Navy SEALS Jocko Willink and Leif Babin have written a gripping book, Extreme Ownership – How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win“. The book’s overall premise is that a true leader takes full responsibility for team results – even if the results point to failure. The authors are successful at translating leadership lessons from the battlefield to the workplace. The book is focused on eight leadership principles that they practiced vigorously as SEAL team leaders.

Here are some important leadership reflections from Willnik and Babin:

  • There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.
  • Leadership is the single greatest factor in any team’s performance.
  • Leaders must accept total responsibility, own problems that inhibit performance and develop solutions to those problems.
  • A team could only deliver exceptional performance if a leader ensured the team worked together toward a focused goal and enforced high standards of performance, working to continuously improve.
  • When it comes to standards, as a leader, it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate. ..If substandard performance is accepted and no one is held accountable – if there are no consequences – then poor performance becomes the new standard.
  • In order to convince and inspire others to follow and accomplish a mission, a leader must be a true believer in the mission…Leaders must always operate with the understanding that they are part of something greater than themselves and their own personal interests.
  • It is critical that senior leaders impart a general understanding of strategic knowledge – the why – to their troops.
  • When ego clouds our judgment and prevents us from seeing the world as it is, then ego becomes destructive. When personal agendas become more important than the team and the overarching mission’s success, performance suffers and failure ensues.
  • Implementing Extreme Ownership requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility.
  • It’s on us as leaders to see where we failed to communicate effectively and help our troops clearly understand what their roles and responsibilities are and how their actions impact the bigger strategic picture.
  • It falls on leaders to continually keep perspective on the strategic mission and remind the team that they are part of the greater team and the strategic mission is paramount.
  • In dealing with your team members, engage with them. Build a personal relationship with them. Explain to them what you need from them and why, and ask them what you can do to help them get what you need. Make them a part of your team, not an excuse for your team.
  • All animals, including humans, need to see the connection between action and consequence in order to learn or react appropriately.
  • With a willingness to learn, with a humble attitude that seeks valid constructive criticism in order to improve, with disciplined practice and training, even those with less natural ability can develop into highly effective leaders.
  • Others who are blessed with all the natural talent in the world will fail as leaders if they are not humble enough to own their mistakes, admit that they don’t have it all figured out, seek guidance, learn and continuously grow.
  • The goal of all leaders should be to work themselves out of a job. This means that leaders must be heavily engaged in training and mentoring their junior leaders to prepare them to step up and assume greater responsibilities.

Extreme Ownership – How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win is a compelling book to read that reveals essential leadership lessons from one of the most successful organizations on the planet and links them to leading people in our organizations.