Here are my 8 Lessons and Takeaways from Extreme Ownership by former Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Extreme OwnershipWe’re in something of a Navy SEALs moment. I’ve now presented synopses of two books written by former Navy SEALs. I presented my synopsis of Leadership Lessons of the U.S. Navy SEALS: Battle-Tested Strategies for Creating Successful Organizations and Inspiring Extraordinary Results by Jeff Cannon and Lieutenant Commander Jon Cannon a few years ago, and now I have just presented Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

(And, there are other books written by former Navy SEALs that I have not yet read).

I presented my synopsis of Extreme Ownership last Friday at the December First Friday Book Synopsis. It is a good book; a very good book.

I don’t often write about the style or format of a book. But they have an inventive structure. Here’s their own description, quite accurate:

Within each chapter there are three subsections. The first identifies a leadership lesson learned through our U.S. Navy SEAL combat or training experience. The second subsection explains that leadership principle. The third demonstrates the principle’s application to the business world, based on our work with a multitude of companies in a broad range of industries.

Here’s a portion of my summary:

#1 — Leaders don’t blame the team for mistakes/failure.
#2 — Leaders instill belief in winning in the team members, one-and-all.
#3 — Leaders take the most difficult job on the boat…

And here is the authors’ summary of the challenge of leadership:

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. 

I think this may be the best book I read/presented this year. And it has been a year full of good books! What makes this one so good? I think it has to do with superior story-telling, and then practical and clearly understandable real-world-of-business transferable principles.

How good is it? I give a friend of mine two books each Christmas. One is always the compilation book of the best sports writing of the year. (This year’s volume: The Best American Sports Writing 2015 by Wright Thompson (Editor), Glenn Stout (Editor)).

The other selection I give is the business book that I think he would enjoy the most, and benefit from the most, from the year’s presentations. This year, I gave him Extreme Ownership.

Here are my lessons and takeaways from the book:

#1 – Mission (Commander’s Intent) and Effectiveness…

#2 – It is on the leader! (Assuming a good “hire,” now, it is the leader).
#3 – Extreme Ownership – everyone believes in the “why,” understands the “why,” and then pursues the “what.” Beginning with the leader. But, everyone “owns it all.”
#4 – Get rid of the undermining, not-carrying-the-load, underperformer.
#5 – Get very good at information sharing –

  • “When they attempted to pass this valuable information on to the new unit, their advice was shunned.”

#6 – Simplify! Keep it simple. (Not simplistic – simple).
#7 – Communicate – thoroughly communicate. Up and down and all around. Confirm that the communication was sent and received and understood.
#8 – Prioritize and execute

     • (Beware of “improvement overload”).

So, here’s my suggestion – buy this book. Read this book. And, take the steps you need to take to be more effective, more successful, and really, more serious, about your work in the coming year.


(My synopsis, with handout and audio, is now available on our companion site,

4 thoughts on “Here are my 8 Lessons and Takeaways from Extreme Ownership by former Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

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