There is something special about life and death situations that bring clarity to life. Learning leadership in an office setting where a paper cut is living dangerously doesn’t live in the same universe where a single mistake could cost people their lives (see the video at the end.) This starkness of life and death is what makes military books great for growing leadership. The lessons and stories clear the fog and simplify the principles.
Extreme Ownership by Navy Seals Jocko Willink, and Leif Babin is an excellent example of life and death battlefield experiences, melded with clear and straightforward leadership truths that are easy to understand and apply.
“There can be no leadership where there is no team.” – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Right out of the gate the book kicks off with explosives, bomb technicians, AK-47’s, RPG’s, and a blood pumping, surging adrenaline story of life and death. In a very vivid and compelling way, the book sets an excellent foundation for why “leadership is the single most important factor on the battlefield.” – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
The book is laid out simply and consistently. Each chapter starts with the principle, which is illustrated by a captivating life and death story, which is then followed by how to live out the principle in everyday life. The stories and examples from the Iraq war suck you right in and do a great job driving the point home.
One element that sets this book apart from many other leadership books is how the authors transpose these life and death, battlefield problems to everyday life.
After the introduction of why leadership is the single most important factor, three sections follow.
The first four principles focus on the leader.
The second four principles focus on how to lead.
The final four principles focus on how to win.
Each of the principles is solid, very applicable, and right on the money.
“The best leaders are not driven by ego or personal agendas. They are simply focused on the mission and how best to accomplish it.” – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Several times throughout the book, we hear about Navy Seals Chris Kyle, Mark Lee, and Ryan Job. Having read Ryan Job’s story recently (see link below), it was interesting to see the intersecting war stories.
This is an easy book to read, hard to put down and lays the principles out in such a way you can’t get enough. If you dislike reading, you will enjoy this book; and if you want to buy a book for the non-reading friend or family member, this is the book to get.