May 10, 2020

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin: How empowering others is the key to leadership success

Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
Overcast podcast player badge
PocketCasts podcast player badge
YouTube podcast player badge
RSS Feed podcast player badge

Sign up to the bookmark newsletter:

About the Author

Sent to the most violent battlefield in Iraq, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin’s SEAL task unit faced a seemingly impossible mission: help U.S. forces secure Ramadi, a city deemed “all but lost.” In gripping firsthand accounts of heroism, tragic loss, and hard-won victories in SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser, they learned that leadership―at every level―is the most important factor in whether a team succeeds or fails.

Willink and Babin returned home from deployment and instituted SEAL leadership training that helped forge the next generation of SEAL leaders. After departing the SEAL Teams, they launched Echelon Front, a company that teaches these same leadership principles to businesses and organizations. From promising startups to Fortune 500 companies, Babin and Willink have helped scores of clients across a broad range of industries build their own high-performance teams and dominate their battlefields.


About the Book

Detailing the mindset and principles that enable SEAL units to accomplish the most difficult missions in combat, Extreme Ownership shows how to apply them to any team, family, or organization. Each chapter focuses on a specific topic such as Cover and Move Decentralized Command, and Leading Up the Chain, explaining what they are, why they are important, and how to implement them in any leadership environment.

A compelling narrative with powerful instruction and direct application, Extreme Ownership revolutionizes business management and challenges leaders everywhere to fulfill their ultimate purpose: lead and win.



Listen to Jocko’s podcast here:

Would you like to take better notes from the books you read?  Get your copy of Archley's beautiful book journal, the Book of Books here:

Buy this book from The Book Depository:

Before we dive into the three big ideas, the biggest idea in the book is ‘extreme ownership’.  The fact that everything is your responsibility (and your fault) in some way – and the more you look at everything as your responsibility, the more effective you’ll be. Waving goodbye to blame and circumstance and all the things that get in the way of us taking control of situations.  This idea on its own is incredibly powerful and would make a huge difference in many organisations (and lives).

BIG IDEA 1 (5:42) – Belief is key

To convince and inspire others to follow you, you must truly believe in the mission. This is challenging in a lot of organisations because sometimes when you ask other people (or you yourself are asked) to do something, you’re not sure if it is the right direction or action. But to inspire others you have to truly believe in that mission.

To better understand the mission (and therefore believe in it), you have to challenge it, question it, and therefore understand it.  It comes back to a purpose or ‘why’ you’re trying to achieve what you’re trying to achieve. Of course, it is not just you who should believe in what needs to happen or what the overall vision is but as part of communicating that with others you need to give them the chance to question, challenge, and help them understand it.

BIG IDEA 2 (8:38) – Decentralise

This whole book could be called ‘extreme delegation’.  A huge amount of ideas in the book come down to decentralisation and delegation. Jocko and Leif argue that humans can only manage 6 to 10 people – especially when things are going wrong. Organisations, therefore, have to push down as much authority as possible to make sure decisions can be made and action taken.  To do this, however, you have to put the ego away – you won’t be able to delegate with an ego and whilst trying to control everything yourself.

It comes back to big idea #1 – if everyone truly understands and believes the mission (and you have the right people), they should be able to make decisions accordingly. As a leader, if you are taking on all the work, ownership, and responsibility, you’re losing situational awareness to see what’s going on and be able to plan strategically.

BIG IDEA 3 (11:52) – Plan

Nothing can be achieved without a plan. Some of the items in their leader’s checklists for planning are analysing the mission, understanding the overall purpose, identifying the people you need, resources and time, determining the course of action, contingency planning, mitigating any risks and communicating the plan to relevant parties.

The idea of decentralisation is actually built into the planning process to embed this discipline and thinking into all missions and activities.

Finally, part of the planning is doing a post-operational debrief after the activity has happened – something that’s not done often enough in organisations.

The planning process put forward by Jocko and Leif is quite intense but this is the crux of their mindset of ‘discipline equals freedom’.  By having the discipline of plans, processes, and systems, you then have the freedom to focus on the things that matter, to flex and adapt when needed.

Music By: Cave Dweller Song by When Mountains Move

Let’s Connect


Instagram: @stephsbizbookshelf

Enjoying the show?

Please hit subscribe so you don’t miss an episode and leave a review on iTunes to help others find us.

See for privacy information.

Hey, have you subscribed to the bookmark newsletter? If you liked this, you might like my twice-monthly email with book reviews and ideas of what you should be reading, and listening to, next. Click here to subscribe.

Let’s connect