As a regular listener of Tim Ferriss’ podcast, each week I’m presented with a new opportunity to learn from his guests. In his episode from September 21, 2016, Tim sat down to talk with Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink (@jockowillink). Listening through the episode, Jocko’s passion for squeezing every drop out of life was evident. Jocko wants to win and he’ll do everything possible to make sure his chances to succeed are stacked in his favor.
Fast forward to last year, I caught wind that Jocko, and his co-author Leif Babin (@LeifBabin), were re-releasing their popular book Extreme Ownership. It’s currently a top seller on Amazon and after reading it, that comes to no surprise. In Extreme Ownership, Jocko and Leif discuss their time Ramadi Iraq as leaders in Navy SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser.
Jocko served as commander of the Navy Seal Task Unit Bruiser in The Battle of Ramadi. During his time there, his leadership skills were put to the ultimate test. True life and death consequences hung in the balance from orders he was responsible for issuing. It was during that time that his doctrine of Extreme Ownership was cemented. After returning home, Jocko and one of his platoon commanders Leif Babin, founded Echelon Front – a business leadership consulting firm.
The book’s goal is to provide the reader with high level leadership techniques and habits and illustrate how their were deployed by Task Unit Bruiser. For each major leadership skill that Jocko and Leif outline, they start by offering examples of how they employed that skill in Ramadi. After illustrating the combat applicability of the skill, Jocko and Leif proceed to outline how to deploy that technique in the business world. They offer real-world scenarios to show applicability, use-cases, and even problems that may arise during deployment of that skill.
What makes this book great is that it offers the vantage point of two levels of command. In Ramadi, Leif served as platoon commander under Jocko. Throughout the book there are examples of mission planning and execution where the dynamic between Jocko, Leif, and platoon members. Situations arise in combat that underscore the importance of Extreme Ownership within teams. Most leadership books offer the vantage point of a leader and fail to address major issues when dealing with a chain of command. Extreme Ownership changes that. With Leif being part of the narrative, the reader gains valuable insight on being a leader and working under a leader, who both employ Extreme Ownership.
Extreme Ownership is a mindset, a framework, and a tool set. To be sure, the themes discussed in the book are targeted at leaders and potential leaders but have applicability to individual contributors as well. Themes such as “leading up and down the chain of command” and “prioritize and execute” employ individual contributors to own responsibility of their part of the team and that each link in a team is vital to the ability to win.
In addition to offering actionable leadership wisdom, Extreme Ownership offered amazing stories of the Battle of Ramadi. I frequently found myself “page turning” while reading about deployment scenarios. The battlefield that Task Unit Bruiser was engaged in served as an amazing backdrop not only for leadership, but for amazing tales of bravery, loss, and heroism.