Book review: Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

Book by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Leaders always played a critical role in strategy and the outcome of a battle. Nothing highlights to more than this book Extreme Ownership. The central premise is that leaders on all levels must take ownership of all consequences of a situation regardless of whether it was successful. 

It's a sweet story. However, it's don’t apply to all situations. 

The more critical policy is knowing the truth about the situation. Some may argue that the authors of the book are not suggesting that leaders ignore reality but that leaders should consider themselves accountable for all cases. However leaders on all levels only work with limited amounts of information, they can never know the full truth and therefore don't always own the failure (Or success) of any given situation.

Take for example the bottleneck problem. The bottleneck is a phenomenon where the performance or capacity of an entire system is limited by a single limited amount of components or resources. Sometimes this results in feedback mechanisms that tell producers to produce more products even though the market is at or near capacity. This overproduction calls for an oversupply in the system and results in a reduction in the items purchase price resulting in halted production. In real life, this means people get fired, and companies go bankrupt. The problem of this situation is that nobody is at fault, it's the system that filed and not the leaders. Furthermore, nobody could have seen or predicted the outcome because in most cases it's too complicated for people to understand.

That is not what the authors want you to believe. They were trained to look at situations from than simplest components however we live in a complex world, and while the idea of extreme leadership it Is useful in most cases we should keep in mind that not everything is simple.

Structural the book is quite interesting. First, you're giving a lesson, then a Military example, and then a business example. This structure makes a book easy-to-follow and an easy read as you can focus on the teaching and the examples when you need too. 

Each chapter is a lesson covering what it means to take extreme ownership. The teachings are: 

  1. The leader is always responsible. (This is what they call "extreme ownership." Leaders must always "own" the mistakes and shortcomings of their teams.)
  2.  Everyone on the team must believe in the mission.
  3. Work with other groups to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
  4. Keep plans simple, clear, and concise.
  5. Check your ego.
  6. Figure out your priorities, and then act on them one at a time.
  7. Clarify your mission (i.e., your plan).
  8. Engage with your higher-ups; keep them in the loop--especially when they frustrate you.
  9. Act decisively, even when things are chaotic.
  10. And the last chapter is a summary of the seemingly contradictory qualities of a leader.
  11. I should put a disclaimer here; I always generally read a book with a critical mindset and look for counter arguments that I would challenge the evidence set forth by the author. The idea of complex problems is the only issue I had with this book. Other then this I think it a practical guide for all leaders into day world. We do need more leaders taking ownership, but we must always realise that some outcomes happen because we can never fully grasp the extent of the problem. 

7/10. Would read another book by the same authors.