Extreme Ownership Book Review

   

Extreme Ownership, written by former Navy Seals Leif Babin and Jocko Willink, talks about leadership effectiveness. Leaders who choose to accept accountability for actions are better than those who blame others for mistakes. Babin and Willink talk about why leaders need to take responsibility and what that means for the corporate environment.

I’ll describe the book to you then I’ll tell you my opinion. But first, here’s my rating:

My Rating: 9/10

Leaders Accept Blame For Failures

The authors discussed some of their failures in the book. One failure came when Willink commanded a SEAL unit in Ramadi, Iraq when his team came under fire. After returning fire, Willink realized that they were taking fire from a friendly unit. This friendly-fire incident killed one soldier.

Willink emphasized ownership over the situation. Since he was in charge, he needed to be accountable. He took full responsibility for the incident, and he was allowed to remain in command. It’s important to realize that leaders are not infallible; rather, good leaders learn from their mistakes and take responsibility when problems arise.

The book also emphasizes how the worst leaders lay blame on those below them, which creates a toxic culture that permits passivity and complaint. Organizations are ineffective when leaders allow blame and complaining.

Extreme Ownership

Photo by Pixabay

Prioritize Your Tasks

Priorities are essential. Tasks start to pile up at whatever we’re doing throughout our day. Babin recounted an experience where he had an injured team member, but they were still in enemy territory. Because of competing priorities, Babin decided to keep his team safe then take care of the wounded team member.

Babin goes into depth on this one, and he applies it to the business world. People have tasks and priorities every day. Babin argues that leaders must “relax, look around, make a call.” That’s an essential lesson that Babin gives to readers because we don’t always stop and take stock of what’s happening around us.

Assess Your Risks

Leaders must understand what risks they face on the battlefield. Babin and Willink emphasized this point with several accounts of planning for missions. One mission Babin had included a last-minute intelligence report on fortified positions within buildings on Babin’s target location. Babin had already accounted for those variables and was able to get the mission underway without delay.

Similarly, Babin and Willink apply this to business as leaders project their products. What risks can the company face within the next 1-5 years? These authors talk a lot about how to assess risk.

Extreme Ownership

amazon.com

Things I Liked

Babin and Willink do a great job weaving their combat experience with business experience. Being military, I had more affinity towards the military accounts. However, I saw some valuable leadership advice for daily work rhythms.

First, I liked the author’s interpretation of responsibility. If you make a mistake, fix it. There’s no ambiguity. Responsibility was critical for me because my first job as a lieutenant was humbling. I did not account for my mistakes, and it weakened my ability to lead. If there is nothing that you get from this book, it’s that ownership of problems will exponentially increase your capacity to lead.

Second, I learned about dealing with superiors. Have you had a boss that keeps nagging you for information? I have. It’s not fun. Babin and Willink talk about how your bosses have specific priorities they want to fulfill. If they need essential information, reports, or briefs, then ask. You must take responsibility to ask your boss what they need. It’s not useful for you or your bosses if you keep getting annoyed while you’re trying to work. It boils down to priorities. Ask what your boss wants. Also, be clear to your subordinates about what you want.

Finally, the book talked about coordinating measures with other units. If you don’t take responsibility for that coordination, then you’re liable. Refer back to Willink’s account about his friendly-fire incident. Facilitating conversations with neighboring units was paramount for him and the success of the team. Similarly, business dealings are intricate projects. Ensure you know who to go to when you need help and/or resources.

Buy Extreme Ownership

What I Didn’t Like

I listened to the audiobook, and I didn’t enjoy the narration. Babin and Willink are intense readers, so it made me feel like I was running a marathon every time I listened to the book. Everything was tense, and it came across that way in the narration.

Having said that, I knew what I was getting into when I listened to the book. It might be best to buy the actual book instead of listening to it.

Extreme Ownership

Photo by Pixabay

Conclusion

My critique is minimal compared to other books I’ve read. Like I said before, this book molded me during a difficult time in my early military career. I still refer back to the principles in this book today.

I would put this book in my top five books for everyone to read, not just leaders. Even the people at the bottom of the proverbial totem pole need to understand what to expect from leadership and what they can do to improve their work performances. Extreme Ownership displays a reliable performance of how workplaces should handle responsibility.

If you want to buy this book, click here.

How have you embraced accountability and ownership in your careers? Have you read this book? Let me know what you think in the comments below. Thanks!

16 thoughts on “Extreme Ownership Book Review”

  1. Robb says:

    Thanks for this review of Extreme Ownership. I am a huge fan of personal development and am always on the look out for other books to read. Having also been in the military and a business owner this book definitely appeals to me and I am going to check it out.

    1. Robert says:

      Robb,
      Personal development is crucial in any line of work. I’m glad you’re a fan! I’ll post other reviews of books I read as well as other discussion points for personal development. Thanks for your comment!
      Robert

  2. I think the narration of this would be hard for me to listen too. Do you have an alternative?

    1. Robert says:

      Catherine,
      I really liked Start With Why by Simon Sinek. He’s one of the leading thinkers of our time about leadership. Here’s a review I did for his book: https://leadershipbrownbag.com/book-review-start-with-why/. Simon narrates it and he has a really upbeat and encouraging tonality. I hope you’ll like this one!
      Robert

  3. Christine says:

    This looks like an important book to read. So many people like to blame others or circumstances for their problems, not only at work, but also in private life. Taking ownership of your actions is a lesson to learn, and it takes time to learn. The moment we understand that we are responsible for our actions is the moment we can start bettering or working on ourselves.

    1. Robert says:

      Christine,

      Absolutely! This is one of my favorite leadership books to date. I believe we should all try and better ourselves by taking accountability for our lives. Thanks for your comment!

      Robert

  4. SAM says:

    I do believe that the military would provide a great takeaways on leadership. I love self-improvement books and I agree that good leaders needs to take ownership to lead well. In a business setting, culture moulds from the one leading and flows through the team.

    Your review is helpful. Am highlighting this page for more.

    Cheers.
    SAM

    1. Robert says:

      Sam,

      Leading is an art and a science. I’m glad you enjoyed my review! I’ll have more articles coming out soon. Thanks for your comment!

      Robert

  5. Tom says:

    Hi Robert,

    This book “Extreme Owenership” sounds like an excellent book on leadership. I love reading leadership books that base their examples on the military. I have never been in the military, but there is no other occupation or place in the world where leadership and teamwork is more important.

    Simon Sinek wrote a book called “Leaders Eat Last” and he bases that on his experience of speaking to the Marines and being in their presence for a period of time. You have probably read that book, but if you haven’t I can highly recommend it.

    Thank you for sharing this book and I will let you know when I have read it. I will give my review of it too.

    Keep up the amazing work.

    All the best,

    Tom

    1. Robert says:

      Tom,

      I love “Leaders Eat Last!” Again, it’s one of my favorite leadership books. Absolutely, let me know when you’ve read Extreme Ownership. If you liked “Leaders Eat Last” then this one is another must-read. Thanks for your comment!

      Robert

  6. Good leaders do learn from their mistakes. Guess what? Short-sighted ones believe they never make mistakes. Thank you for a lovely book review. Sounds like a must-read.

    1. Robert says:

      Josephine,

      You’re right! Leaders should learn from their mistakes. I appreciate your comment!

      Robert

  7. Rob Corbett says:

    I have been looking for a new book to read, think I will pick this one up. I always enjoy books by Navy Seals, talk about leadership under pressure.

    Love that he says leader accept blame for failures. Real leaders do but in my experience most people in position of leadership are not real leaders and are very quick to pass the buck when things don’t go right. They look to blame their team. Not the way to do it. Your team wins or loses on your leadership.

    Thanks for the review. Cheers

    1. Robert says:

      Rob,

      I think you’ll really enjoy this book! You’re correct that many leaders fill leadership positions but they don’t act like true leaders. Good leaders will take responsibility and continue their duties. Thanks for your comment!

      Robert

  8. This is a well-dealied book and you say the main top points from it emphasizing the leaders accepting blame. In this extreme ownership book review, you will see the value it has when you read and understand the concepts of what they are saying.
    Being in charge and taking blame does make you stronger and others look at you with more respect.
    We are taking action and getting the book I know that this can help us be stronger people and leaders.

    Cheers,
    Mathew&Deloris

    1. Robert says:

      Matthew/Deloris,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article! Indeed, learning from mistakes makes great leaders. Thank you for your comment.

      Robert

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