Extreme Ownership Fundamentals

I cannot express how grateful I am for discovering Jocko Willink and the message that he, and his teammate Leif Babin, deliver. Their book, “Extreme Ownership” and distills lessons learned on the battlefield down to fundamental concepts that can be applied to everyday life. Those lessons apply to both business and personal life. I myself have found tremendous value in applying a greater degree of ownership to everything in my life and have already benefited from the added level of discipline. Willink prescribes four fundamental concepts that he calls the Law of Combat.  They are Cover and Move, Simple, Prioritize and Execute, and Decentralized Command.

Willink and Babin intimately describe each of these concepts in great details in “Extreme Ownership” and “The Dichotomy of Leadership.” Additionally, their Leadership Development Handbook summarizes each of these concepts. Those summaries are ideal for this forum.

Cover and Move: “Each member of the team is critical to success, while the main effort and supporting efforts must be clearly delineated. If the team fails, everyone fails. Even if a specific member of the team or an element within the team did their job, but the overall team fails and the mission isn’t accomplished, they all still fail. If the team succeeds, they all succeed. Accomplishing the mission is the highest priority.”

Simple: “Combat, like anything in life, has inherent layer of complexities. Simplifying as much as possible is crucial to success. When plans and orders get too complex, people will not understand them. And when things go wrong, which they inevitably will, this lack of understanding will make things worse. Plans and orders must be simple, clear, and concise.”

Prioritize and Execute: “Leaders must recognize the situation they are in, analyze the issue, and respond. Then, move on to the next priority and execute on that. And the same for the next priority, and so on. Certainly in combat, and in any dynamic environment, the most important quality in a leader is to remain calm under pressure and make good decisions. When feeling overwhelmed, combat leaders are taught to Relax, Look Around, Make a Call.”

Decentralized Command: “Simply put, everyone leads. Leaders at all levels understand the overall mission (the commander’s intent) and are empowered to make decisions in key tasks necessary to accomplish that mission in the most effective and efficient manner possible.”

There have been countless situations that I have encountered where these simple philosophies have served me well, and passed the test of their functionality. Using one of Leif Babin’s own litmus tests by asking if this approach is effective or ineffective, these principles have resoundingly passed the test.



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