Extreme Ownership - How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win
Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Contributed by Larisa Brooke
Chapter 4

This chapter is narrated by Jocko Willink, and begins by depicting an attack by insurgents on the U.S, outpost, who had ambushed it during the late hours. In return, the U.S. responded to the insurgents, which was characterized as a morning of extreme fires on both sides. It was dawning on Willink that since the beginning of the 3rd deployment in Iraq, the level of sophistication and determination of the insurgents became quite alarming. This was far greater than any resistance the SEALs had encountered in their previous deployments. The Muj had mastered a complex way of conducting attacks on a number of the U.S. outposts located several kilometers away from each other. Despite the determination, the U.S. troops never made it any easier for the insurgents, where they protected themselves behind sandbags and strong concrete walls.

After a month of operations in Ramadi, Willink says the teams have mastered the area and discovered strategic places to position themselves when the enemy attacked. The number of insurgents killed under Task Unit Bruiser-grew to unprecedented levels. Willink says that every Iraqi soldier killed meant one more day of survival to U.S. soldiers. It also meant the Iraqi inhabitants were guaranteed another day of peaceful stay. The chapter is centered on the event when the SEALs from Task Unit Bruiser set out to work out with other troops from Camp Corregidor. The ground platoon commander felt inferior because he taught the troops from the American advisors, and the Iraqi soldiers were more trained and equipped than the SEALs from Task Unit Bruiser. He was worried that the guys could be better and possibly take away their mission. Willink found himself between two sides who could not swallow their self-importance and work together as a unit. The group of American advisors clearly stated that they will not take any directives given by the SEAL platoon commander. Willink resorted to calming their egos and engaging them to work closely during the field operations. This was important because the enemy was not within, but rather the insurgents who were lurking in the streets of Ramadi ready to kill and injure innocent individuals.

From the business perspective, Willink and Babin were interacting with a guy called Gary; who was complaining that the superintendent working under him had violated the basic operational standards by swapping out a critical piece of equipment. Babin was concerned to know why Gary was overreacting about the whole matter. It seemed that his ego was bruised by the decision of the superintendent not clearing the equipment through him. Willink and Babin helped Gary swallow his ego, which then led to his constructive talk with the superintendent. Even though the superintendent was the one to blame, Gary as a leader had to own it all and accept positive criticism. This would steer a positive communication between him and the superintendent.


This chapter focuses on ego as a factor driving most leaders and individuals. Willink says that ego clouds and disrupts everything, including the ability to take good advice and accept constructive criticism. Ego is a driver in daily interactions with people; it refers to the importance one has placed on him or herself. In most cases, the ego is preferred, but not at all levels, especially when it clouds one’s judgments and opinions. Individuals may be driven by ego to pursue their personal agendas and ignore advises and criticism. When ego reaches this level, Willink says it is destructive because it will hinder constructive criticism.

Embracing extreme ownership calls for scrutiny of one’s ego and the slight exercising of humility in daily interactions. This involves accepting corrections, accepting mistakes and taking blame in most cases. Leaders should integrate plans to overcome challenges in their mission. This will help in conducting an honest and realistic assessment of his performance and that of his subordinates.

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