Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink & Leif Babin: Summary & Notes

Rating: 7/10

Available at: Amazon

ISBN: 1250183863

Related: Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual


Jocko and Leif are both highly-disciplined former SEALs who are now successfully applying the lessons they learned in the military and combat to the corporate world.  

In this book he shares those principles, along with both combat and corporate examples on how they are applied.

Solid book, and if you have any interest in SEALs or combat, you’ll find the book interesting just for the stories that are told.  If you’re just interested in the leadership principles, you can fairly quickly skim through and get them from the final conclusions of each chapter.  

Overall a much more entertaining, easy read than most non-fiction due to the stories told to illustrate each point.

Like Jocko? Read my article about the Jocko Willink Workout Advice That Change My Habits here.

Favorite Quotes

"If someone isn’t doing what you want or need them to do, look in the mirror first and determine what you can do to better enable this. "

Detailed Notes

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.

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.

The major factors to be aware of when leading up and down the chain of command are these:

  • Take responsibility for leading everyone in your world, subordinates and superiors alike.
  • If someone isn’t doing what you want or need them to do, look in the mirror first and determine what you can do to better enable this.
  • Don’t ask your leader what you should do, tell them what you are going to do.

The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win — you pass the test.

Leaders must be humble but not passive; quiet but not silent. They must possess humility and the ability to control their ego and listen to others. They must admit mistakes and failures, take ownership of them, and figure out a way to prevent them from happening again. But a leader must be able to speak up when it matters.

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.

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