Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

2020, book 16: “If a leader cannot control their own emotions, how can they expect to control anything else. Leaders who lose their temper lose respect.” — Jocko Willink

Finished on March 5, 2020

This is a book that was strongly recommended to me. When a book impacts other people at such a deep level I’m always interested in exploring it for myself. This book was everything I expected it to be and then a little more.

Action. Action. Action. Understand the situation and the circumstances and then decide. Make what needs to happen — happen.

“Relax. Look around. Make a call.” — Jocko Willink

The critical reasons. I think that this is so simple yet so misunderstood. There are so many leaders and bosses who simply gloss over the real reasons for doing things. Of course, some reasons are going to be more important to others, yet, we need to gain buy-in, that’s always the most important thing. Humans operate and are driven by incentives — we need to ensure that we are playing to them appropriately.

Once Jocko Willink analyzed and understood the critical reasons for the mission, he was able to believe in the mission. Then he was able to share the why with his team and get them on board.

This is a tough thing to swallow but it’s mandatory. We need to look ourselves in the mirror and accept that there are often other people who will know better than us and will provide criticism of something that we did or didn’t do.

Ego clouds and disrupts everything. The planning process, the ability to take good advice, and the ability to accept constructive criticism. Often the most difficult ego to deal with is your own.

IMPORTANT. I wish that there were more people who shared this perspective and intentionally sought to live it out.

If you place the blame on somebody else, there will be a clash of egos and people will be at odds. That’s human nature. But if you put your own ego in check and take the blame, the other person will be able to actually see the problem without their vision clouded by ego.

If the people that we are leading cannot ask questions, they’ll never be able to get the right answers. It cannot be overstated that 100% of the responsibility for this platform of open communication falls onto the shoulders of the leader.

When things are complicated, people may not understand. And when things inevitably go wrong, complexity compounds them. Leaders must encourage communication and the ability to ask questions and receive answers and further clarification.

Big time. If someone is a product manager, they should lead that product and maybe they can receive some input, yet, they should be the major stakeholder. They need to be the ones who can be counted on to make decisions. Whether they are the best decisions or not is not important. As the saying goes, “if someone can do it 80% as well as you — delegate.”

If you let the people you’re leading plan the details, they can own their piece of the plan. Then you’re able to see the plan from a greater difference and see things from a different perspective which adds value.

Love this. Leaders respect when their followers can make plans and develop ways to implement those plans also. Leaders want to be able to trust their followers and be able to pass on tasks and responsibilities, that’s much much easier if it’s clear that their people can execute effectively.

If the leader is not giving you the support you need, don’t blame him or her. Re-examine what you can do to better clarify, educate, influence, or convince that person to give you what you need to win. Don’t ask your leader what you should do, tell them what you’re going to do.

Agreed. We need to be wary of the repercussions. If we only fire one person, what kind of a message does that send to your people?

If there are two people within an organization insistent they cannot work cooperatively, sometimes the best thing to do is fire both. If they are not good leaders or team players, they may be best for the overall company.

An excellent explanation. Is there a better way to express that as a leader people are always looking to you? As a leader, you are supposed to be the calm in the storm, the voice in the silence, the light in the darkness.

A true leader is not intimidated when others step up and take charge. Leaders who lack confidence in themselves fear being outshined by someone else. A leader must be aggressive but not overbearing.

Lose your temper and lose your respect. Again. Leaders cannot crumble under pressure or their followers will not be able to hold up to any pressure.

If a leader cannot control their own emotions, how can they expect to control anything else. Leaders who lose their temper lose respect.

The below is such a detailed and in-depth breakdown of what a leader should be. I love it. I don’t know if there’s anything I would even change here. The most important piece of this background on leaders for me was, “A leader has nothing to prove but EVERYTHING to prove.”

A leader must:

Be calm but not robotic; it is normal and necessary to show emotion.

If a leader cannot control their own emotions, how can they expect to control anything else. Leaders who lose their temper lose respect.

To never show any sadness, anger, or frustration makes that leader appear void of any emotion at all — like a robot. People do not follow robots.

A leader must be confident but never cocky. Confidence is contagious but when taken too far, overconfidence causes complacency and arrogance which will ultimately set the team up for failure.

The leader must be brave and accept risk while acting courageously but never be reckless. It is a leader’s job to mitigate as much as possible those risks which can be controlled to accomplish the mission without sacrificing the team or expending unnecessary resources.

Leaders must have a competitive spirit yet be gracious losers. They must drive competition and push themselves and their teams to perform at the highest level. They must never put their own drive for personal success above the drive for success for the whole team.

Leaders must act with professionalism and recognize others for their contributions.

Leaders must be attentive to details but not obsessed by them. A good leader does not get bogged down in the minutiae of a tactical problem at the expense of strategic success. He or she must monitor and check the team’s progress during the most critical tasks but must not get sucked into those details and lose track of the bigger picture.

A leader must be strong but have physical and mental endurance. They must be able to perform at the highest level and be able to maintain that level for the long term. Leaders must recognize limitations and know to pace themselves and their teams so they can maintain a solid performance indefinitely.

Leaders must be humble but not passive. Quiet but not silent. They must admit mistakes and failures, take ownership of them and prevent them from happening again. They must speak up when it matters and be able to stand up for the team while also respectfully pushing back against decisions that could negatively impact the team.

Leaders must be close with their subordinates but not too close. The best leaders understand the motivations of their team members and know their people, their lives, and their families. One member of the team should never become more important than another one member of the team can never become more important than the mission itself. The team must never become so close that the team forgets who is in charge.

A leader must exercise extreme ownership while simultaneously employing decentralized command.

A leader has nothing to prove but EVERYTHING to prove. By virtue of rank and position, the team understands that the leader is in charge but a good leader does not gloat or revel in his or her position. Taking charge of minute details to emphasize control is the mark of poor leadership and lacking in confidence. Since the team understands that the leader is de facto in charge, the leader has nothing to prove. But, the leader has everything to prove because every member must develop the trust and confidence to know that the leader will be able to exercise good judgement, remain calm, and make the right call when it matters most. Leaders must EARN that respect and prove themselves worthy demonstrating through action that they will care for the team and look out for their long-term interests and well-being; in that respect, leaders have everything to prove, every day.

I gave this book a 4/5

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