Oftentimes, those who have suffered the most or have been placed in the most extreme circumstances have the most to say. There’s something about having intense experiences crammed into a short time period that drive tested and true principles. Extreme Ownership presents 12 such principles that were the leadership foundation for the two authors (Jocko Willink and Leif Babin) as Navy SEALs during the battle of Ramadi in the mid-2000’s. Each chapter consists of a three-part sandwich with the principle fitting neatly between war experience that shows the principle in use and then a business situation where Jocko and Leif’s clients utilized the principles. Since retiring from the SEALs, they have run a business consulting firm called Echelon Front.
I loved that setup for the book. I’ve always enjoyed reading about Navy SEALs and love business consulting, so this was a good match all-around in terms of my preferences. Also, this wasn’t your average leadership book with lame platitudes. Much of the content was either counterintuitive or consisted of supposed dichotomies (the subject of these author’s next book). One of my favorite quotes came from the chapter around the principle of “no bad teams, only bad leaders.” Here is the quote:
“It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.”
That quote contains so much wisdom. I also like it because you expect it to end with “practice.” This puts a little twist on it. Think about it. If I let things slide as a parent, my kids are quick to pick up on that. If small, seemingly minor things are allowed to slide in a business setting, then the standards of the company fall and are hard to get back.
This would be a great book for high schoolers to read. There’s no principles about pursuing happiness or making things easier. The principles revolve around doing the hard things for the right reasons. It may not lead to the best results (soldiers die), but as Jocko is famous for saying, “discipline equals freedom.”