Extreme Ownership
Extreme Ownership

Extreme Ownership

We learned that leadership requires belief in the mission and unyielding perseverance to achieve victory, particularly when doubters question whether victory is even possible. (Location 81)

Tags: persistence, leadership

Laws of Combat that Jocko had taught us: Cover and Move, Simple, Prioritize and Execute, and Decentralized Command. (Location 166)

Tags: leadership

The only meaningful measure for a leader is whether the team succeeds or fails. For all the definitions, descriptions, and characterizations of leaders, there are only two that matter: effective and ineffective. Effective leaders lead successful teams that accomplish their mission and win. Ineffective leaders do not. (Location 213)

Tags: leadership

For leaders, the humility to admit and own mistakes and develop a plan to overcome them is essential to success. The best leaders are not driven by ego or personal agendas. They are simply focused on the mission and how best to accomplish it. (Location 219)

Tags: ego, responsibility, leadership

The greatest of these was the recognition that leadership is the most important factor on the battlefield, the single greatest reason behind the success of any team. (Location 256)

Tags: teamwork, leadership

Extreme Ownership. Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame. (Location 298)

Tags: leadership, responsibility

I was responsible for everything in Task Unit Bruiser. I had to take complete ownership of what went wrong. That is what a leader does—even if it means getting fired. If anyone was to be blamed and fired for what happened, let it be me. (Location 455)

Tags: leadership, responsibility

the leader is truly and ultimately responsible for everything. That is Extreme Ownership, the fundamental core of what constitutes an effective leader in the SEAL Teams or in any leadership endeavor. (Location 497)

Tags: leadership, responsibility

If an individual on the team is not performing at the level required for the team to succeed, the leader must train and mentor that underperformer. But if the underperformer continually fails to meet standards, then a leader who exercises Extreme Ownership must be loyal to the team and the mission above any individual. If underperformers cannot improve, the leader must make the tough call to terminate them and hire others who can get the job done. It is all on the leader. (Location 508)

Tags: leadership

Extreme Ownership requires leaders to look at an organization’s problems through the objective lens of reality, without emotional attachments to agendas or plans. It mandates that a leader set ego aside, accept responsibility for failures, attack weaknesses, and consistently work to build a better and more effective team. (Location 515)

Tags: leadership, ego

I explained that the direct responsibility of a leader included getting people to listen, support, and execute plans. (Location 565)

Tags: leadership, listen

During the debrief after a training mission, those good SEAL leaders took ownership of failures, sought guidance on how to improve, and figured out a way to overcome challenges on the next iteration. The best leaders checked their egos, accepted blame, sought out constructive criticism, and took detailed notes for improvement. They exhibited Extreme Ownership, and as a result, their SEAL platoons and task units dominated. (Location 607)

Tags: ego, leadership, responsibility

When a bad SEAL leader walked into a debrief and blamed everyone else, that attitude was picked up by subordinates and team members, who then followed suit. They all blamed everyone else, and inevitably the team was ineffective and unable to properly execute a plan. (Location 610)

Tags: responsibility

Note: Take responsibility for your actions and mistakes

CHAPTER 2 No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders (Location 644)

one of the most fundamental and important truths at the heart of Extreme Ownership: there are no bad teams, only bad leaders. (Location 756)

Tags: favorite, leadership

Note: There are no bad teams, only bad leaders

leadership is the single greatest factor in any team’s performance. Whether a team succeeds or fails is all up to the leader. The leader’s attitude sets the tone for the entire team. The leader drives performance—or doesn’t. And this applies not just to the most senior leader of an overall team, but to the junior leaders of teams within the team. (Location 758)

Tags: leadership, success, teamwork

“There are no bad units, only bad officers.”3 This captures the essence of what Extreme Ownership is all about. This is a difficult and humbling concept for any leader to accept. But it is an essential mind-set to building a high-performance, winning team. (Location 830)

a leader, it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate. (Location 834)

Tags: leadership

When setting expectations, no matter what has been said or written, if substandard performance is accepted and no one is held accountable—if there are no consequences—that poor performance becomes the new standard. Therefore, leaders must enforce standards. Consequences for failing need not be immediately severe, but leaders must ensure that tasks are repeated until the higher expected standard is achieved. Leaders must push the standards in a way that encourages and enables the team to utilize Extreme Ownership. (Location 835)

Tags: leadership, standards

But I learned that good leaders don’t make excuses. Instead, they figure out a way to get it done and win.” (Location 877)

Tags: leadership, execution

BUD/S training and had a successful career in the SEAL Teams. “In summary,” I told them, “whether or not your team succeeds or fails is all on you. Extreme Ownership is a concept to help you make the right decisions as a key leader so that you can win.” (Location 908)

Tags: leadership, responsibility

CHAPTER 3 Believe (Location 958)

In order to convince and inspire others to follow and accomplish a mission, a leader must be a true believer in the mission. Even when others doubt and question the amount of risk, asking, “Is it worth it?” the leader must believe in the greater cause. If a leader does not believe, he or she will not take the risks required to overcome the inevitable challenges necessary to win. (Location 1127)

Tags: vision

And they will not be able to convince others—especially the frontline troops who must execute the mission—to do so. Leaders must always operate with the understanding that they are part of something greater than themselves and their own personal interests. They must impart this understanding to their teams down to the tactical-level operators on the ground. Far more important than training or equipment, a resolute belief in the mission is critical for any team or organization to win and achieve big results. (Location 1130)

Tags: teamwork, vision

Note: a leader requires a deep belief in the mission

Every leader must be able to detach from the immediate tactical mission and understand how it fits into strategic goals. When leaders receive an order that they themselves question and do not understand, they must ask the question: why? Why are we being asked to do this? Those leaders must take a step back, deconstruct the situation, analyze the strategic picture, and then come to a conclusion. If they cannot determine a satisfactory answer themselves, they must ask questions up the chain of command until they understand why. (Location 1138)

Tags: vision, leadership, emotion

It is critical that those senior leaders impart a general understanding of that strategic knowledge—the why—to their troops. (Location 1145)

Tags: management, vision

Belief in the mission ties in with the fourth Law of Combat: Decentralized Command (chapter 8). The leader must explain not just what to do, but why. It is the responsibility of the subordinate leader to reach out and ask if they do not understand. Only when leaders at all levels understand and believe in the mission can they pass that understanding and belief to their teams so that they can persevere through challenges, execute and win. (Location 1150)

Tags: communication, vision

CHAPTER 4 Check the Ego (Location 1273)

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. Ego can prevent a leader from conducting an honest, realistic assessment of his or her own performance and the performance of the team. (Location 1459)

Tags: leadership, responsibility, ego

CHAPTER 5 Cover and Move (Location 1536)

Cover and Move: it is the most fundamental tactic, perhaps the only tactic. Put simply, Cover and Move means teamwork. All elements within the greater team are crucial and must work together to accomplish the mission, mutually supporting one another for that singular purpose. (Location 1719)

Tags: teamwork

“The enemy is out there,” I said, pointing out the window to the world beyond. “The enemy is all the other competing companies in your industry that are vying for your customers. The enemy is not in here, inside the walls of this corporation. The departments within and the subsidiary companies that all fall under the same leadership structure—you are all on the same team. You have to overcome the ‘us versus them’ mentality and work together, mutually supporting one another.” (Location 1761)

Tags: teamwork, competition

“It’s about the bigger, strategic mission,” I said. “How can you help this subsidiary company do their job more effectively so they can help you accomplish your mission and you can all win?” (Location 1768)

Tags: vision

CHAPTER 6 Simple (Location 1794)

Simplifying as much as possible is crucial to success. When plans and orders are too complicated, people may not understand them. And when things go wrong, and they inevitably do go wrong, complexity compounds issues that can spiral out of control into total disaster. (Location 1951)

Tags: simplification

Plans and orders must be communicated in a manner that is simple, clear, and concise. Everyone that is part of the mission must know and understand his or her role in the mission and what to do in the event of likely contingencies. As a leader, it doesn’t matter how well you feel you have presented the information or communicated an order, plan, tactic, or strategy. If your team doesn’t get it, you have not kept things simple and you have failed. You must brief to ensure the lowest common denominator on the team understands. (Location 1953)

Tags: leadership, communication

all animals, including humans, need to see the connection between action and consequence in order to learn or react appropriately. The way you have this set up, they can’t see that connection.” (Location 2022)

the plan is simple enough, everyone understands it, which means each person can rapidly adjust and modify what he or she is doing. If the plan is too complex, the team can’t make rapid adjustments to it, because there is no baseline understanding of it.” (Location 2038)

Tags: simplification

“We followed that rule with everything we did,” I continued. “Our standard operating procedures were always kept as simple as possible. Our communication plans were simple. The way we talked on the radio was as simple and direct as possible. The way we organized our gear, even the way we got a head count to ensure we had all of our people was broken down into the simplest possible method so we could do it quickly, accurately, and easily at any time. (Location 2040)

Tags: simplification

CHAPTER 7 Prioritize and Execute (Location 2072)

SEAL combat leaders utilize Prioritize and Execute. We verbalize this principle with this direction: “Relax, look around, make a call.” (Location 2239)

Tags: execution, priotitise, slow down

Even the most competent of leaders can be overwhelmed if they try to tackle multiple problems or a number of tasks simultaneously. The team will likely fail at each of those tasks. Instead, leaders must determine the highest priority task and execute. When overwhelmed, fall back upon this principle: Prioritize and Execute. (Location 2240)

Tags: execution, priotitise, multitasking

To implement Prioritize and Execute in any business, team, or organization, a leader must: • evaluate the highest priority problem. • lay out in simple, clear, and concise terms the highest priority effort for your team. • develop and determine a solution, seek input from key leaders and from the team where possible. • direct the execution of that solution, focusing all efforts and resources toward this priority task. • move on to the next highest priority problem. Repeat. • when priorities shift within the team, pass situational awareness both up and down the chain. • don’t let the focus on one priority cause target fixation. Maintain the ability to see other problems developing and rapidly shift as needed. (Location 2261)

Tags: execution, priotitise

CHAPTER 8 Decentralized Command (Location 2322)

PRINCIPLE Human beings are generally not capable of managing more than six to ten people, particularly when things go sideways and inevitable contingencies arise. (Location 2528)

Tags: teams, management

“That makes perfect sense,” I said. “The SEAL Teams and the U.S. military, much like militaries throughout history, are based around building blocks of four-to-six-man teams with a leader. We call them ‘fire teams.’ That is the ideal number for a leader to lead. Beyond that, any leader can lose control as soon as even minimal pressure is applied to the team when inevitable challenges arise.” (Location 2606)

Tags: teams

“Couldn’t things get confused? Like in the old game of telephone, where you whisper a word around a circle of people and it comes back different from how it started?” asked the president. “That is why simplicity is so important,” I answered. “Proper Decentralized Command requires simple, clear, concise orders that can be understood easily by everyone in the chain of command. (Location 2618)

Tags: communication, simplification

“But can’t you end up with a bunch of little individual elements just doing whatever they want—helter-skelter?” asked the president with skepticism. “You could end up with that if you, as a leader, failed to give clear guidance and set distinct boundaries,” I explained. “With clear guidance and established boundaries for decision making that your subordinate leaders understand, they can then act independently toward your unified goal.” (Location 2625)

Tags: management

CHAPTER 9 Plan (Location 2657)

PRINCIPLE What’s the mission? Planning begins with mission analysis. Leaders must identify clear directives for the team. (Location 2780)

Tags: planning, leadership, vision

Once the detailed plan has been developed, it must then be briefed to the entire team and all participants and supporting elements. Leaders must carefully prioritize the information to be presented in as simple, clear, and concise a format as possible so that participants do not experience information overload. The planning process and briefing must be a forum that encourages discussion, questions, and clarification from even the most junior personnel. If frontline troops are unclear about the plan and yet are too intimidated to ask questions, the team’s ability to effectively execute the plan radically decreases. Thus, leaders must ask questions of their troops, encourage interaction, and ensure their teams understand the plan. (Location 2799)

Tags: communication, teamwork, planning

The test for a successful brief is simple: Do the team and the supporting elements understand it? (Location 2807)

A post-operational debrief examines all phases of an operation from planning through execution, in a concise format. It addresses the following for the combat mission just completed: What went right? What went wrong? How can we adapt our tactics to make us even more effective and increase our advantage over the enemy? Such self-examination allows SEAL units to reevaluate, enhance, and refine what worked and what didn’t so that they can constantly improve. It is critical for the success of any team in any business to do the same and implement those changes into their future plans so that they don’t repeat the same mistakes. (Location 2818)

Tags: retrospective

Note: Post operational debriefs are like retrospectives

A leader’s checklist for planning should include the following: • Analyze the mission. —Understand higher headquarters’ mission, Commander’s Intent, and endstate (the goal). —Identify and state your own Commander’s Intent and endstate for the specific mission. • Identify personnel, assets, resources, and time available. • Decentralize the planning process. —Empower key leaders within the team to analyze possible courses of action. • Determine a specific course of action. —Lean toward selecting the simplest course of action. —Focus efforts on the best course of action. • Empower key leaders to develop the plan for the selected course of action. • Plan for likely contingencies through each phase of the operation. • Mitigate risks that can be controlled as much as possible. • Delegate portions of the plan and brief to key junior leaders. —Stand back and be the tactical genius. • Continually check and question the plan against emerging information to ensure it still fits the situation. • Brief the plan to all participants and supporting assets. —Emphasize Commander’s Intent. —Ask questions and engage in discussion and interaction with the team to ensure they understand. • Conduct post-operational debrief after execution. —Analyze lessons learned and implement them in future planning. (Location 2828)

Tags: leadership, planning

mission brief. This brief laid out the specific details of who, what, when, where, why, and how a combat operation would be conducted. (Location 2869)

Tags: planning

You need to brief so that the most junior man can fully understand the operation—the lowest common denominator. That’s what a brief is. (Location 2923)

Tags: planning

“As a leader, if you are down in the weeds planning the details with your guys,” said Jocko, “you will have the same perspective as them, which adds little value. But if you let them plan the details, it allows them to own their piece of the plan. And it allows you to stand back and see everything with a different perspective, which adds tremendous value. You can then see the plan from a greater distance, a higher altitude, and you will see more. (Location 2936)

Tags: leadership, vision

As a result, you will catch mistakes and discover aspects of the plan that need to be tightened up, which enables you to look like a tactical genius, just because you have a broader view.” (Location 2939)

Tags: vision

CHAPTER 10 Leading Up and Down the Chain of Command (Location 2996)

When Jocko saw my reaction to the slide and the presentation he had built, he too realized that he should have more fully detailed the strategic impact of what we were doing and why. It was a realization for him that even when a leader thinks his troops understand the bigger picture, they very often have difficulty connecting the dots between the tactical mission they are immersed in with the greater overarching goal. (Location 3092)

Tags: vision, goals

PRINCIPLE: LEADING DOWN THE CHAIN Any good leader is immersed in the planning and execution of tasks, projects, and operations to move the team toward a strategic goal. Such leaders possess insight into the bigger picture and why specific tasks need to be accomplished. This information does not automatically translate to subordinate leaders and the frontline troops. Junior members of the team—the tactical level operators—are rightly focused on their specific jobs. They must be in order to accomplish the tactical mission. They do not need the full knowledge and insight of their senior leaders, nor do the senior leaders need the intricate understanding of the tactical level operators’ jobs. Still, it is critical that each have an understanding of the other’s role. And it is paramount that senior leaders explain to their junior leaders and troops executing the mission how their role contributes to big picture success. (Location 3113)

Tags: vision, leadership

As a leader employing Extreme Ownership, if your team isn’t doing what you need them to do, you first have to look at yourself. Rather than blame them for not seeing the strategic picture, you must figure out a way to better communicate it to them in terms that are simple, clear, and concise, so that they understand. (Location 3127)

Tags: simplification, leadership, responsibility

“We are here. We are on the ground. We need to push situational awareness up the chain,” Jocko said. “If they have questions, it is our fault for not properly communicating the information they need. We have to lead them.” (Location 3200)

Tags: boss, communication

“We need to look at ourselves and see what we can do better,” Jocko continued. “We have to write more-detailed reports that help them understand what we are doing and why we are making the decisions we are making. We have to communicate more openly in calls, and when they have questions, we need to immediately get them whatever information they need so that they understand what is happening out here.” (Location 3208)

Tags: boss, communication, responsibility

PRINCIPLE: LEADING UP THE CHAIN If your boss isn’t making a decision in a timely manner or providing necessary support for you and your team, don’t blame the boss. First, blame yourself. Examine what you can do to better convey the critical information for decisions to be made and support allocated. (Location 3225)

Tags: boss, responsibility

One of the most important jobs of any leader is to support your own boss—your immediate leadership. In any chain of command, the leadership must always present a united front to the troops. A public display of discontent or disagreement with the chain of command undermines the authority of leaders at all levels. This is catastrophic to the performance of any organization. (Location 3235)

Tags: authority, teamwork, boss

As a leader, if you don’t understand why decisions are being made, requests denied, or support allocated elsewhere, you must ask those questions up the chain. Then, once understood, you can pass that understanding down to your team. Leaders in any chain of command will not always agree. But at the end of the day, once the debate on a particular course of action is over and the boss has made a decision—even if that decision is one you argued against—you must execute the plan as if it were your own. (Location 3238)

Tags: boss, leadership

Note: You should ask those above you why decisions are being made and communicate that to those below you

The major factors to be aware of when leading up and down the chain of command are these: • Take responsibility for leading everyone in your world, subordinates and superiors alike. • 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. (Location 3244)

Tags: responsibility

“If you think they don’t fully understand the challenges you are facing here, invite your senior executives out to the field to see your team in action,” I said. (Location 3301)

Tags: boss

CHAPTER 11 Decisiveness amid Uncertainty (Location 3313)

In combat as in life, the outcome is never certain, the picture never clear. There are no guarantees of success. But in order to succeed, leaders must be comfortable under pressure, and act on logic, not emotion. This is a critical component to victory. (Location 3438)

Tags: dealing with uncertainty, decisiveness, emotion, logic

Regardless, leaders cannot be paralyzed by fear. That results in inaction. It is critical for leaders to act decisively amid uncertainty; to make the best decisions they can based on only the immediate information available. (Location 3447)

Tags: dealing with uncertainty, decisiveness, fear

Waiting for the 100 percent right and certain solution leads to delay, indecision, and an inability to execute. Leaders must be prepared to make an educated guess based on previous experience, knowledge of how the enemy operates, likely outcomes, and whatever intelligence is available in the immediate moment. (Location 3453)

Tags: dealing with uncertainty, execution

In the SEAL Teams, we taught our leaders to act decisively amid chaos. Jocko had taught me that, as a leader, my default setting should be aggressive—proactive rather than reactive. This was critical to the success of any team. Instead of letting the situation dictate our decisions, we must dictate the situation. But for many leaders, this mind-set was not intuitive. Many operated with a “wait and see” approach. But experience had taught me that the picture could never be complete. There was always some element of risk. There was no 100-percent right solution. (Location 3506)

Tags: dealing with uncertainty, decisiveness

“As a leader, you want to be seen—you need to be seen—as decisive, and willing to make tough choices. The outcome may be uncertain, but you have enough understanding and information to make a decision,” (Location 3541)

Tags: leadership, decisiveness

CHAPTER 12 Discipline Equals Freedom—The Dichotomy of Leadership (Location 3563)

It was a relatively simple brief explaining the roles, responsibilities, and sequence of the method. (Location 3615)

The only way you could make time, was to get up early. That took discipline. (Location 3656)

Tags: discipline, morning routine

When you have the discipline to get up early, you are rewarded with more free time. (Location 3670)

Tags: sleep, time management, morning routine, discipline

As I advanced into leadership positions, I strived to constantly improve my personal discipline. I realized very quickly that discipline was not only the most important quality for an individual but also for a team. The more disciplined standard operating procedures (SOPs) a team employs, the more freedom they have to practice Decentralized Command (chapter 8) and thus they can execute faster, sharper, and more efficiently. Just as an individual excels when he or she exercises self-discipline, a unit that has tighter and more-disciplined procedures and processes will excel and win. (Location 3673)

Tags: discipline

A leader must be calm but not robotic. It is normal—and necessary—to show emotion. (Location 3712)

Tags: emotion

The team must understand that their leader cares about them and their well-being. But, a leader must control his or her emotions. If not, how can they expect to control anything else? Leaders who lose their temper also lose respect. But, at the same time, to never show any sense of anger, sadness, or frustration would make that leader appear void of any emotion at all—a robot. People do not follow robots. (Location 3713)

Tags: emotion, leadership

Leaders must be humble but not passive; quiet but not silent. They must possess humility and the ability to control their ego and listen to others. They must admit mistakes and failures, take ownership of them, and figure out a way to prevent them from happening again. But a leader must be able to speak up when it matters. They must be able to stand up for the team and respectfully push back against a decision, order, or direction that could negatively impact overall mission success. (Location 3728)

Tags: charisma, character

The Dichotomy of Leadership A good leader must be: • confident but not cocky; • courageous but not foolhardy; • competitive but a gracious loser; • attentive to details but not obsessed by them; • strong but have endurance; • a leader and follower; • humble not passive; • aggressive not overbearing; • quiet not silent; • calm but not robotic, logical but not devoid of emotions; • close with the troops but not so close that one becomes more important than another or more important than the good of the team; not so close that they forget who is in charge. • able to execute Extreme Ownership, while exercising Decentralized Command. A good leader has nothing to prove, but everything to prove. (Location 3745)

Tags: leadership, favorite

There is an answer to the age-old question of whether leaders are born or made. Obviously, some are born with natural leadership qualities, such as charisma, eloquence, sharp wit, a decisive mind, the willingness to accept risk when others might falter, or the ability to remain calm in chaotic, high-pressure situations. Others may not possess these qualities innately. (Location 3881)

Tags: nature vs nurture, leadership