Extreme Ownership Book Review

Extreme Ownership Book Review

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

Perhaps one of the better self improvement, leadership, and business type books I have ever read. Not only does this book provide an example based structure for teaching, but it provides unique insights into the principles used by Navy Seals in battle and shows how they can be used in business with real world examples. Each chapter breaks down one of 12 unique principles, demonstrates how they are used during combat missions, redefines the principle, then examines how they are applicable to business. This simple structure makes the book easy to understand, read, and apply. For anyone looking to improve themselves so they are better leaders, employees, freelancers, etc. this book should be a must read.

I have taken the time to break down each principle as a way to provide both a reference and overview for myself and others. If you have not read this book, the following will show you exactly what you will be learning. For those who have read this book, the following will help you reference the material quickly, until you have committed the lessons and principles to memory by repeated action.

Part One: Winning the War Within

Extreme Ownership

Principle: The leader must own everything in his or her world.

No Bad teams, only bad leaders

Principle: It’s now what you preach, but what you tolerate.


Principle: Be a true believer requires you to know the why.

Check the Ego

Principle: The most difficult ego to deal with is your own.

Part Two: Laws of Combat

Cover and Move

Principle: Teamwork is key. Work together to accomplish the mission.


Principle: Things will inevitably go wrong. Simplify as much as possible.

Prioritize and Execute

Principle: Relax, look around, make a call. Anticipate challenges to prevent overwhelming events to enable decisiveness.

Decentralized Command

Principle: Small teams of 6-10 people. Designate a leader for teach team to build teams within teams. Every leader must understand what to do and why they are doing it.

Part Three: Sustaining Victory


Principle: What is the mission, goal, or objective? Plan according to your mission and eliminate what is irrelevant.

Lead up and down the chain of command

Principle: Leading Down. Give greater ownership of plans to the troops, and provide detailed briefs to those up the chain.

Principle: Leading Up. If your boss isn’t providing the necessary support, don’t blame the boss. Tactfully engage with your boss to obtain the necessary support.

Decisiveness and Uncertainty

Principle: You will never have the full picture. Make decisions promptly from the information you have, then be ready to adjust these plans when new information is presented.

Discipline equals Freedom

Principle: Every leader walks a fine line. Every leader must find the balance between extremes and balance opposing forces to lead with maximum effectiveness.

Leaders must be ready to lead and willing to follow.

Discipline = Freedom is true because when leaders are disciplined enough to make time, they will find they can accomplish what they need to. When you are accomplishing your goals and meeting your needs, you will find greater freedom as a result.

The Dichotomy of Leadership

*the following is taken from page 277-278 of Extreme Ownership, written word for word, as a reference.

A good leader must be:

  • confident but not cocky;
  • courageous but not foolhardy;
  • competitive but a gracious loser;
  • attentive to details but not obsessed by them;
  • strong but have endurance;
  • a leader and follower;
  • humble not passive;
  • aggressive not overbearing;
  • quiet not silent;
  • calm but not robotic, logical but not devoid of emotions;
  • close with the troops but not so close that one becomes more important than another or more important than the good of the team; not so close that they forget who is in charge;
  • able to execute Extreme Ownership, while exercising Decentralized Command;

A good leader has nothing to prove, but everything to prove.

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