“Extreme Ownership” book notes

  • Authors: Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
  • Published: 2015
  • Links: Amazon and Goodreads
  • My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

One sentence book summary

Everything is always your fault no matter what, and there’s power in that.

What I got out of it

  • Whenever anything goes wrong, ask yourself “what did I do wrong that caused this to happen?” and that will focus you on improving rather than being annoyed.
  • A team is only as good as its leader, and for a leader to blame the team for its failures is backwards and unproductive.
  • Trying to get a team to do something without making sure they understand why they’re doing it is like feeding someone who isn’t hungry.
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify. The best plans are simple ones. The best processes are easily understood. If people on your team can’t correctly describe a plan or process, then it’s not simple enough. I talked a bit about this in another post.
  • The whole “everything is your fault” thing applies even when it’s people above you causing problems. If your boss or client is messing things up, then figure out what you’re doing wrong to make them act like that and fix it.

Money quotes

When it comes to standards, as a leader, it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.

If someone isn’t doing what you want or need them to do, look in the mirror first and determine what you can do to better enable this.

Don’t ask your leader what you should do, tell them what you are going to do.

Leaders must be humble but not passive; quiet but not silent.

One sentence chapter summaries

Chapter 1: Extreme Ownership:

Everything is your fault.

Chapter 2: No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders

A bad team is only bad because the leader isn’t effective, so leaders of bad teams can’t blame the team for being bad.

Chapter 3: Believe

Leaders must understand and believe in the WHY of the mission to be able to explain it to everyone else, if they want anyone to buy into it.

Chapter 4: Check the Ego

Leaders cannot care about their own reputation, because their ego will conflict with what the project or the team needs.

Chapter 5: Cover and Move

Teams need to work together rather than act as enemies, and in some cases that means one team needs to stop moving forward and switch to supporting the other team.

Chapter 6: Simple

A great plan is a simple plan, because simple plans are understandable by the people executing them.

Chapter 7: Prioritize and Execute

Leadership is often overwhelming, but if you always pick the most important thing and focus on that, then you can be sure that you’re moving in the right direction.

Chapter 8: Decentralized Command

Extreme Ownership is not micro-managing; delegation means taking ownership by allowing others to take ownership.

Chapter 9: Plan

Planning is everything. (I didn’t get much out of this chapter).

Chapter 10: Leading Up and Down the Chain of Command

If your leaders (bosses, clients, etc.) are causing problems, lead them by asking yourself how it’s your fault that they are acting like that, and act on that.

Chapter 11: Decisiveness amid Uncertainty

Waiting for a 100% perfect and certain solution is a recipe for failure, and winners are the people who are willing to take educated risks.

Chapter 12: Discipline Equals Freedom-The Dichotomy of Leadership

It’s not about motivation or inspiration, it’s all about the discipline to put in the work.

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