I know, there seems to be a lot of book reviewing going on around here! I did promise that once I finished this book I would offer my review. If you like it, please feel free to pass it on to someone else.

Why did I buy this book?

I have to admit the reason I bought this book was that I was caught up in the Jocko Willink tsunami. Jocko is an ex-Navy Seal and I first heard of him through a podcast I listen to quite regularly.

I thoroughly enjoyed the podcast and have since then subscribed to Jocko’s own podcast. Although the podcast can be explicit at times (not just language but also content) I find the content and the quiet intensity almost addictive.

I have tremendous respect for all those who have or are currently serving in the military and our first responders. I would have to say that after reading this book, my admiration and respect has grown considerably deeper.

Although the book does contain content about the war in Iraq, specifically Ramadi, you will find that it does not overwhelm or justify the why’s and how’s of the war. It is somewhat of an auto-biography of how two leaders, who happen to be in the military, deal with their roles and responsibilities. I often found myself thinking about having to lead from the middle and this book has a lot of value to offer if you find yourself in the middle – having to lead those who report to you as well as having to lead those to whom you may have to give an account.

I’ve included a link where you can download Barry Oshry’s Managing in the Middle handout as well as the article he wrote in 2003 entitled, ‘Managing in the Middle’. Look for them at the end of this blog.

Thumbnail of Extreme Ownership

Each chapter is broken down into three parts;

  1. Relevant backstory which highlights the title of the chapter.
  2. Principle (what is the main idea or principle of the chapter)
  3. Application to Business (the authors share real stories about how the principles from the chapter have been applied to their business consultant clients)

The structure of the chapters and the straight-forward nature of each chapter made the book a pleasure to read and I often found myself saying at the end of each chapter, “that went by quick”.

Given the page count of approximately 250 pages, even a slow reader like myself read the book surprisingly fast. Of which I am very thankful.

I also appreciated the direct application that the authors brought to the table. Too often, in my opinion, authors leave the application process up to the reader. Given the number of contexts that each reader may represent is appreciable yet the clarity in approach was a breath of fresh air.

What resonated with me about Extreme Ownership.

(Some of my Evernote notes)

Chapter 4 ‘Check Your Ego’ – Pointing fingers at the person you think is responsible for the mistake is only going to escalate the problem. People naturally become defensive when confronted with an error. EVEN IF THEY WHERE WRONG.

Transfer the focus of blame into a focus on the problem or situation – not the person. Blaming is like poking your finger in someone’s chest – it will only make matters worse and harder to clean up.

“But it’s on us as leaders to see where we failed to communicate effectively and help our troops (people) clearly understand what their roles and responsibilities are and how their actions impact the bigger strategic picture” – Leif Babin

Chapter 6 ‘Simple’ – This principle of simplicity can be applied from my communication with my family to my work to my volunteer positions.

In fact the most significant conversations I have had at work lately revolve around the fact that when asked a question I give an answer that is as clear and concise as I can make it. More often than not the person I’m talking to has told me something to the effect of,

“That’s the clearest answer I’ve been given in a long time”

To this, my inside response is “this is too bad – people would work better, smarter, faster, and happier when they have all the information they need and it’s clear what they have to do.”

What I struggled with about Extreme Ownership.

(Not that the material was wrong – rather my thoughts on what do I need to address in my own leadership development)

Chapter Five ‘Cover and Move’ – For me right now, this is the hardest chapter. Not that the philosophy or principles are hard to understand but the actual pragmatic of the chapter will be extremely hard – if not impossible – to implement.

Chapter 10 ‘Leading Up and Down the Chain of Command’ – If your leader is not giving you the support you need – don’t blame…reexamine what you can do better to give them the info they need in order for you to win.

In the past, I would have gotten so excited about the possibilities of a future of utopia that I would have over-looked the reality of the situation I’m in. I still get excited about “what could be” but now I wonder more about the actual practical steps to accomplish those goals.

Maybe this is part of the point – to slow down enough to analyze the reality of the situation and begin to look for those areas of opportunity instead of overlooking the reality and naively thinking that things will work themselves out through the structure of the plan.

Teamwork and collaboration require levels of trust and commitment to each team member. Breakdowns here will derail any attempt to accomplish a larger goal. But how?

Parting words about Extreme Ownership…

Should you buy it? – it’s not one of those ABSOLUTELY have to make that purchase, but if you are interested in how someone like you might be able to lead in a traditionally centralized leadership context then this might prove to be worth your while.

Would I read it again in the next 12 months? Probably not, but it is one that I will not soon forget. The takeaways for me have been very useful and applicable.

Would I gift this book? Again this would depend on the person I wish to gift. Yet given the price point and the broadly applicable nature, I would most likely purchase a copy for giving away.

Have a great weekend everyone, see you on the flip side.


primus inter pares – vis facare



Amazon link – Extreme Ownership

Barry Oshry Article and Handout

Oshry – 2003 – Managing in the Middle-annotated