Extreme Ownership - How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win
Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Contributed by Larisa Brooke
Chapter 2

This chapter is set in southern Carolina where Willink and a convention of under SEAL commanders were conducting a class in basic underwater demolition. The class had reached the level where it was referred to as the “hell week”. This is normally characterized by heavy physical activity and intense training, and where the students underwent training for seventy-two hours consecutively-and how most of them opted out during this phase. The hell week ended the dreams of many young ones who had ambitions of serving in the Navy.

The BUD/S students were initially grouped into two different teams with each being assigned a leader. These teams were supposed to sail the boats through the waves of the powerful Atlantic Ocean without failure; they had to depend on one another and with the help of their leader to reach the other end. A phenomenon was observed, specifically at how Team A was performing a significantly better than Team B. The conventional leader then opted to swap the leaders to see if any change in performance will be observed. Subsequently, they noticed that the performance in Team A remained constant even after the leader was changed. This meant that the team did not rely on the leader, but instead they depended on the team spirit they had developed. Performance of Team B also improved because the new leader injected new energy and motivation. Willink and the rest of the team observed that it was not a matter of bad teams, but rather bad leadership.

From the business perspective, Willink had an interaction with a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) whose performance fell below the expected standards. He was good at framing excuses and shifting blame to his juniors. After they had a talk with Willink, he was very reluctant in embracing the concept of extreme ownership. He advised the owners of the company to replace him because he felt the main problem was the CTO. After replacing the CTO, the company began to register improved performance and meeting its targets. The owners of the company contacted Willink to confirm that, indeed, it was not a matter of bad teams but rather bad leadership.


This chapter emphasizes the point that there are no bad teams, but only bad leaders. Leaders should epitomize extreme ownership so that their teams can achieve higher standards of performance. Willink says that it is not about what you preach but what you tolerate. Leaders must be keen when setting standards because, in most cases, when substandard performance is accepted, it becomes the new standard. A good leader must pull all elements in his or her team and focus them towards achieving the organizational mission. This includes supporting team members to discover what their responsibility is and how they should do it. A good example is a BUD/S members on crew V1. They were underperforming because their leader was visionless and lacked a way to encourage and motivate them. Willink says that incorporating extreme ownership in all ranks will cultivate a culture whereby the juniors will not rely on the motivation of the leader or encouragement but rather, they will learn to do things by themselves.

Have study documents to share about Extreme Ownership - How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win? Upload them to earn free Studypool credits!