Lead Your Team to Victory Through Extreme Ownership


Taking elements from two books authored by US Navy Seals Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, “Extreme Ownership” and “The Dichotomy of Leadership” and applying them to business practices, they can easily allow you to lead your team to victory! An effective leader must own everything in his or her world and should resolve to:

  • Actively take responsibility for everything that could possibly impact the success of the team in reaching the common goal or completing the mission.
  • Recognize possible challenges and work with the team to resolve the challenges.
  • Proactively reach outside the team to acquire any necessary resources.
  • Have the humility to take responsibility for all failures experienced by the team and to turn failures into learning opportunities.

In cases where a team member is struggling or failing to meet expectations, a good leader should first reflect on whether he or she has done everything they can to provide the required support and tools to foster success. Many times, a leader will determine that there is something he or she can improve which will improve the success of the struggling team member, such as clearer expectations, better information or access to the right tools and resources. However, there are also occasions where a leader has provided everything they can and must conclude that the team member may not be the best fit for their current role. In these cases, a leader needs to make the best decision for the team rather than the individual.

There are no bad teams, only bad leaders. Any team can be successful with the right leader. It’s up to the leader to inspire the team and identify and effectively utilize strengths to accomplish the mission. A bad leader can jeopardize the success of the entire team. A team that lacks vision and focus will have a much lower probability of success than a unified, motivated team. A great leader should:

Believe – A strong leader must first believe in the mission! This is crucial to create genuine inspiration within the team and to motivate the leader to relentlessly pursue victory in the mission despite the challenges that will arise. A leader has chosen to become something greater than him or herself and should be able to address questions about the “why” of the mission in good faith. In addition, a leader must feel comfortable to speak up in the interest of the mission, even when doing so is uncomfortable.

Be Humble – It is crucial for a leader to remain humble and avoid allowing his or her ego to cloud perception. When the ego gets in the way, it can become a destructive force as it prevents clarity on the true nature of the situation. A leader must put aside any personal objective and focus on the mission outcome for the team. An effective leader is willing to practice self-reflection, admit mistakes, ask for help and acknowledge when someone else knows more than they do. A humble leader is self-aware.

The Four Laws of Combat

  1. Cover and Move – The central concept of this law is teamwork. A functional team is one that works together and covers and supports one another. A team must operate cohesively to ensure achieving the mission; divisions will lead a team to failure! Every component of the team must do their part to ultimately reach the goal.
  2. Simple – Keep it simple and strategic! Leaders should work to simplify the terms of the mission as much as possible to keep it clear and concise. It is the leader’s responsibility to make sure every team member fully understands all the elements of the mission as well as recognize and mitigate any potential stumbling blocks. A two-way dialogue is a great way to ensure understanding. Ask the team to verbally confirm what they understand the mission to be.
  3. Prioritize and Execute – Recognize that every person on the team has individual goals, but identify which goals and tasks are most important. Avoid multi-tasking as this reduces effectiveness on any tasks being worked on. Instead, identify one task at a time and work as a team to accomplish each. This will result in more work completed in the long run. In addition, look ahead to any obstacles and work as a team to develop a contingency plan to address those.
  4. Decentralized Command – This law involves a leader empowering the team so that others can step in and lead. It’s crucial for both leaders and team members to understand what is within their capacity to make decisions on. A proactive team is an effective team. This also allows the leader to remain focused on the long goals and look ahead. If a leader recognizes someone else has more information, he or she should know when to step back and follow if it benefits the mission.

Remember, the ultimate goal is to achieve the mission! A great leader will ensure the team is goal-focused and inspired to work together toward success.

Presented by:

Debra Van Cleve
Ellis Consulting Group