Though I may enjoy a book, it is easy to quickly forget the primary themes and lessons. As I complete books in the future, I’d like to start putting up short and simple reviews. Then hopefully I can capture my main takeaways while the content is still fresh on my mind.
I read Extreme Ownership back in November (I know that thanks to the Goodreads app!). It is written by two former Navy SEALs, Jocko Willink (whose podcast I have recommended in the past) and Leif Babin. Through skillful storytelling, the authors parallel moments and situations on the battlefield to life and business. Jocko now runs a business, Echelon Front, which offers consultative services, focusing especially on leadership. Leif is an instructor at the company.
The title of the book calls on people to take ownership for their actions, no matter what. This is no easy task, as many times workers and individuals argue, “It was out of my control” or “I don’t have the authority to make that decision.” But by taking responsibility and ownership for every situation, regardless of rank and position, you are then forced to think creatively and act boldly, doing everything you can to affect the outcome of a situation in the most positive way. Thinking like this has definitely challenged me in my work. There were many nuggets of wisdom that I gleaned from the book, but two main themes in particular stood out.
We are responsible to communicate down the chain of command… and up!
I have never served in the military, but it seems as though the picture we get of military service is do what your told, period. Doing what you are told is not a bad thing. Leaders are put in place to guide their team and give thoughtful orders. However, I absolutely love this book’s lesson of being willing to communicate with superiors and ask questions when an individual has reasonable and genuine qualms with the directives. The authors offer real world examples where this behavior occurred, and how it was beneficial.
I think of the book Ordinary Men, a sad and disturbing book that chronicles a group of middle class, middle aged mostly German men, who willfully committed atrocities against Jews and others who fell victim to Nazi Germany during World War II. These men were simply… “following orders.” It seemed as though many of these men did not volunteer or seek out to commit the horrible crimes that they did. Yet they obeyed and complied with the orders given, without questioning those in command. I do not support the notion that in certain constructs, orders should be obeyed no matter what. That is a recipe for disaster. And any believer in Christ, should be willing to stand up to an order that goes against Biblical teaching and morality.
Step back, and see the big picture
I love this lesson. Many business leaders warn of the dangers of working in your business too much and not on your business. It is easy to get caught up in the day to day minutia of emails, etc. But businesses need to be attended to in thoughtful and strategic ways, where owners step back, and put time and effort into overseeing the business as a whole. This book talks of how necessary it is for a leader in battle to step back and survey the battlefield. If you are down in the thick of the fighting all the time, your view of the scene is limited, and it becomes difficult to give directives and plan strategies. By removing yourself from the heart of the conflict and looking at the situation as a whole, leaders can better evaluate the current state of a situation and plan productively for the future.
Overall I would definitely recommend this book. It offers practical advice through exciting storytelling and is easy to follow along. I give it four stars.