What is the ultimate leadership trait?
1: Yesterday, we analyzed a “blue-on-blue” or friendly fire incident that happened in 2006 in Ramadi, the deadly epicenter of the Iraqi insurgency, involving Navy SEAL Task Force Bruiser and its commander Jocko Willink.
Today, we look at the principle Jocko demonstrated in the wake of what had happened.
This principle is the title of the book Jocko wrote with fellow SEAL Leif Babin. It is also “the fundamental core of what constitutes an effective leader in the SEAL Teams or in any leadership endeavor,” he believes. “The leader is truly and ultimately responsible for everything. That is Extreme Ownership.
“On any team, in any organization, all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader,” Jocko writes. “The leader must own everything in his or her world. There is no one else to blame. The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win.”
2: But what about when a subordinate messes up? Aren’t they to blame for their mistakes?
“When subordinates aren’t doing what they should, leaders that exercise Extreme Ownership cannot blame the subordinates,” Jocko writes. “They must first look in the mirror at themselves. The leader bears full responsibility for explaining the strategic mission, developing the tactics, and securing the training and resources to enable the team to properly and successfully execute.”
Extreme ownership requires action. “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.”
The key to being successful? Embracing reality.
“Extreme Ownership requires leaders to look at an organization’s problems through the objective lens of reality, without emotional attachments to agendas or plans,” Jocko observes. “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.”
Extreme ownership is what makes great leaders great. “Not just of those things for which they were responsible, but for everything that impacted their mission,” Jocko writes. “These leaders cast no blame. They made no excuses. Instead of complaining about challenges or setbacks, they developed solutions and solved problems.”
3: The final attribute of extreme ownership? Keeping their egos in check. “Their own egos took a back seat to the mission and their troops. These leaders truly led,” Jocko explains. “They’re also humble—able to keep their egos from damaging relationships and adversely impacting the mission and the team.”
The extreme ownership philosophy applies to life both on and off the battlefield.
“Once people stop making excuses, stop blaming others, and take ownership of everything in their lives, they are compelled to take action to solve their problems,” Jocko writes. “They are better leaders, better followers, more dependable and actively contributing team members, and more skilled in aggressively driving toward mission accomplishment.”
Reflection: What stands out to me about extreme ownership? How can I use this principle in my career and in my life?
Action: Do it.