Extreme Ownership is a book by Jocko Willink that generally falls into my least favorite type of book. It’s a book about self-betterment and becoming a better leader. When I describe Extreme Ownership to someone it always feels like I’m suggesting so fluffy self-help book that tries to play itself off as a tough love self-help book. The reality is not farther from the truth. Extreme Ownership is a self-help book in a way, but its approach, style, and direction are unique all unto itself.
Jocko Willink is a highly decorated Navy Seal commander with experience in multiple theaters but is most well known for his work in Ramadi Iraq. Jocko uses his experience from Ramadi to illustrate the leadership principles that he believes all leaders should exhibit, be it on the battlefield or the boardroom. One of the most refreshing perspectives from this book comes from its focus on leadership rather than management. Management is a position and a job, anyone can be a leader from whatever position they hold. You do not have to have authority to lead, which is a central point in the book.
The main point of the book surrounds taking ownership of any situation you find yourself in and utilizing that ownership to lead out of the situation, good or bad. Ownership is exactly what it sounds like. You take responsibility for the situation and don’t worry about passing blame or who is going to get credit. You simply accept the situation, accept that you are responsible for it regardless of who is at fault and deal with it. This central theme is that you always take responsibility regardless of if you could blame someone else. If someone else messed up then you should have trained them better, helped them, or seen the error earlier to prevent it. YOU are responsible.
I enjoy the stories and perspective Jocko brings and while he does emphasize points repeatedly the principles are simple, to the point and he makes it clear you really need to absorb the concepts fully. This is not a book where you will want to read it once and mull on it and enjoy the new perspective. The book demands action and accountability and if that is not something you find appealing the book will be a struggle for you. Anyone can learn from this book regardless of their place in life and you don’t even have to agree with everything to gain a lot. I’d really encourage anyone and everyone to read it.
Jocko runs a podcast as well that follows the same line of thought. You can check out this book (no affiliate link) and podcast over at Jocko Podcast. It’s entertaining although sometimes the language in the podcast can get a little adult.