United States Navy Seal commanders, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, dissect the lessons learned on the battlefield in one of the deadliest regions of Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom, in their book, “Extreme Ownership.” These lessons have been thoroughly explained for applications in business and in life. The authors’ victories and defeats while leaders in SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser during the Battle of Ramadi are written about with examples given to display their principles of leadership. These principles are:
- Extreme Ownership
- No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders
- Check the Ego
- Cover and Move
- Prioritize and Execute
- Decentralized Command
- Leading Up and Down the Chain of Command
- Decisiveness amid Uncertainty
- And Discipline Equals Freedom – The Dichotomy of Leadership
Each principle is its own chapter. Each chapter has an example on the battlefield, explaining the principle and giving an example related to the business world. The book’s resounding theme is leaders are responsible for everything that goes on in a business, operation or mission. Willink came to this realization after one of the worst situations in combat, a “blue-on-blue” attack – when members of the same team mistakenly attack one another during combat. Although not the member who pulled the trigger, Willink discovered he had only one choice when someone had to answer for this mistake that was potentially career ending, and that was to take full responsibility for the whole incident.
This moment led Willink to develop the leadership philosophy of “extreme ownership,” which would be a concept he would bring to his executive-coaching organization, Echelon Front.
Through straight-forward principles, Willink demonstrates these ideals in powerful examples involving himself and his team. Willink uses these principles to teach leadership to business persons across the board, from startup to Fortune 500 companies. One of the stories I found most interesting involved Team Three’s Sniper Chris Kyle, who was one of the most successful snipers in U.S. history and later would be better known through his book, “American Sniper.”
In the chapter, Decisiveness amid Uncertainty, Willink describes how the uncertainty, chaos and element of the unknown combat leaders face can lead to catastrophic results if decisions are not thought through properly.
The application to law enforcement easily is translated through both examples in combat and business. This style of leadership is powerful, and its strength lies in its one-sided focus of “own your team’s greatness.” The principles in this book easily can be translated from the patrol officer to police chief, and will benefit anyone in law enforcement to read.