How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win
I recently finished “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.
These guys are highly decorated retired Navy SEAL officers who led multiple missions in Ar Ramadi, Iraq during operation Iraqi Freedom.
After their military careers came to a close, they started a business consulting agency called Echelon Front. Through Echelon Front, they help businesses build winning cultures and strategies using the lessons and tactics gained from their years of experience leading teams in the most hostile of environments.
I love military history, so this book was an enjoyable read for me.
Each chapter starts with a war story illustration, then segways into an applicable leadership principle, and ends with a real-life business application.
As a solopreneur, a lot of the team leadership specifics were outside the scope of my business model. However, many of the principles established in Extreme Ownership are directly applicable to any leader, whether you’re only leading yourself, your family, or a full team.
Here are the impactful parts of the book from my perspective:
Good leaders don’t make excuses. Instead, they figure out a way to get it done and win.
Jocko tells a story involving SEAL team recruit training on the beach.
The recruits were divided into a number of boat crews. They would have to work together to carry their boat into the surf, paddle out to a marker, then capsize the boat, haul it to shore, then carry it over a series of sand dunes to the finish line.
This was done over and over again.
As the results piled up, one team consistently came in first place, while another team consistently finished last.
As an experiment, Jocko switched boat crew leaders from the first and last place crews.
Low and behold, by only changing crew leaders, the last place boat team beat out all the other teams on the next run.
Same crews, just different leaders.
As solopreneurs, we can always make excuses.
“I don’t have time”, “I don’t feel like it”, and “I don’t know how” are some of the ones that plague me consistently.
However, as leaders, the success of our business depends on us.
As solopreneurs, making excuses is the easy option.
Instead, let’s find a way to make the magic happen.
Ego clouds and disrupts everything.
We all have some level of ego.
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet are driven by it.
Whether in the military, in business, or even at home with our families, we want to be the best.
However, there are times when this driving ego makes everything muddy. It messes with our judgement and causes us to do and say things that don’t even make sense, just to prove our point.
Jocko and Leif remind us that extreme ownership requires one to keep his or her ego in check and operate with a high degree of humility.
As solopreneurs, we can sometimes operate with some sort of chip on our shoulder. Especially those of us who have been at it for years and consider ourselves experts in our field.
We’re used to being the boss and having the final say (after all, it’s just us).
When you’re used to calling the shots and having your way all the time, it can be really easy to blow off others’ ideas and advice as subpar or irrelevant.
After all, we’re the experts up in here.
Let me encourage you to guard against the destructive patterns that can be laid down by a renegade ego.
Listen to others, and learn from everyone!
Leadership is a series of dichotomies.
A “dichotomy” is a division between two different things.
An effective leader must understand how to balance these dichotomies at all times.
Here are the ones listed in Extreme Ownership that are most applicable to the solopreneur:
A good leader must be…
- Confident, but not cocky
- Courageous, but not foolhardy
- Competitive, yet a gracious loser
- Attentive to details, but not obsessed with them
- Strong, yet enduring
- Both a leader and a follower
- Humble, but not passive
- Aggressive, but not overbearing
- Quiet, but not silent
- Calm, but not robotic
- Logical, yet emotional
As solopreneurs, it’s easy to feel like we’re operating in a vacuum.
We don’t usually have a team giving us feedback.
In that scenario, we can develop sloppy leadership habits revolving around ego.
Regularly reviewing the dichotomies of leadership can help us mitigate this risk!
While the Extreme Ownership book is geared more toward CEOs and corporate-level team leaders, its principles are dynamite for solopreneurs, parents, or anyone that has even the smallest of leadership roles.
If you love U.S. military culture and history, it will be an extra special read!
- It was written by Navy SEALs
- Solid actionable leadership principles
- Intriguing modern military wartime accounts
- “Jocko” is the coolest name ever
- Geared toward corporations rather than solopreneurs