Navy SEALs are some of the highest-performing military teams in the World. Jocko Willink is a retired Navy Seal officer who fought in Iraq.
The crucial interest in leadership of an elite unit stems from the fact that once on the ground, these professionals have to lead men in an environment where the slightest mistake can have life-threatening consequences .
The experiences Jocko Willink gained as a Navy Seal can teach you valuable leadership skills that you can apply to your own life.
Upon retiring from the Navy in 2010, Jocko Willink founded leadership consulting firm Echelon Front . There, he teaches combat leadership principles to help others build their own high-performance winning teams.
Jocko’s message is all about stepping up and getting work done without making excuses.
ImportantJocko Willink has developed not only a keen ability to identify the qualities that make a great leader, but also the ability to distill and communicate those qualities to others.
If you’ve been lacking focus recently and haven’t performed at the level that you know can perform at, these lessons from Jocko Willink are sure to shake you from your stupor and get you back on track.
Extreme ownership is about not making excuses or blaming anyone or anything else when a problem arises. Instead, the focus is on immediately taking ownership of that problem and holding yourself responsible for solving it .
WarningIf a member of a team has not understood one of his instructions, the team leader cannot blame him. It is his role as a leader to make sure that his team members understand his instructions .
If no one wants to stand up and take responsibility, that ends up having a ripple effect of negativity across your team.
The advantage of “Extreme Ownership” is that it generates dynamism. It pushes you to act and it is thus no longer possible to wallow in complaints and criticism.
A true leader owns the outcome. When things go wrong, you have to take ownership. No excuses.
When something goes wrong, there is no room for excuses or finger-pointing . Everything starts and ends with you, especially when you’re the leader.
HacksHow to apply “Extreme Ownership?” Count the number of times you put the blame on somebody else or an external circumstance, and instead of complaining, actively look for how you could solve the problem.
Discipline Equals Freedom
Discipline is the most important quality for an individual and for a team. Discipline is a matter of personal will . It’s the difference between being good and being exceptional.
At first glance, the “discipline = freedom” equation might sound like an oxymoron or a paradox. After all, aren’t discipline and freedom polar opposites?
We tend to associate freedom with doing whatever we want.
ImportantHowever, Jocko Willink argues that freedom is found in what we don’t do rather than what we do . He uses his elite military experience to put across that the more a plan is studied with discipline and detail, the easier it will be to react faced with an unexpected situation.
Discipline does not make a team more rigid, but more flexible.
How? By creating processes and systems that allow teams to execute in different conditions without having to re-think the basics. The essential processes are covered by discipline . The mind then is free to focus on what is important in the moment.
Indiscipline generally sets in progressively and if it is not stopped, it often degenerates and creates situations that can be costly for teams.
ImportantDiscipline and commitment require personal investment and effort from the onset, but this investment will liberate the person ready to put the hours in.
By sacrificing now you can gain a currency later (freedom) which can be cashed in for much more than what you gave up at the moment you were disciplined.
Beware Of Your Ego
What’s the single most important characteristic a leader can have? For Jocko Willink, the answer to that question is easy: Humility.
Jocko Willink has been confronted to a series of individuals who, due to their rank, their experience in the army or their age, believed they had nothing to learn. This put them in dangerous situations that could have been avoided with a bit of wisdom.
Leaders put the mission above their personal needs and their personal ego.
They accept the best ideas, even when they come from the ranks . Leaders take full ownership when they make a mistake and change direction.
You have to stay humble. You’ve got to keep your ego in check.
ImportantUltimately, to be a great leader, you need to be able to look in the mirror and do a good, solid, tough assessment of yourself . Because if you can’t identify areas for improvement in yourself (or in your business), your growth is going to stagnate.
Contrary to popular belief, you will not lose credit if you admit you don’t know everything. Indeed, this will only reinforce your position as leader.
WarningIf you’re willing to get serious about your life for a moment, you’d have to admit that much of what holds us back is our unwillingness to put the ego on the chopping block in exchange for progress .
Keep Things Simple
Remove complexity wherever possible to ensure everyone fully understands the mission and the shared direction. Complexity is the enemy of execution .
The simpler a plan, an instruction or a strategy is to understand, the more we are inclined to act. Inversely, the more it is complex and obscure, the more suspicion will take over and less one will be inclined to act.
Everyone on the team must understand not only what do to, but why.
ImportantLeaders don’t have to explain every decision but they need to communicate the strategic picture and the mission. Let the team ask questions. The leader is responsible to have everyone on the team believing in the mission and clear on the objectives .
Next time an obstacle crosses your path, say “good” and keep moving forward.
When Jocko was leading a SEAL Task Unit, his team would frequently come to him with a major problem — they didn’t have enough resources, they were exhausted, etc. His solution was always the same: “Good” .
Jocko Willink believes that every struggle can make you stronger and every challenge is a “good” opportunity in disguise.
Get injured? Good, you can spend more time reading. Got fired? Good, you can find a better opportunity elsewhere. This forces you to find an alternative solution or focus your attention on something else that’s positive.
Leaders bring clarity to a situation. They keep plans simple, clear, and concise.
Leaders start by solving the simpler problems, and continue taking on bigger challenges as they progress. Leaders eliminate complexity in problems and in situations .
Cover And Move
Making smart decisions is a critical component of success at work. Often when we struggle to make a decision, it’s because the stakes feel too high, the possible consequence too risky.
In SEALs lingo, ‘Cover and Move’ means that before you move on the field, whether bullets are raining or not, you always have to ensure that part of the team or another team ensures cover for the team that is moving .
You should make the smallest possible decision you can make that moves everyone in the direction you believe is the right one.
ImportantEach team has to be engaged in the mission either when moving or when covering the moving team. United in the one perspective, accomplishing the mission, the objective being to ensure the security of every member of the operation .
Don’t plot out the full course. Make one small decision.
WarningInstead of passively waiting around for the situation to change or for a problem to be resolved, you need to proactively tackle things head on . The picture will never be complete, there is always risk, there is no absolute right solution.
You will never get to 100% certainty. Wait and see means deciding not to decide.
Leaders acknowledge uncertainty, mitigate risks and continue advancing towards achieving the mission. Navy SEAL leaders have a bias for action.
WarningIt doesn’t mean you should be aggressive with your teammates, because that kind of aggression only serves to weaken relationships and exacerbate problems.
It’s about being aggressive towards your goals, towards solving problems and being aggressive towards accomplishing your mission.
There are a lot of motivational gurus who talk about overcoming adversity. Jocko Willink has led others through life or death situations and come out victorious . These days he’s grinding harder than ever, waking up at 4:30 every morning and getting after it.
ImportantLeaders transform people and their ability to get things done . They create a culture of accountability and teamwork, of winning and how to win, in every individual.
There Are No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders. Good leadership is contagious.
Mutual accountability means each member demands the highest performance from the others and each individual knows what they need to do to win and they do it.
A good leader must lead but also be able to follow, putting aside ego to follow better ideas and those who take charge.
Everyone can afford to be more disciplined and mentally tough in their professional and personal lives . Follow Jocko’s advice and you’ll get there.
I have here tried to put through my understanding of the keys to leadership of the exceptional Jocko Willink. I hope you will also find food for thought and tools that will help you in developing your company or organisation.