Leadership lessons by Jocko Willink



If I had to recommend only one book on leadership, it would be Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink. Jocko, a former SEAL units leader, trainer, business consultant, book author, podcast host, uses military and war stories to explain the nuances of leadership. A mistake in business might cause a project failure, lost client, bankruptcy. Even the worst-case scenario in business is far away from the combat mistakes outcome - death.

Jocko Willing is an incredibly charismatic, though somehow scary person. Needless to explain, look at his face.

“Implementing Extreme Ownership requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and developing a plan to overcome challenges are integral to any successful team.” ― Jocko Willink

Any team or organization can use the principles that enable SEAL units to accomplish the most difficult missions. Extreme Ownership is not an ordinary book; it’s a philosophy that every leader should follow. The book is well structured and it covers 12 leadership principles: presents war story, explains leadership principle, showcases application to business.

Here are my five key insights from the book:

There is no one else to blame

If your subordinate is continually missing deadlines, don’t blame the employee. First, blame yourself. Offer you guidance, mentorship, make sure you understand the reasons behind the shortfalls.

If your boss isn’t providing necessary support to you and your team, don’t blame the boss. First, blame yourself. Examine what you can do to better convey the critical information.

There are no bad teams, only bad leaders

Leaders build teams, not exploit them. Once a leader uses Extreme Ownership, the principle gets developed into the team; the entire unit performs beyond individual capabilities. Everyone “owns it all.”

Get very good at information sharing

Simple, clear, up, down, all around communication - probably the most important skill a leader should possess. It is crucial that everyone believes in the “why”, understands the “why” and then pursues the “what”.

Control your ego

If you don’t control your ego, the ego controls you. Extreme Ownership means taking responsibility, all the time. It hurts the ego; it hurts the pride to take the blame. But it’s the only way to maintain integrity as a leader.

Discipline equals freedom

“Just as discipline and freedom are opposing forces that must be balanced, leadership requires finding the equilibrium in the dichotomy of many seemingly contradictory qualities between one extreme and another. By being aware of these seeming contradictions, a leader can more easily balance the opposing forces and lead with maximum effectiveness.”- Jocko Willink


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I'm Valdas Maksimavicius. I write about data, cloud technologies and personal development. You can find more about me here.