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


Jocko Willink’s book, Extreme Ownership, is one of the best texts on business culture, which was published by St Martin’s Press in October 2015. Since its release, the book has sold over a million copies worldwide and became one of The New York Times’ best selling books in 2015. The book has also registered millions of downloads after being made free on websites.

Soldiers on the battlefield are described as intense and the experience they had around the Ramadi area was incredible. Arguably, there are not many books out there that give such detailed glimpses into the lives of SEALs in action.

The book has revolutionized the mindset of organizations and individuals at large. Its ability to distill the principles from a perspective of war, and map them to organizational setups, has been phenomenal in helping CEOs and managers towards changing and organization’s attitude and building trust with their employees. A number of managers have continuously applied these principles in their organizational set up, and where the principles have seen positive changes towards its overall development. While the authors have a management training program that they implement in different organizations, they have also launched another book called The Epitome of Success that outlines the basic principles of success.

About The Authors

Jocko Willink was born in 1971 and raised in New England. He took up football at a young age and played up to the high school level. In 1990, he was recruited in the U.S, Navy and underwent all the basic training of underwater demolition SEAL (BUDS) at Coronado, California. Willink actively served for eight years as an enlisted Navy SEALs. While on duty, he was part of several missions including the one where an oil tanker belonging to the Russians was seized because it had gone against the UN’s economic embargo. After graduating from the Officer Candidate School, Willink was given the position of platoon commander of the Navy Seals that had been deployed to Iraq in an operation dubbed ’Operation Iraq Freedom’. His book Extreme Ownership is entirely based on the experiences he had in the Ramadi area. He also completed a number of deployments in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia (Macklemore, 2018). Willink retired in October 2010, after 20 years of successful military service. He earned himself a number of awards and decorations due to the missions and operations that were completed successfully under his name.

After a successful military service, Willink decided to pursue other ventures. He currently owns a fitness center in San Diego, where he also trains professional fighters. Together with his co-author, Leif Babin, they own Echelon Front, a company that offers practical solutions to complex situations. The solutions are normally developed from the experiences Willink and Babin had during Ramadi. Willink has also become a popular figure on podcasts where he discusses a variety of topics including leadership, as well as offering body fitness lessons.

Inspirations behind the writing of the book

The authors of this book were platoon commanders of the U.S. Navy SEALs that operated in the area of Ramadi. The leadership roles they had were characterized by challenges and critical decisions that impacted positively to their intellectual growth, and provided an opportunity for them to learn: the combat encounters enabled the authors to rewrite lessons that had been forgotten. Some leadership principles developed during training proved to be ineffective in actual combat; thus, effective leadership was honed and those that proved to be ineffective were discarded. This transformation also led to the authors’ crystallization in the understanding of what it takes to be successful in a combat operation.

Despite the fact that the U.S. Navy SEALs have only managed to piqued public interest so far, the authors chose to exclusively write important lessons that were learned while in the battlefield. These lessons were learned through the success and failure of operations; the authors learned what works, and what does not. Willink and Babin were motivated to find that the leadership principles learned on the battlefield were virtually identical to those learned in the corporate world, where the application of the principles registered improvement in cost management, production efficiency, and other things. The authors were also asked by friends, both in the Navy SEALs and the business world, to document these lessons so that they might be helpful in the future.

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