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Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

The book:
This book can be used by any leader, and it is all about taking responsibility for the results of your team's actions and the well-being of the members of the team.

Jocko and Leif use well-detailed war stories from their own experiences that make it easy to stay focused and to remember the principles shared in this book. After each war story, there's also an analogous narrative that explains how to apply the same leadership principles to the business world.

Takeaways and Paths of Action:

1. Take the blame.

1.1 Down the chain of command:

It does not matter which member of the team made the mistake, it's always the leader's mistake. A leader is responsible for making everybody understand the strategy and execute correctly. If somebody fails, it means that you were unable to communicate clearly or simply hired the wrong person to do the job.

The next time your team has to report to your superiors or revenue decreases, do not blame the salespeople, do not blame the engineers. Acknowledge that the mistake was yours and take the punishment. That is what true leaders do. If you need to fire someone, that's also your responsibility, however, keep in mind that it might be you.

1.2 Up the chain of command:

Call this leadership level two. Sometimes your team depends on the approval or resources that come from your own superiors. As a good leader, you must learn how to take control of your position and do whatever is required to let your team accomplish its goals.

Again, even if it's a superior's mistake, you must take responsibility for the consequences to your team.

2. Trust your team.

Who's going to lead when you're gone? What if you get fired? What if you become incapable of leading the team? 

A real leader does not fear being replaced. Quite the opposite. If somebody within the team demonstrates that he/she is capable of leading better than you, let them lead. As a leader, your job is to accomplish the team's goals, not your own. 

A true leader must also place full faith in their junior leaders and allow them to manage their own teams. Junior leaders must be confident that their superiors will back them up even if they fail. Likewise, senior leaders must be trustworthy and approachable to their subordinates. 

If you're constantly checking on your subordinates, interfering with their operations and with your own,  stop doing it. Explain their mission clearly and let them work. If they fail, then, you make corrections. 

3. Keep it simple.

If your team does not understand what you need to communicate, you have already failed. Keep your messages as short and understandable as possible.

4. Step back and see the whole picture.

If you trust your people, you will be able to step back and see all the operations in relation to each other. This will allow you to notice things that you wouldn't if you focused on specific tasks. With this whole picture in mind, you will be able to develop new effective strategies for the success of the entire organization.

Right now, forget about the specific tasks you need to accomplish today and take some minutes to analyze how your team is performing as a whole.

5. Check your ego.

If you want to be a good leader, you must be able to see things from different points of view. Trusting your team involves listening to them. So, listen, and when you're wrong, you must admit it quickly and take actions to correct it. 

Remember, there's no need to hide your mistakes. People around know what your weaknesses are, they just want to see if you can see them too.

6. Find balances. 

These are some dichotomies of leadership that you must understand.

1. Discipline is freedom. 

Can you describe how your team resolves conflicts? What is the process to follow when someone wants to communicate with their superiors? When is the current project going to be completed?

Disciplined planning makes your tasks clear and, when something is clear, it can be changed to adapt to new situations. As a leader, you must be disciplined but open to change for the better.

Every person in your team must understand how to proceed with their daily activities as well as in cases of uncertainty. Take the time to write down those procedures and share them with your team.

2. A leader must be calm but not robotic. Don't be afraid to show your emotions, but do not let your emotions control you. If you lose your temper, you also lose respect.

3. A leader must be close to his/her subordinates but not too close that a person becomes more important than the mission or the other members. You must know their fears and motivations without feeling personally attached to anyone.

4. A leader must be confident but also open-minded.

Favourite quote:

"There are no bad teams, only bad leaders"


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