Thought leadership: Reflections from reading Extreme Ownership

War is an intense laboratory for leadership lessons and the authors of Extreme Ownership (former Navy Seals Jocko Willink and Leif Babin) do a terrific job of applying those lessons to everyday business life. In comparison, our day-to-day corporate lives can seem easy – or at least not as risky in terms of human life.

This is an engaging read and well worth the time. There are many messages to take to heart – I’ve included a few of those that had the most meaning to me:

Check your ego at the door

Can you imagine a worse place than war to be faced with egotistical co-workers? Showing off and not listening to advice is going to get you killed, and even worse will put other lives in danger. Ask advice, admit you don’t know, learn and be willing to listen. At BEI and at most companies, our technical and operational staff know much more about critical details than management does – that’s just the way it works. We’re not always successful, but when those staff are in charge of designing systems and communications flow things almost always go well.

Lead up as well as down

In combat, individuals need to make decisions. If your boss doesn’t tell you what to do, then tell them what you’re going to do. Good leaders don’t want to dictate every move – they want good, smart people to tell them the answers. A good boss will give feedback and guidance, but not solutions. That’s why they have you!

Admit your mistakes

A central theme of Extreme Ownership is owning mistakes – very few actions are as motivating as a leader who can say “I was wrong.” Or “It was my fault.” Or “I am to blame.” Skip the step of looking for a scapegoat and go right to figuring out what really went wrong, and what can we do to change the outcome next time.

If you would like to watch a TedX talk by Jocko Willink you can check it out here.

I am interested in your thoughts. I can be reached at