Achievement Principles in Extreme Ownership

This article is a summary of 6 of the 12 core principles from the book ‘Extreme Ownership’ by Jacko Willink and Leif Babin. The book is all about building high performing teams based on Achievement values. It’s great for leaders looking to build their own Achievement leadership style and building achievement within their teams.

Principle 1: Extreme Ownership

“The leader bears full responsibility for explaining the strategic mission, developing the tactics, and securing the training and resources to enable the team to properly and successfully execute the mission.”

Principle 2: Not bad teams, bad leaders

 “[Leaders] must face the facts through a realistic, honest assessment of themselves and their team’s performance. Identifying weaknesses, good leaders seek to strengthen them and come up with a plan to overcome challenges… It starts with the individual and spreads to each of the team members until this becomes the new standard.”

Principle 3: Be a Believer

“In order to convince and inspire others to follow and accomplish a mission, a leader must be a true believer in the mission… If a leader does not believe, he or she will not be able to convince others to do so. When leaders receive an order that they themselves question and do not understand, they must ask the question ‘Why?’”

Principle 4: Check the Ego

“Ego clouds and disrupts everything: The planning process, the ability to take good advice, and the ability to accept constructive criticism. Often the most difficult ego to deal with is your own… When personal agendas become more important than the team, and the overarching mission’s success, performance suffers and failure ensues.”

Principle 5: Cover and Move

“… Often when smaller teams within the team get so focused on their immediate task they forget about what others are doing or how they can depend on other teams. They may start to compete with one another and when there are obstacles – animosity and blame develops… It falls on leaders to keep perspective on the overall team’s strategic mission and remind their team that they are part of the greater team and that the strategic mission is paramount.”

Principle 6: Keep it Simple

“Simplifying as much as possible is crucial to success. When plans and orders are too complicated people may not understand them. When thing go wrong, (and they inevitably DO go wrong), complexity compounds issues that can spiral out of control into total disaster.”

 Principle 7: Prioritise and Execute

“Even the most competent of leaders can be overwhelmed if they try to tackle multiple problems, or a number of tasks simultaneously. The team will likely fail at each of those tasks. Instead, leaders must determine the highest priority task – and execute.”

Principle 8: Decentralise Command

“Junior leaders must be empowered to make decisions on key tasks necessary to accomplish the mission in the most effective and efficient manner possible. Every tactical team leader must understand not just what to do, but why they are doing it. [Junior leaders] must have implicit trust that their senior leaders will back their decisions. Without this trust, junior leaders cannot confidently execute.”

Principle 9: Plan

“Giving the frontline ownership of even a small piece of the plan gives them buy in, helps them understand the reasons behind the plan, and better enables them to believe in the mission which translates to far more effective implementation and execution on the ground.”

Principle 10: Leading Up the Chain of Command

“If your boss isn’t making a decision in a timely manner, or providing necessary support for you and you team, don’t blame the boss – first blame yourself. Examine what you can do to better convey the critical information for decisions to be made and support allocated.”

Principle 11: Act Decisively

“There is no 100% right solution. The picture is never complete. Leaders must be comfortable with this and be able to make decisions promptly, then be ready to adjust those decisions quickly based on evolving situations and new information. Intelligence gathering and research are important, but they must be employed with realistic expectations and must not impede swift decision making. Waiting for the 100% right and certain solution leads to delay, indecision, and an inability to execute.”

Principle 12: Discipline Equals Freedom

“Instead of making us more rigid, and unable to improvise, discipline made us more flexible, more adaptable, and more efficient. It allowed us to be creative. While increased discipline most often results in more freedom, there are some teams that become so restricted by imposed discipline that they inhibit their leader’s and team’s ability to make decisions and think freely. If frontline leaders executing the mission lack the ability to adapt, this becomes detrimental to the team’s performance.”

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