I’ll be completely upfront. This book was a hard one for me this week for a few reasons. Even though the title drew me in because the name, “Extreme Ownership”one of the things I have struggled with in the past is taking ownership of things that were not mine to take. One of the books that really helped me see this about myself and help me to work toward being free of this was the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud.
That being said I do really love this book and recognize there are many things I have not taken ownership of that would help me lead myself and my team to success. When we don’t take ownership, it is inevitable that we will fall into the trap of making excuses and blaming others. The benefit of extreme ownership is clear as stated by the authors Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, two U.S. Navy Seals who served in Iraq. “Once people stop making excuses, stop blaming others, and take ownership of everything in their lives, they are compelled to take action to solve their problems. They are better leaders, better followers, more dependable and actively contributing team members, and more skilled in aggressively driving toward mission accomplishment.”¹
Extreme Ownership starts with the leader. “For leaders, the humility to admit and own mistakes and develop a plan to overcome them is essential to success. The best leaders are not driven by ego or personal agendas. They are simply focused on the mission and how best to accomplish it.”² We must look inside ourselves and the actions that we can take in order to get to our goals. Point blank, there are things in this world that will not go as planned or will be beyond our control such as the economy, new laws within our industry, or other outside factors. The place where we take ownership is in ourselves and how we make adjustments and lead to win.
When things don’t go as planned and adjustments need to be made we must make an inward focus first. “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.”³ I really love this quote. Let’s reread it and break it down.
“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.”³
Here are a few key points in these words of wisdom that are often the true culprit of poor execution.
A Leader’s Responsibility in Execution
- Explain the Strategic Mission
- Develop the Tactics
- Training and Resources for the Team
What about continually poor performers? Those who just can’t seem to get it right?
“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.”³
Extreme Ownership is not easy. And sometimes we can find ourselves holding Extreme Ownership in one part of our leadership style and needing much improvement in other areas. The best place that we can be sure to have Extreme Ownership is toward continued improvement for our teams and our leadership skills. “Total responsibility for failure is a difficult thing to accept, and taking ownership when things go wrong requires extraordinary humility and courage. But doing just that is an absolute necessity to learning, growing as a leader, and improving a team’s performance.”4
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Every week I talk about a book that we’re reading on leadership and self-development. You can follow along by going to the Book of the Week page at the top.
- Willink, Jocko. Extreme Ownership (Preface). St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition.
- Willink, Jocko. Extreme Ownership (p. 8). St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition.
- Willink, Jocko. Extreme Ownership (p. 30). St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition.
- Willink, Jocko. Extreme Ownership (p. 31). St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition.