Extreme Ownership - How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win
Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Contributed by Larisa Brooke
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Chapter 1
Summary

This chapter is set in a hotly contested region of Mala district, located in the eastern region of Ramadi area. Willink start the chapter by narrating the events which occurred that morning, by portraying a picture of how the fog of war filled the air. This fog mainly originated from the soot of burnt tires that were set alight by the insurgents who occupied the area the previous night. It was also because of the clouds of smoke kicked up from the road by the U.S. tanks and Humvees. On this day, the American forces were carrying out their first major operation in the area, though it was characterized by a lot of chaos, as the author puts it. The fog of war had impaired the vision of the soldiers, brought about confusion, and led to broken communications.

The operation kicked off before sunrise. The main event in the chapter is when the sniper element of the SEALs was embroiled in a series of deadly attacks; they requested QRF, which literary meant they were in pain and needed urgent help: Willink was quick to react. He requested the SEAL accompanying him to follow the tank and see if they can offer any assistance. After the pursuit, they came about the marine ANGLICO, who was shooting fiercely towards the building and claimed there was someone among them who betrayed and putting up a serious fight. It was kind confusing for the author because the information stated that the sniper SEALs were to occupy the building. Willink took on the courage to approach the building to confirm if it was a real insurgent putting up a fight, or whether it was the SEAL sniper. It surprised him to find out that it was blue-on-blue friendly fire, which meant the fight was between the same platoon squads.

Entirely, the whole chapter is built on this incident. Willink found himself in deep thought trying to figure out what went wrong and who to blame. Friendly fire was considered as one of the deadliest sins to be committed by a SEAL commander. In most cases, the commanders are ousted and an investigating officer is sent to present a report on what went wrong. Willink later debriefed the entire team and resorted to taking the blame for everything that happened, since he was the commander. This was a crucial decision as it calmed the anxiety of the troops and fostered the trust amongst his juniors, earning him respect among the U.S. Marine conventional commanders.

From the business perspective, Willink had an encounter with the company vice president (VP). The meeting was meant to solve the problem of the organization that had led to poor performances despite the manager being qualified. In every board meeting, the VP provided a myriad of excuses on why the targets were not being met. Willink was tasked to advise the VP prior to the next scheduled meeting. In their conversation, he found out that the employees’ primary problem was that they never understood how the VP wanted the plan executed. Willink mentioned to the VP that his failure to explain the plan to the juniors was the main cause, which lead to the juniors never understanding the plan. Willink advised the manager to take responsibility and own up to his previous mistakes. When the VP was called to address the board of directors at a subsequent meeting, he owned up to the mistakes that resulted in the company to not achieve its manufacturing targets. He later gave a no-nonsense list of what will be done, in a different way, to ensure the company achieves its target in the coming years.

Analysis

In any organization, failure or success rests upon the shoulder of the leader. Willink states that a leader should take responsibility for everything that happens within or outside the organization, as long as it is aligned with its mission. The leader must be ready to accept blame and develop a plan to win. Willink says that the best leaders do not simply take responsibility for their job; they take extreme ownership of everything that impacts on their mission. He also states that this core principle proved to be reliable when he was working as a Navy SEALs on the battlefield. Extreme ownership is not just a principle whose application is limited on the battlefield; it can be adopted by any team, organization or group that is determined to win. Leaders must be ready to take ownership of absolutely everything and try to come up with plans that can help in winning. The underperforming team members should be trained and mentored so as to improve on their performance. A leader who is fond of making excuses and blaming his subordinates can be very harmful to the attitude and motivation in the working environment. As to the case of the VP, the company was not achieving its manufacturing targets because of the excuses and blame-games played by the manager.

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