I have chosen the book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win as my course book that I will utilize in my “Creativity-Innovation” Book Reflections for my WCU ENT601 class Entrepreneurial Innovation. I am excited as this book was of interest to me given that it was a New York Times Bestseller and the idea of learning and utilizing the leadership and innovative talents of the US Navy SEALS in business certainly will be of value to me.
The book is co-authored by two Navy Seals Jocko Willink and Leif Babin who after their careers as Navy Seals co-founded a company called Echelon Front and began consulting businesses in all areas on leadership and teambuilding. Willink and Babin were members of a specialized SEAL group called Task Unit Bruiser where they were deployed in Iraq during Operation Freedom. Willink was Babins commanding officer and throughout the book they use discuss their experiences together and how the “Laws of Combat” and leadership techniques they teach today helped them succeed in real life battles during their deployments.
As the title of the book suggest, the core trait discussed is Extreme Ownership and it is highlighted as the most crucial attribute that an impactful leader can have. Willink states that “of the many exceptional leaders that they served alongside the consistent attribute that made them great is absolute ownership, extreme ownership. Not just of those things of which they were responsible, but everything that impacted their mission.” He goes along to state “these leaders truly led.” He explains further that Extreme Ownership is making no excuses, casting no blame, leveraging assets to achieve results, and taking responsibility for all results of the team even when its hard. Ego is explained as an obstacle to a leader and most of the time the reason that extreme ownership is not taken and ultimately the reason a team fails. A true leader must understand the dangers of ego and take the necessary steps to remove it so they can truly lead.
A few of the “Laws of Combat” mentioned early in the book are, 1) Relax, look around, make a call. Placing yourself in the correct state of mind and emotions to correctly evaluate your environment and to understand what calls you can make. 2) Prioritize and execute. This sounds easy but I think a log of us find this difficult as we try the juggle and multi-task so much. Although there may be many competing issues, there are many that must take priority to make our mission a success. 3) Cover and move. This is easily understood in the military world as providing cover fire so that the other person can move locations. In business we can relate it to differing departments working together to achieve the greater good for the company. 4) Decentralize command. Many times, to find success you will have to make real-time, quick decisions. You and your team must not only be empowered but trained as leaders to make such a call. The team will need to function with contribution and buy-in at all levels and they will do so with much more magnitude if they have personal input and ownership in the mission.
Willink and Babin both use personal battlefield testaments to explain the importance of Extreme Ownership and the “Laws of War”. WIllink tells of a “blue on blue” or friendly fire incident involving his Seals Team and how when assessing what went wrong and who was to blame, it was the toughest decision for him to place himself at fault and assume absolute ownership for the failure. Babin examples a situation he found himself in during a mission where he utilizes all of what he describes as the “laws of war” to get out of the situation and overcome an outnumbered enemy with just himself and one other soldier.
The book is going to be interested to relate to business and I expect that it tests and will dispel what we believe to be truths in succeeding. I think we all believe that we have ownership in our daily lives but even during my initial reading I am finding out that we may not have Extreme Ownership. Me especially.
Willink, J., & Babin, L. (2017). Extreme ownership: How US Navy SEALs lead and win: St. Martin’s Press.