I’ve owned a gym for 7 years. And I’ve been a bad leader for a lot of that time.
Sometimes you read a book and the words are like little daggers that cut right down to the core. For me, that’s what Extreme Ownership did.
Written by a pair of seriously badass Navy Seals, it really breaks down leadership in a way that makes you feel how important it is. They describe how a combat operation is just like a mission or task in the business world, just amplified. A combat operation, has higher stakes (amplified intensity of outcomes) and decisions need to be executed even faster (amplified speed).
Top 5 Take-Aways
1) There are only two kinds of leaders: Effective, and Ineffective–It’s all about completing the mission.
2) In order for a mission to be successful, everyone must understand why it’s being done a certain way. “Because I said so,” isn’t leadership.
3) Communication should happen frequently and with complete information.
In the book they told a story about a miscommunication that resulted in an all-out firefight. The worst part was that it was friendly fire. A squad of marines shot 150 rounds of .50 caliber (big ass gun) into a building where a seal team was holed up. Fortunately there was only one casualty and a seal was shot in the face–but it could have been far worse. This was a good example of how combat missions amplify decision making and leadership roles. At the end of the day, the leader of the seal team had to take 100% responsibility for the lack of communication resulting in the friendly fire fiasco.
4) Bad leaders pass the blame down the chain.
This was a recurring theme in the book, especially as it started getting into the business world. Example after example showed how commonplace it was for upper and middle management to pass the blame down for what was essentially mission failure. The no-BS attitude of the seals cut right through that and helped these business people understand that it is always the leader who takes the blame. This actually proves to be very liberating for those who eventually take full responsibility. Those leaders who don’t take responsibility end up being fired or let go.
The take home message for me was this: Any shortcoming in my business is either A) My fault for not being more clear with instruction or preparation or B) Bad enough that the employee who is responsible should be fired immediately.
5) Contagious Leadership at every level
A successful mission (combat or otherwise) requires each level of command to express high quality leadership. This, as usual, starts from the top. There was a great story in the book relating the endurance boat races in BUDs. The long story short was that the leader of the last place team made excuses for why his team was losing (“My guys aren’t in as good of shape” etc). So the team leader of the winning team swapped places with him. Not only did the previously last place team battle it out for 1st place, but the original winners continued to perform at the highest level because the leadership qualities made such a lasting impact in the team. Better still, the original excuse maker stepped up his game and got a first-rate lesson in the importance of teamwork and leadership.
No matter how good you are, you can’t handle it on your own. Leadership is about a team of leaders working together up and down the chain of command to complete the mission.
Survival is impossible without good communication. Operations that are not coordinated end up with fratricide (friendly fire casualties).
Everyone has an ego. It drives success everywhere. The desire to win is good. When it clouds judgement however, it becomes destructive. #1 priority must always be the mission instead of the individual ego.
Extreme Ownership is about checking the ego, admitting mistakes, and taking responsibility. Honest Self Evaluation is the most difficult, but most important.
Read the book, absorb the principles, and apply them.
Prioritize and Execute.
Better every day,
P.S. It was so good I ordered copies for all of my coaches at Ambition Athletics!