Book Review: Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

If humanity is a team then it is on all of us to become better leaders.

Extreme Ownership is a non-fiction book written by ex-Navy Seal operators Jocko Willink and Leif Babin that both educates and entertains. In each chapter, the writers describe real accounts of their military experiences highlighting key aspects of leadership principles, then they lay out the principles involved in a more abstract way and then illustrate the application of the principles to the business world using real-life examples from their work with high-level leaders in the corporate world. Each chapter highlights a specific leadership trait or strategy such as extreme ownership, decentralized command, cover and move, check the ego, leading up and down the chain of command and much more. 

One of my favorite aspects of the book is its accessibility. This book is the opposite of pretentious as it doesn't attempt to show off with inaccessible vocabulary, self-righteous preaching, or overly complex explanations. Both Jocko and Leif write in a similarly straightforward but not dumbed down style. Even though the sections note which author wrote which it was easy to go from section to section even as the authors change. 

I would say the only negative thing I have to say about the book is that sometimes the chapters would go on a little longer than I needed to understand the point of the section. I am sure that having additional examples and further explanation would be helpful for some but a few times I thought to myself, "I get it already." This didn't take away from the overall experience and even when this occurred soon enough a new section would start and the redundancy was over. 

I am very impressed with the writers' ability to apply military leadership strategies to the business world. As I have been in a few leadership positions at the ground level for a couple of large corporations and as I enjoy learning about military history, culture and tactics, I found both the military stories and the corporate business lessons equally compelling. 

The military stories are very detailed offering an in-depth perspective on the realities of our most recent war in the middle east. Most stories focus primarily on the action of front-line soldiers but the stories in this book focus more on what the leaders deal with as well as the effects it has on everyone up and down the hierarchy. I really appreciated the level of interpersonal communication and respect that is portrayed in these sections. 

The corporate lessons were engaging in a different way. They also offered an insight into a world that most will never be a part of and that many think of negatively but the book shows the humanity that exists in these elite organizations. High-level corporate managers are people that have to make very difficult decisions and they don't always know what to do or how to do it. I am inspired by the simple yet difficult solutions that arose from corporate leaders applying the principles outlined in this book. 

Extreme Ownership builds on the idea that to be a great leader you must start with the war inside yourself. It challenges you to take a hard look in the mirror to discover who you really are and what you could be. Once you can take responsibility for yourself and the effect you have on others then you can start to become a great leader. 

Leadership is a heavy burden and should be taken seriously and this book offers a no-bullshit guide that is entertaining, inspiring and practical. I recommend it to anyone interested in personal development as well as those taking on leadership roles. The principles and strategies outlined in this book can help leaders break through the fog of uncertainty to produce tangible results. If humanity is a team then it is on all of us to become better leaders. 

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