Extreme Ownership (St. Martin's Press, 2015)

I recently finished up one of the best leadership books I have ever read.  That book is Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

Jocko and Leif are former Navy Seal officers and the founders of a company called Echelon Front which offers business and leadership consulting services.

After more than 20 years of leadership and personal development, it is exceedingly rare to find something truly fresh and original.  Extreme Ownership brings an entirely fresh perspective to the leadership discussion.  Moreover, the writing is simultaneously engaging, entertaining, and extremely practical with immediately apparent application to your business and your life.

When I first saw the book, the title caught my attention.  What does that mean, “Extreme Ownership?”  How could a book called “Extreme Ownership,” be a leadership book?

It turns out that the concept of Extreme Ownership is a principle that, once understood, can transform both your effectiveness as a leader and your results as an individual and organization.  One strength of the book is, while there are several principles taught, there is ultimately a single lesson: Extreme Ownership.  Every principle is simply a different facet of that overarching concept.  For that reason, the book simple yet profound.  It is the best kind of lesson.  One you can grasp immediately, but spend a lifetime mastering.

The format of the book is thoroughly enjoyable.  The writers take turns teaching a principle.  The book explains each principle in a three step process.  First, the authors tell a story from their time as Navy Seal officers in the intense combat theater of Ramadi Iraq.  These recollections read like an excellent thriller with drama and suspense.  From each story comes a leadership principle.  That principle is then discussed and explained.  The third step is a true story of how this principle showed up and was applied at one of Echelon Front’s corporate customers.  For each principle in the book, you get an amazing war story, a leadership lesson learned from that situation, and a clear application to your business.  The “war story – principle – business story” format delivers better learning than most business books that teach a principle and back it up with short anecdotes or quotes.  Three different presentations of a single principle have served to solidify it in your mind.

If you’re wondering if leadership lessons learned in a military environment with rigorous chains of command and legally required compliance of subordinates can apply to you in the civilian world, the answer is a resounding “yes!”  In fact, these lessons are applicable in any environment where you want groups of people to perform at a high level.

I very much enjoyed every page of Extreme Ownership and cannot recommend it more highly.  Do yourself a favor.  Jump on Amazon and get your copy in the mail today.  Better yet, get 10 copies and give the extras to the key members of your team.  This book will be a key contributor to the results you get this year, and in years to come.

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  • Andrea Feldman Walen

    Can’t wait to read it. It’s already arrived, but it’s on a huge pile of backlog. Thanks for the suggestion! You rock! Always looking for something new and fresh!