Extreme Ownership - How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win
Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Contributed by Larisa Brooke
Chapter 3

This chapter is narrated by Willink and begins with the author asking himself a lot of questions, specifically on whether the inclusion of the Iraqi soldiers into the mission will work. He reminisces about the many years his team has worked together, and how it has proved to be a reliable and effective team. They have had many years of training and combat experience that they could anticipate each other’s movement. Willink says that even in the dark, they were able to locate each other’s silhouettes. However, because they had received an order from above to include the Iraqi soldiers in the mission, this created a problem. The author saw this as an unfair directive and wondered whether these two sets of troops will be compatible.- From Willink’s perspective, the Iraqi troops were arguably the worst combat troops in the world; the fact being that most of them joined the army for a paycheck due to the dire economic conditions. The troops were also poorly trained and had no basic war equipment and uniform. In fact, most of them wore sneakers as boots. But, more importantly, the Iraqi soldiers were poorly motivated and trained.

The message of including the Iraqi soldiers into the mission was received with great resistance throughout the ranks. The troop saw it as a way of making the mission harder because they believed in their own ability and competency. They also feared the element of mistrust between them and the Iraqi soldiers. On critically thinking about the whole issue and trying to understand the bigger picture, Willink realized that it was not about winning on the military perspective but rather how to make a stable and peaceful country; and if they could not train the Iraqi soldiers to protect their own country, it would mean the need for American soldiers to be deployed into these dangerous lands, and help them protect their own country for generations to come (Wilhite, 2018). Willink realized that there was a reason why the order wanted them to include the Iraqi soldiers in their operation; and the reason was that, maybe, it was time for the Iraqi soldiers to be independent and learn how to protect themselves.

The task that was before Willink was to help his troops understand and believe this revelation. He convened an urgent meeting in an attempt to convince them to believe and understand the directive, in which he was successful. Willink made them realize that if they are not going to teach the Jundhis how to protect themselves, then it meant the troops will never go home; they will have to continue staying around the areas of Ramadi to protect and guard the Iraqi citizens.

From the business perspective, Willink found himself in a situation where a class of middle level managers complained about the new compensation plan developed by the company’s top management, and argued that the plan will definitely push their salespeople to the competitors. He realized that the middle managers were not candid enough to ask the manager why the plan was being implemented. Instead, they opted to rely on excuses and rumors to complicate the situation. The issue that Willink observed was that the employees understood the plan, but never knew why the plan was being implemented.


A true leader must first believe in the mission. Even if others doubt and ask if the risk involved in the mission is worth it, the leader must still believe. This will convince and inspire others to align themselves to the mission as well. Believing in the mission will also help the leader to do whatever it takes, by risking it all so that the mission is achieved. Willink says that leaders must always operate with the understanding that they are part of something greater than themselves and their personal interest.

In the case of a new directive or order from above leading to a change in the mission, leaders must exercise critical thinking and analyze the prospects of the new order. They must ask the questions “why deconstruct the situation at hand, and try to paint the picture of how the new directive will be important to the organization?” This will help the team with believing in the mission. Willink says the leaders who believe in the mission should demonstrate this in their actions and in what they say. This will make it possible for all the subordinates and juniors in all ranks to believe in the cause of the mission.

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