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"Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win" - Book Review

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Review by Lindin Mathanserk of "Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win," written by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin


In our communities, workplaces, and teams it can sometimes feel like everyone is always trying to shift the weight of responsibility off their shoulders onto another's. The CYA (Cover Your Ass) mentality runs so deep in the modern mind that risk is not just mitigated, it is outright avoided. Leaders are often more concerned with who is in what lane rather than what direction the traffic is flowing. Extreme Ownership aims at this culture and takes it down, much like U.S. Navy SEALs would take down a high-value target, with speed, intensity, skill, and expertise.


Extreme Ownership is written by two decorated Navy SEALs, Jocko Willink, and Leif Babin, each with extensive combat and civilian business leadership experience. It has become required reading in many leadership circles both military and civilian. The book is a powerful and transformative tool that takes a definitive stand regarding effective leadership. Leaders own it all. Cradle to grave, soup to nuts, concept to product, planning to execution, every leader owns everything in the process. Delegation is critical, trust is vital, and teamwork is essential but if you are a leader at any level… ownership of the task, product, or mission is yours. Drawing on their vast experiences in combat, Willink and Babin skillfully weave battle-tested principles into valuable lessons applicable to any arena of life. By embracing the core concept of extreme ownership, readers are invited to take control of their lives and become effective leaders.


Through this book the authors translate an unflinching look at the brutal truths of leadership, emphasizing that a leader's success or failure hinges on their ability to assume responsibility for every stakeholder within their sphere of influence. Extreme Ownership uses three parts to demonstrate that an unwavering commitment to ownership is the anchor for leadership success. The book opens with Part I: Winning the War Within. Readers are transported to the streets of Ar-Ramādī in the heat of the Iraq war and exposed to a brutal story of combat and its eventual conclusion, casualties. In this example, readers can see several avenues where responsibility (and ownership) for the conditions that caused the friendly casualties, could have been shirked away. However, even when faced with the chaos of street-to-street fighting (one of, if not the most, dynamic leadership challenge there is) Willink proves that ownership and responsibility, even when things go wrong… especially when things go wrong is the best way for leaders to learn, grow, and earn the respect of those they lead. Part I continues to expand on the extreme ownership concept as Babin teaches the reader that there are no bad teams, only bad leaders. Part I is a tough pill to swallow, a required look in the mirror that many leaders may not want to take but need to if they genuinely want to lead. Part II: Strategies and Part III: Sustaining Victory takes a building block approach with specific techniques and scenarios that expand on the concept of extreme ownership. Babin translates military concepts like "cover and move" into civilian concepts of corporate teamwork. Both authors reach back to the Battle of Ramadi to demonstrate the importance of clear and concise communication, decentralization of leadership (but not ownership), and a clear focus on the chief goal. Additional chapters focus on specific aspects of leadership and are just the right size to digest. Topics such as building trust and managing egos, decentralized command, and effective communication are all broken down and connected back to how ownership supports leadership.


Extreme Ownership is no classroom or boardroom concept (though it creates success in both those arenas), but a real-world battle-tested concept forged by both authors’ experience leading some of the most highly trained warriors through some of the toughest fighting of the Iraq War. Willink and Babin illustrate extreme ownership’s profound impact on team dynamics, problem-solving, and personal growth. Extreme Ownership is a must-read for any level of leader, experienced or green, military, or civilian. The book's ability to blend an in-your-face storytelling style with expertly crafted leadership lessons results in a highly practical, easy-reading book. This book has relevance to a broad range of readers. Whether leading a corporate team, managing a small business, or striving for personal growth, the principles of Extreme Ownership are universally applicable. It is concise yet powerful, enabling readers to absorb and understand the key concepts without feeling overwhelmed. Extreme Ownership is also a motivational force, inspiring readers to take ownership of their lives, work, and relationships. The authors challenge conventional wisdom and provide a refreshing approach to leadership that empowers individuals to adapt, persevere, and overcome obstacles.


Extreme Ownership is a must-read for aspiring leaders and anyone seeking personal and professional growth. It is captivating, relatable, and actionable. In a world that seeks to foist responsibility anywhere but on oneself, this book provides the experiences and hard-won lessons of two elite warriors that can help buck that trend. Extreme Ownership is an effective tool that can be used to cultivate the leadership skills needed to improve yourself and those around you by owning and taking responsibility for your life, actions, and those things you can control.


Review by Tribesman Lindin Mathanserk a USMC Staff NCO and Combat Veteran


Navy SEAL book

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