Extreme Ownership - How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win
Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Contributed by Larisa Brooke
Themes are described as ideas that dominate a particular piece of literature. In almost all cases, pieces of literature will be centered a theme or a number of them.
The Power of Extreme Ownership

Extreme ownership is the dominant theme in this book. The authors suggest that extreme ownership can play a big role in making a team, an organization, or even an individual, win. The emphasis is put on leaders to demonstrate extreme ownership in all ranks, meaning that responsibility exist for all. They must be prepared to deal with the consequences of their decisions, and avoid shifting blame to their juniors and subordinates. By demonstrating this, the leaders will inculcate a sense of accepting responsibility throughout the chain of command (Wieckowski, 2018). Everyone will feel obligated to perform his/her duties to the expected standards and will not shift blames and excuses to others. In the long run, an individual or a team that embraces extreme ownership will realize a greater ease in implementing the objectives for a mission.

In one of the combat experiences, Willink was able to prove how this principle of extreme ownership can work. The blue-on-blue friendly fire incident was considered as one of the SEALs’ deadly sins, and Willink found himself in this situation because he had never anticipated it. He pondered and asked himself many questions about what went wrong, and it was a bit difficult for him to blame his juniors. He resorted to taking the blame himself, where it was a difficult decision for him to make. Fortunately, the move had positive impact on the mission, specifically where the attitude of his juniors had of him were concerned.

The Challenge of Leadership

The challenge of leadership is prominent in all the chapters of this book. Team leaders are subjected to situations that require rational thinking, humility, and sobriety in making decisions. In most of the cases, leaders are found to be in conflict with their juniors just because they have not understood the mission objectives. Leaders are forced to explain who should be doing this and why, and how the objectives aligns itself with the organization’s mission (Feloni, 2018). Leadership egos are also brought to a test in the book. There are some situations where a leader can scare off the juniors just because of the self-importance that he/she has subscribed to. This hinders positive criticism and it makes it rather difficult for the juniors to ask their leader why something is happening in the team or in the organization.

Willink states that leadership is both a technique and a skill. Leaders must strive to know everything that is happening inside and outside of the team’s mission objectives. They must be good enough in making quick and perfect decisions based on the immediate information that they have. Regarding ego, Willink notes how it clouds and disrupts everything; the planning process; the ability to take good advice; and the ability to accept constructive criticism. It is important for leaders to acknowledge that there are levels of acceptable ego, and levels of which it can be termed as destructive.

Critical Thinking

In a number of chapters, Willink and Babin are in between situations that require critical thinking prior to making a decision. In the first chapter, Willink struggles with the dilemma of whether to own the blame of the blue-on-blue friendly fire incident, or pass it to the SEAL commander who was on the ground. They are also required to think critically about the directive that required them to work with the Iraqi soldiers (Niesen, 2018). This was because the SEALs and army officers did not receive the directive positively, and where most of them were in objection to it. They had to think deeply and come up with a way of convincing the others to understand that the idea was a long term target, which was aimed at building-up the Iraqi army to be able to protect and maintain their own country in the future.

It is very important for leaders to critically think and analyze the immediate information that is before them before making a decision. In any organization or team, a decision made at the top normally affects the different ranks, and how they can either motivate or spark resistance. Therefore it is important that leaders make decisions that are friendly and can easily be interpreted by their juniors.

The Significance of Communication

Communication is vital in an organization or a team as it helps to clarify matters and avoid confusion in the various ranks. It is very important to develop a channel of communications, be it up or down the chain of command. This will assist in defining and breaking down the objectives of the mission. It will help the leader to explain to his/her juniors what to do, while also providing them with their true sense of purpose (Sandy, 2016).

Willink states that if a junior does not understand the mission, he/she must find a way in doing so, possibly by asking questions. In addition to their ultimate realization, this will also assist the junior in learning the strategic objectives. Willink was able to convince his troops to believe in the idea of working alongside the Iraqi soldiers.

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