Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink Book Summary

Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink | Free Book Summary

Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink

Take the lessons from the battlefield and translate them into easily applicable business principles!

Extreme ownership

In any organization, all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader. The leader must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame. The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win.

No bad teams, only bad leaders

Extreme ownership is not only about leaders owning up to their mistakes, but also about what their actions do to the mindset of their subordinates. 

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Accountability is contagious: refuse to take responsibility as a leader, and you’ll engender a culture of finger-pointing and distrust; on the other hand, shoulder the blame and your subordinates will be stimulated to take full responsibility for their actions.

Cover and move

Cover and move,” in simpler business terms, means “teamwork,” which means collaboration before competition. No matter how small, the role of all members in a team is important – as is the role of all teams within an organization: the focus must not be on them but on the mission. “All elements within the greater team are crucial and must work together to accomplish the mission, mutually supporting one another for that singular purpose.Free book, podcast summaries

Keep things simple

Being able to simplify things is crucial to success because when something goes wrong—and things always go wrong—the more complex the underlying network of connections, the less manageable the spiralling out of control becomes. You can’t expect team members to focus on their mission if mission assignments are not simple and clearly defined. Just as well, nobody can be held accountable if their actions are not outlined from the beginning.

Prioritize and execute

 “Relax, look around, and make a call.” 

This is, of course, applicable in business as well. To implement this strategy, start by evaluating the highest priority problem. Then, lay it out in “simple, clear, and concise terms” for your team. Next, move on to developing and determining a solution, if possible, with the help of your teammates. Once you’ve reached a solution, direct its execution, 

Decentralized command

No one can effectively manage more than 10 people. Your company is probably much bigger. So, do what the Navy SEALs do: divide your company into small teams—each with no more than 4 to 5 members—and assign a leader to each of these teams; decentralized command doesn’t mean junior leaders operating on their own program.

A decentralized command is directly related to belief: all junior leaders must believe in the mission and be aware of not just what to do but why they are doing it. If this is not the case, they must ask their boss until all the whys are clarified.


All planning should begin with a mission analysis. You need to understand it not only in relation to your role but also in relation to the intent and the goal of your superiors. Next, you need to identify personnel, assets, resources, and time available. The third step is to decentralize the planning process and empower the junior leaders with clearly defined decision-making responsibilities. Then, you should determine a specific course of action.

Leading up and down the chain of command

Decentralized command is a winning strategy in peacetime as well. To make sure it works, never question the decisions of your superiors in front of your subordinates. Voice your concerns and dilemmas up the chain. When you have none, start executing the plan as if it were your own. Take responsibility for leading everyone in your world, subordinates and superiors alike.

Use Your Mind

If someone isn’t doing what you want or need them to do, look in the mirror first and determine what you can do to better enable this. Don’t ask your leader what you should do; tell them what you are going to do.


Combat leaders rarely have the full picture when it matters the most. That’s why they train to be prepared to act decisively amid uncertainty. Sometimes, they may make a mistake, but it’s better to make an educated guess than do nothing. Good leaders are great in optimal conditions, but only great leaders are comfortable in chaos.

Discipline equals freedom

English poet Alexander Pope once wrote that “those move easiest who have learned to dance.” Contrary to common belief, freedom is not the absence of chains – it is being able to choose your chains. Without discipline, there is no progress. With it – there is progress in the desired direction.

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