Link to Book

Version: 2015 Original

Rating: 4.5/5


  • Leaders are responsible for everything that occurs

    • When something bad happens, they take complete responsibility for it
    • When something great happens, they give credit to their team and those leaders under them
    • No blaming others or circumstances for it
    • You will get more respect if you take responsibility for your mistakes and you blame yourself
  • There are no bad teams, only bad leaders

    • Event the worst of teams can be made better with the change of the leader
    • The leader must place himself in the most difficult position and lead
    • Setting immediate goals that are tangible instead of pursuing the actual gigantic goal will help the team perform better because it will allow for better performance and focus
    • Push individuals harder and farther than they thought they can go
    • “It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate” (pg: 61) (when dealing with someone that is stubborn, let them know the consequences of their actions)
  • Believe

    • You’ve got to get your team to understand why they are doing what they are doing so they can believe in the mission
    • The leader’s attitude and belief will carry on to the team’s
    • The leader needs to understand why they should carry on the mission in order for the leader to believe it
    • Sometimes, team members that seem useless can be useful in unexpected ways
    • Leaders need to step back, analyze the strategy and try to understand the why behind a task/plan
    • If leaders cannot determine the why, they should ask questions so that they can explain to their subordinates
      1. Ask senior management questions if necessary
  • Check the ego

    • Leadership involves dealing with other people’s ego
    • It’s not about you, it is about the mission and how best to accomplish it
      1. If team holds this attitude, they are highly likely to win
  • Cover and Move

    • When all options are not good options, choose the least bad option
      1. Similar to the idea of picking the lesser of two evils
    • Make sure to look out for all of your team, they are all trying to accomplish a common mission
      1. Protect your fellow team mates from any danger they may be facing
    • Focusing too much on your problems and individual team rather than on the overall big picture team (like a country or business) will lead to ineffectiveness when dealing with the big picture and accomplishing the overall goal
  • Simple

    • Your team not being able to understand the plan will lead to disaster and not being able to execute on it
    • Minimize complexity to ensure that problems that will eventually arise won’t compound themselves
    • Simple, clear, and concise communication and plan
    • No matter how well you think you explained it, if your team does not understand it, then it is too complex and you failed
  • Prioritize and execute

    • Find the highest priority task and complete that task with full focus
    • Make sure to not fall for hyper target fixation and stay alert to the big picture to avoid missing priority shifts
    • Do not try to solve different problems and tasks at the same time, the leader and their team will get overwhelmed and won’t execute anything effectively
    • It is crucial that leaders “pull themselves off the firing line” (pg: 162) by stepping back and looking at the bigger strategic picture
    • When planning a lot of helpful tasks/initiatives to complete, focus all energy on highest priority, then on next highest priority… etc.
  • Decentralized command

    • You will miss the bigger picture and fail to perform higher level strategic thinking if you focus too much on trying to control and operate everything without trusting subordinates to take charge of specific situations
    • Your subordinates should not ask what they should do, they should say what they are going to do
      1. For this to happen, subordinates need to be able to make strategic decisions themselves
    • Subordinates need to know that their leaders respect and trust them to execute effectively
    • The leader should set clear and simple boundaries and guidance to prevent subordinate groups from doing whatever
    • The leader should allow subordinates to make decisions and perform tasks, even if the leader can do it more efficiently and better themselves
  • Plan

    • Although it appears burdensome and unnecessary, a plan is key to helping the success of any mission
    • A successful plan brief test is if your team and supporting elements understand it
    • Steps for planning: (pg: 207-208)
      1. Analyze the goal
      2. Identify people, assets, resources, and time available
      3. Decentralized planning process
      4. Determine specific courses of action
      5. Allow leaders to identify courses of action in plan
      6. Plan for disruptions
      7. Minimize risks that can be controlled
      8. Delegate plan portions to junior leaders
      9. Continually improve plan as more info comes in by analyzing it and questioning it’s effectiveness
      10. Go over plan to anyone that needs to know about it (which is usually everyone on the team)
      11. Make an analysis and debrief to find any shortcomings and things that were done well so that team can improve in the future
    • Not all risks can be controlled, focus on minimizing controllable risks
      1. “Those who will not risk cannot win.” (pg: 206)
  • Leading up and down chain of command

    • Your subordinates need to be part of the planning process in order to be effective
    • If team members can’t connect the dots on what they are doing to the bigger picture, they will not be as effective
    • If your leaders above you are asking a lot of questions, asking for paperwork, and questioning your plan, it may mean that they do not understand it and thus, you need to explain it better
      1. Again, your leaders are not there to make you fail or miserable on purpose
    • If you do not understand why support is not given to you, ask
    • If you don’t know why an action, plan or allocation is being made, ask
  • Decisiveness and uncertainty

    • Leaders need to think logically even in the face of incredible pressure to act
    • Some decisions can be changed/altered later, some can never be changed
      1. Example in book is a sniper shooting (irreversible) vs not shooting (modifiable) when they can’t identify an individual (pg: 251)
    • There will never be a 100% complete picture and waiting for such results in inaction, indecision and delays
      1. A leader must learn to make decisions with the information available
    • A lot of answers will not be immediately clear or answerable when making a decision
    • This “incomplete picture” principle applies to life, not just combat (pg: 255)
    • A leader needs to adjust the direction/plan as more information is obtained
    • Leaders should not let fear overwhelm them because it will lead to indecision
  • Discipline equals freedom - the dichotomy of leadership

    • More disciplined approaches, as long as they’re not excessively restrictive, increase effectiveness, efficiency, and freedom
      1. Excessive focus on pure discipline can lead to problems
    • When a leader struggles, it probably means they are off track and going too far in one direction
    • Leaders do not need to prove anything because of their rank, but they have a lot to prove everyday by showing their team that they are competent enough for the task
    • Leaders need to know that they are in charged of balancing extremes in multiple scenarios
    • Leaders need to know when to follow and not let their egos take over
    • Good leaders must balance both extremes when it comes to any character trait like confidence and cockiness


Willink, Jocko, and Leif Babin. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win. St. Martin’s Press, 2015.