There Are No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders

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Upon my quest for reading a book a week, I came across this quote while listening to the audible book Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

“…one of the most fundamental and important truths at the heart of Extreme Ownership: there are no bad teams, only bad leaders.”¹

Wow. If that doesn’t push you back I don’t know what does. How many times have I blamed things on my team? How many times I have I not taken full ownership of the situation? A lot.  When we get someone on our team that doesn’t seem to listen or doesn’t seem to care it is tough. It is tough to not blame them as being the problem. They let you down, right? They knew what they were supposed to do and didn’t do it. But one thing that Navy Seals know how to do is accomplish a mission. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin are two experienced Navy Seals who served in Iraq. In their book Extreme Leadership, there is one reason why a team succeeds or fails…

“The answer: leadership is the single greatest factor in any team’s performance. Whether a team succeeds or fails is all up to the leader. The leader’s attitude sets the tone for the entire team. The leader drives performance—or doesn’t. And this applies not just to the most senior leader of an overall team, but to the junior leaders of teams within the team.”¹

In addition to a leader taking full responsibility for their team, they also need to take full responsibility for the standards being set, and “…when it comes to standards, as a leader, it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.”² And beyond what leaders tolerate they should strive daily toward being better.

“Leaders should never be satisfied. They must always strive to improve, and they must build that mind-set into the team. They must face the facts through a realistic, brutally honest assessment of themselves and their team’s performance. Identifying weaknesses, good leaders seek to strengthen them and come up with a plan to overcome challenges. The best teams anywhere, like the SEAL Teams, are constantly looking to improve, add capability, and push the standards higher. It starts with the individual and spreads to each of the team members until this becomes the culture, the new standard.”³

That’s what leadership is all about.

  • Creating the culture by pushing for higher standards
  • Taking ownership of your team and what is tolerated
  • Living by “There are no bad teams, only bad leaders”

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Sarah Jackson

Vigilant Poster Girl

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


  1. Willink, Jocko. Extreme Ownership (p. 49). St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. Willink, Jocko. Extreme Ownership (p. 54). St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition.
  3. Willink, Jocko. Extreme Ownership (p. 55). St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition.

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