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  • Writer's pictureNathan Belcher

Extreme Ownership - Willink and Babin

Updated: Jan 11, 2019

As the school year winds down, I have more time to read books outside of education. I have always been interested in leadership, but my reading and learning in leadership has accelerated since 2012. During 2012 and 2013, I left education and worked at a small engineering firm. I enjoyed my time there, and from this experience I understood that leadership is going to be something about which I learn and practice for many years. As I returned to education in 2014, I realized that teaching IS leading. The principles I am learning are applicable with my students and colleagues, and each day presents an opportunity to practice and refine my leadership.

Extreme Ownership is written by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, both of whom "served as U.S. Navy SEAL officers in the SEAL Task Unit Bruiser through the Battle of Ramadi [Iraq] ... Their task unit remains the most highly decorated special operations unit from the war in Iraq." Willink and Babin have organized their leadership principles around the idea of extreme ownership, which is a mindset that leaders have in taking full ownership over all aspects of their sphere of influence.

The book is broken into three parts, with four chapters in each. They are:

  • Part I: Winning the War Within

  • Chapter 1: Extreme Ownership

  • Chapter 2: No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders

  • Chapter 3: Believe

  • Chapter 4: Check the Ego

  • Part II: Laws of Combat

  • Chapter 5: Cover and Move

  • Chapter 6: Simple

  • Chapter 7: Prioritize and Execute

  • Chapter 8: Decentralized Command

  • Part III: Sustaining Victory

  • Chapter 9: Plan

  • Chapter 10: Leading Up and Down the Chain of Command

  • Chapter 11: Decisiveness and Uncertainty

  • Chapter 12: Discipline Equals Freedom -- The Dichotomy of Leadership

Willink and Babin begin each chapter with stories from their time in Iraq, develop principles from the story, and give an example of the principles in a business setting. Although the principles may be simple, the stories bring life to the principles and show their applicability. "Chapter 7: Prioritize and Execute" was a favorite because I am currently in a place where I have many activities happening, and the stories and ideas helped me understand the necessity of effectively prioritizing my actions. "Chapter 10: Leading Up and Down the Chain of Command" spoke to me because I am working my way into unofficial leadership positions, and I have to understand how to work with students and colleagues in all aspects of the school and district.

I highly recommend this book for any aspiring leaders; although the principles may be simple, the lessons are timeless. I also gained a greater understanding of the inner-workings of the military, which provided an interesting backdrop for the leadership principles.

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