and belief to their teams so that they can persevere through challenges, execute and win.”

“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.”

“When personal agendas become more important than the team and the overarching mission’s success, performance suffers and failure ensues. Many of the disruptive issues that arise within any team can be attributed directly to a problem with ego.”

“Cover and Move: it is the most fundamental tactic, perhaps the only tactic. Put simply, Cover and Move means teamwork. All elements within the greater team are crucial and must work together to accomplish the mission, mutually supporting one another for that singular purpose. Departments and groups within the team must break down silos, depend on each other and understand who depends on them. If they forsake this principle and operate independently or work against each other, the results can be catastrophic to the overall team’s performance.”

“Combat, like anything in life, has inherent layers of complexities. Simplifying as much as possible is crucial to success. When plans and orders are too complicated, people may not understand them. And when things go wrong, and they inevitably do go wrong, complexity compounds issues that can spiral out of control into total disaster. Plans and orders must be communicated in a manner that is simple, clear, and concise.”

“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.”

“But a leader must remain calm and make the best decisions possible. To do this, SEAL combat leaders utilize Prioritize and Execute. We verbalize this principle with this direction: “Relax, look around, make a call.”

“Even the most competent of leaders can be overwhelmed if they try to tackle multiple problems or a number of tasks simultaneously. The team will likely fail at each of those tasks. Instead, leaders must determine the highest priority task and execute. When overwhelmed, fall back upon this principle: Prioritize and Execute.”

“To implement Prioritize and Execute in any business, team, or organization, a leader must:” “• evaluate the highest priority problem. • lay out in simple, clear, and concise terms the highest priority effort for your team. • develop and determine a solution, seek input from key leaders and from the team where possible. • direct the execution of that solution, focusing all efforts and resources toward this priority task. • move on to the next highest priority problem. Repeat. • when priorities shift within the team, pass situational awareness both up and down the chain. • don’t let the focus on one priority cause target fixation. Maintain the ability to see other problems developing and rapidly shift as needed.”

“Human beings are generally not capable of managing more than six to ten people, particularly when things go sideways and inevitable contingencies arise. No one senior leader can be expected to manage dozens of individuals, much less hundreds. Teams must be broken down into manageable elements of four to five operators, with a clearly designated leader. Those leaders must understand the overall mission, and the ultimate goal of that mission—the Commander’s Intent. Junior leaders must be empowered to make decisions on key tasks necessary to accomplish that mission in the most effective and efficient manner possible. Teams within teams are organized for maximum effectiveness for a particular mission, with leaders who have clearly delineated responsibilities. Every tactical-level team leader must understand not just what to do but why they are doing it. If frontline leaders do not understand why, they must ask their boss to clarify the why.”

“Decentralized Command does not mean junior leaders or team members operate on their own program; that results in chaos. Instead, junior leaders must fully understand what is within their decision-making authority—the “left and right limits” of their responsibility. Additionally, they must communicate with senior leaders to recommend decisions outside their authority and pass critical information up the chain so the senior leadership can make informed strategic decisions.”

“To be effectively empowered to make decisions, it is imperative that frontline leaders execute with confidence. Tactical leaders must be confident that they clearly understand the strategic mission and Commander’s Intent. They must have implicit trust that their senior leaders will back their decisions. Without this trust, junior leaders cannot confidently execute, which means they cannot exercise effective Decentralized Command. To ensure this is the case, senior leaders must constantly communicate and push information—what we call in the military “situational awareness”—to their subordinate leaders. Likewise, junior leaders must push situational awareness up the chain to their senior leaders to keep them informed, particularly of crucial information that affects strategic decision making.”

“The effectiveness of Decentralized Command is critical to the success of any team in any industry. 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.”

“A leader’s checklist for planning should include the following:
• Analyze the mission. —Understand higher headquarters’ mission, Commander’s Intent, and endstate (the goal). —Identify and state your own Commander’s Intent and endstate for the specific mission. • Identify personnel, assets, resources, and time available. • Decentralize the planning process. —Empower key leaders within the team to analyze possible courses of action. • Determine a specific course of action. —Lean toward selecting the simplest course of action. —Focus efforts on the best course of action. • Empower key leaders to develop the plan for the selected course of action. • Plan for likely contingencies through each phase of the operation. • Mitigate risks that can be controlled as much as possible. • Delegate portions of the plan and brief to key junior leaders. —Stand back and be the tactical genius. • Continually check and question the plan against emerging information to ensure it still fits the situation. • Brief the plan to all participants and supporting assets. —Emphasize Commander’s Intent. —Ask questions and engage in discussion and interaction with the team to ensure they understand. • Conduct post-operational debrief after execution. —Analyze lessons learned and implement them in future planning.”

“Any good leader is immersed in the planning and execution of tasks, projects, and operations to move the team toward a strategic goal. Such leaders possess insight into the bigger picture and why specific tasks need to be accomplished. This information does not automatically translate to subordinate leaders and the frontline troops. Junior members of the team—the tactical level operators—are rightly focused on their specific jobs. They must be in order to accomplish the tactical mission. They do not need the full knowledge and insight of their senior leaders, nor do the senior leaders need the intricate understanding of the tactical level operators’ jobs. Still, it is critical that each have an understanding of the other’s role. And it is paramount that senior leaders explain to their junior leaders and troops executing the mission how their role contributes to big picture success.”

“There is no 100 percent right solution. The picture is never complete. Leaders must be comfortable with this and be able to make decisions promptly, then be ready to adjust those decisions quickly based on evolving situations and new information. Intelligence gathering and research are important, but they must be employed with realistic expectations and must not impede swift decision making that is often the difference between victory and defeat. Waiting for the 100 percent right and certain solution leads to delay, indecision, and an inability to execute. Leaders must be prepared to make an educated guess based on previous experience, knowledge of how the enemy operates, likely outcomes, and whatever intelligence is available in the immediate moment.”

“Every leader must walk a fine line. That’s what makes leadership so challenging. Just as discipline and freedom are opposing forces that must be balanced, leadership requires finding the equilibrium in the dichotomy of many seemingly contradictory qualities, between one extreme and another. The simple recognition of this is one of the most powerful tools a leader has. With this in mind, a leader can more easily balance the opposing forces and lead with maximum effectiveness.”

“A leader must lead but also be ready to follow. Sometimes, another member of the team—perhaps a subordinate or direct report—might be in a better position to develop a plan, make a decision, or lead through a specific situation. Perhaps the junior person has greater expertise in a particular area or more experience. Perhaps he or she simply thought of a better way to accomplish the mission. Good leaders must welcome this, putting aside ego and personal agendas to ensure that the team has the greatest chance of accomplishing its strategic goals. A true leader is not intimidated when others step up and take charge. Leaders that lack confidence in themselves fear being outshined by someone else. If the team is successful, then recognition will come for those in charge, but a leader should not seek that recognition. A leader must be confident enough to follow someone else when the situation calls for it.”

“A leader must be calm but not robotic. It is normal—and necessary—to show emotion. The team must understand that their leader cares about them and their well-being. But, a leader must control his or her emotions. If not, how can they expect to control anything else? Leaders who lose their temper also lose respect. But, at the same time, to never show any sense of anger, sadness, or frustration would make that leader appear void of any emotion at all—a robot. People do not follow robots.”

“A leader must be strong but likewise have endurance, not only physically but mentally. He or she must maintain the ability to perform at the highest level and sustain that level for the long term. Leaders must recognize limitations and know to pace themselves and their teams so that they can maintain a solid performance indefinitely”

“A leader must be close with subordinates but not too close. The best leaders understand the motivations of their team members and know their people—their lives and their families. But a leader must never grow so close to subordinates that one member of the team becomes more important than another, or more important than the mission itself. Leaders must never get so close that the team forgets who is in charge.”

“The Dichotomy of Leadership A good leader must be: • confident but not cocky; • courageous but not foolhardy; • competitive but a gracious loser; • attentive to details but not obsessed by them; • strong but have endurance; • a leader and follower; • humble not passive; • aggressive not overbearing; • quiet not silent; • calm but not robotic, logical but not devoid of emotions; • close with the troops but not so close that one becomes more important than another or more important than the good of the team; not so close that they forget who is in charge. • able to execute Extreme Ownership, while exercising Decentralized Command. A good leader has nothing to prove, but everything to prove. ” 

How will you measure your life?

How will you measure your life?

Managing Oneself

Managing Oneself