Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, Extreme Ownership

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, former US Navy SEALs and founders of Echelon Front, a management consultancy based on the principles they tried and tested as officers in Iraq. If you are expecting a patriotic account of America’s battle of good versus evil in Iraq, think again: Each chapter begins with the worst imaginable leadership situations officers can face, then applies the lessons learned while under fire to common business scenarios.

Extreme Ownership, for example, means that a leader takes responsibility for everything under their command, including factors beyond their control – imagine any CEO today living by that principle when the market crashes or a currency crisis causes their business to falter. Another gem: “There are no bad teams, only bad leaders”. Again, this example is illustrated by the authors’ experience training special operators, but is then immediately applied to busines situations closer to home: weak leadership has ruined more businesses than employees ever will. “Lead up and down the chain of command”: Believe it or not, Navy officers are faced with an incredible amount of powerpoint and paperwork. Instead of complaining, though, Willink and Babin say “get after it” – those higher up in the chain of command need to know what their subordinates are doing and why they are doing it; paperwork does not exist due to malicious intent but rather to institutional shared knowledge.

Read this book if you want clearly structured and insightful leadership principles that can be applied in most fields of life. The authors brook no excuses and most leaders would fall well short of the expectations that these two leaders held themselves and others to during active duty. There are few books on Amazon that receive five-star ratings after 1000 reviews – this is one of them: #19 on the all-time best sellers in business books, the only one with the full five stars.