Notes & Quotes: Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

The following are my favorite quotes from Jocko Willink and Leif Babin's Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win.  
  1. There can be no leadership when there is no team.
  2. Leadership requires belief in the mission and unyielding perseverance to achieve victory.
  3. Combat is reflective of life, only amplified and intensified.
  4. The book derives its title from the underlying principle -- the mind-set -- that provides the foundation for all the rest: Extreme Ownership.  Leaders must own everything in their world.  There is no one else to blame.
  5. I had to take complete ownership of what went wrong.  That is what a leader does -- even if it means getting fired.  If anyone was to be blamed and fired for what happened, let it be me.
  6. The leader is truly and ultimately responsible for everything.
  7. To implement real change, to drive people to accomplish something truly complex or difficult or dangerous -- you can't make people do these things.  You have to lead them.
  8. Extreme Ownership: there are no bad teams, only bad leaders.
  9. When setting expectations, no matter what has been said or written, if substandard performance is accepted and no one is held accountable -- if there are no consequences -- that poor performance becomes the new standard.  Therefore, leaders must enforce standards.
  10. Good leaders don't make excuses.  Instead, they figure out a way to get it done.
  11. If you allow the status quo to persist, you can't expect to improve performance, and you can't expect to win.
  12. They didn't have to jump for joy at the though of fighting alongside Iraqi soldiers on a dangerous battlefield.  But they did have to understand why they were doing it so that they could believe in the mission.
  13. The most important question had been answered: "Why?"
  14. A leader must be a true believer in the mission.  Even when others doubt and question the amount of risk, asking, "Is it worth it?" the leader must believe in the greater cause.  If a leader does not believe, he or she will not take the risks required to overcome the inevitable challenges necessary to win.
  15. Every leader must be able to detach from the immediate tactical mission and understand how it fits into strategic goals.
  16. If you don't understand or believe in the decisions coming down from your leadership, it is up to you to ask questions until you understand how and why these decisions are being made.
  17. Ask questions until you understand why so you can believe in what you are doing and you can pass that information down the chain to your team with confidence, so they can get out and execute the mission.
  18. The American public and much of the Western World lived in willful naivete of the barbaric, unspeakable tactics these jihadis employed.  It was subhuman savagery.  Having witnessed this repeatedly, in our minds and those of the people who suffered under their brutal reign, the muj deserved no mercy.
  19. Discipline in such a situation started with the little things: high-and-tight haircuts, a clean shave everyday, and uniforms maintained.  With that, the more important things fell into place: body armor and helmets worn outdoors at all times, and weapons cleaned and ready for use at a moment's notice.  Discipline created vigilance and operational readiness, which translated to high performance and success on the battlefield.
  20. Overconfidence was risky in such a hostile environment, a mistake most often made by warriors who had never truly been tested.
  21. Ego clouds and disrupts everything.
  22. When personal agendas become more important than the team and the overarching mission's success, performance suffers and failure ensues.
  23. Once the wheels were in motion and the full resources of the team were engaged in that highest priority effort, I could then determine the next priority, focus the team's efforts there, and then move on to the next priority.
  24. Human beings are generally not capable of managing more than six to ten people, particularly when things go sideways and inevitable contingencies arise.
  25. In chaotic, dynamic, and rapidly changing environments, leaders at all levels must be empowered to make decisions.  Decentralized Command is a key component to victory.
  26. The SEAL Teams and the U.S. military, much like militaries throughout history, are based around building blocks of four-to-six man teams with a leader.
  27. It is essential to develop a standardized planning process.
  28. If frontline troops are unclear about the plan and yet are too intimidated to ask questions, the team's ability to effectively execute the plan radically decreases.
  29. Leadership doesn't just flow down the chain of command, but up as well.  We have to own everything in our world.  That's what Extreme Ownership is all about.
  30. If your boss isn't making a decision in a timely manner or providing the necessary support for you and your team, don't blame the boss.  First, blame yourself.  Examine what you can do to better convey the critical information for decisions to be made and support allocated.
  31. The major factors to be aware of when leading up and down the chain of command are these:
    1. Take responsibility for leading everyone in your world, subordinates and superiors alike.
    2. If someone isn't doing what you want or need them to do, look in the mirror first and determine what you can do better to enable this.
    3. Don't ask your leader what you should do, tell them what you are going to do.
  32. That "us versus them" mentality was common to just about every level of every chain of command, whether military unit or civilian corporation.  But breaking that mentality was the key to properly lead up the chain of command and radically improve the team's performance.
  33. Waiting for the 100% right and certain solution leads to delay, indecision, and an inability to execute.
  34. As a leader, my default setting should be aggressive -- proactive rather than reactive.
  35. Discipline equals freedom.
  36. Discipline starts every day when the first alarm clock goes off in the morning.  The moment the alarm goes off is the first test; it sets the tone for the rest of the day.  The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep?  If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win -- you pass the test.  If you are mentally weak for that moment and you let that weakness keep you in bed, you fail.  Though it seems small, that weakness translates to more significant decisions.  But if you exercise discipline, that too translates to more substantial elements of your life.
  37. The temptation to take the easy road is always there.  It is as easy as staying in bed in the morning and sleeping in.  But discipline is paramount to ultimate success and victory for any leader and any team.
  38. Discipline -- strict order, regimen, and control -- might appear to be the opposite of total freedom -- the power to act, speak, or think without any restrictions.  But, in fact, discipline is the pathway to freedom.
  39. Leaders must have a competitive spirit but also be gracious losers.  They must drive competition and push themselves and their teams to perform at the highest level.  But they must never put their own drive for personal success ahead of the overall mission success for the greater team.
  40. The Dichotomy of Leadership.  A leader must be:
    1. Confident but not cocky.
    2. Courageous but not foolhardy.
    3. Competitive but a gracious loser.
    4. Attentive to details but not obsessed by them.
    5. Strong but have endurance.
    6. A leader and a follower.
    7. Humble not passive.
    8. Aggressive not overbearing.
    9. Quiet not silent.
    10. Calm but not robotic.
    11. Logical but not devoid of emotions.
    12. 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.
    13. Able to execute Extreme Ownership, while exercising Decentralized Command.
  41. A leader has nothing to prove, but everything to prove.
  42. Some of the boldest, most successful plans in history have not come from the senior ranks but from frontline leaders.  Senior leaders simply had the courage to accept and run with them.
  43. Extreme Ownership is a mind-set, an attitude.
  44. The goal of all leaders should be to work themselves out of a job.  When mentored and coached properly, the junior leader can eventually replace the senior leader, allowing the senior leader to move on to the next level of leadership.
  45. Leading people is the most challenging and, therefore, the most gratifying undertaking of all human endeavors.
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