Book Review - Veterans' Day Edition - "Extreme Ownership - How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win" by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.
Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, two retired Navy SEALs’ recently published book, Extreme Ownership, demonstrates how they used their leadership abilities in the battle of Ramadi, Iraq and then applied them to non-military situations.
Many veterans today share the same feelings as Babin regarding the current Commander-in-Chief. They are dismayed by his lack of leadership and how he has no coherent strategy on how to defeat America’s enemies. A quote from the book hammers this point home, “Some of the politicians and most senior military brass in Washington felt that killing bad guys only created more enemies. But they didn’t have a clue… Each enemy fighter killed meant more US Soldiers and Marines came home alive.”
Comparing President Obama to President Kennedy, Babin emphasized that Kennedy was leadership tested, having been a veteran, versus someone who never served. “Kennedy never backed down and was not pushed around. He understood what was needed to support those serving. I look back on the battle of Ramadi fought in 2006 and remember all the American blood spilled to take it back. It is now a travesty that the black flag of ISIS is flying over this city, which was because of the complete troop withdrawal. However, I am hopeful that by untying the troops hands and letting them fight can turn it around. ISIS is not twenty feet tall. If we were committed to eliminating them it would only be a four to six month problem.”
Because he feels the current administration makes decisions based on immediate political gain and not on long-term strategy Babin feels there is a lack of decentralized command, which he talks about in the book. He points to the first US solider killed in action in Iraq since 2011. “Why wouldn’t they use the words ‘killed in combat?’ Its clearly combat and by not referring to it as such is just a political argument of semantics. The reality is we have approximately 3400 boots on the ground right now.”
The book also explains how veterans can apply their combat strategy to their everyday life. Whether business, sports, or personal, those who served can use what they learned: The leader is always responsible. Basically, leaders must always "own" the mistakes and shortcomings of their teams, everyone on the team must believe in the mission, keep plans simple, clear, and concise, and act decisively, even when things are chaotic.
Babin told blackfive.net, “Take for example a head coach. If he only makes the decisions himself he will not be very effective. Instead he needs to set the vision, give broad guidance to his position coaches, and allow them to execute. In someone’s personal life veterans can apply the concept of listening, probably the most important component in marriage. Finally in business, your company should have a clear set of defined characteristics for team members.”
Extreme Ownership is a riveting, page-turning narrative that not only details the combat leadership lessons learned but also demonstrates how to apply these principles to any area of life.