Lessons from Reading – “Extreme Ownership”

In November I read a book titled “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin and i would highly recommend the book to you. Both men were Navy Seals with battle experience in Rumadi, Iraq.  From their lessons in battle came a set of concepts that cross over from a military perspective to the business world.  The stories and the practical application of the concepts are clear.  The concept that the book was named after is one that I both love, and honor.

Extreme Ownership sounds harsh… perhaps it is.  The idea comes from the rugged landscape of battle.  An error can cost lives.  Errors happen.   Jocko described an incident his team encountered in what he calls “the fog of war”.  Confusion set in as to whether one location was enemy fighters, or not.  There were not supposed to be friendly troops there.  But… something did not seem right.  Risking his safety he and his team investigated, only to determine that the delegation of troops occupying a house that had all of the guns trained on it were indeed friendlies… american troops that got lost and were there.  Had the commander had his way, that building would have been rained down on with heavy fire… killing all.  It would have been a “blue on blue” – friendly fire, killing ones own troops.  When this was reported up the chain of command everyone was ordered to hold their fire, and naturally an investigation was to occur.  Debriefing his men Jocko asked each “who is to blame?”  One by one, each soldier said they were responsible for the communication slip up.  Giving no clue to what he would say until the last man owned the mistake, Jocko stepped up and said “No, I am to blame.  And I will own this.  Its my command, and my  responsibility.”  Through the investigation he held that line, owned the mistake, knowing this could cost him his command and his integrity.  Instead, Extreme Ownership taught everyone one thing… we must each step up, control and own what happens… but the leader bears the weight of ownership, because they lead their troops.

I must say that it is rare to see this in the business world, but when it does occur there is a strength, and a power that shines through everything.  Owning the decision, believing enough in the mission and leading well are worth everything.  I am thankful that there have been a handful of people I have worked with that live Extreme Ownership, and dont back down when the easy way out is offered.   How very motivational that is to work for people with this core ethic.  It causes everyone to rise to greater integrity, higher work ethic, and greater productivity.   I am appreciative of having learned this idea first from my father, and my husband.  Both men have owned their leadership role, and demonstrated strength of character and decision making.   And i am grateful to work for the leadership team in my day job.  They also demonstrate clear, concise and visionary decision making and own it.  You are teaching me how to be a good leader by following your example.