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May 19, 20224 min read

Extreme Ownership

No one else is to blame, no excuses. Extreme ownership refers to the idea that “Leaders must own everything in their world.” You—as a leader—are responsible for your team’s failures, regardless of your rank, or position. Results matter.

What is Extreme Ownership?

The concept, popularized by a former NAVY Seal Jocko Willink’s recent TedX talk gone viral, borrows heavily from Mahatma Gandhi’s famous “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It teaches us that in order to get things done, we must take full responsibility for anything that even remotely affects our mission’s success.

And while the philosophy does apply to individuals, to an extent, it is the teams who benefit from it, the most. For it to be effective, it needs to be fully ingrained in the company’s culture. Top to bottom.

Especially in corporate settings, the status quo is to start pointing fingers, the moment something goes wrong. But passing the blame does not solve problems, nor does it prevent us from making the same mistakes over and over again. And it most certainly does not ship products.

Instead of finger-pointing, it is crucial to focus on the common goal from the get-go, as a team. Objectives must be unambiguous and instructions crystal clear, to absolutely everyone. And every single member of the team has to believe in the mission.

We may just find that owning up to our failures not only makes us better leaders, it also inspires those around us and breeds a culture of productivity, progress, and no cut corners.

Extreme OwnershipSource: @SpiderManMovie

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How to Successfully Implement Extreme Ownership in Your Workplace

A successful, agile team is one where every member is a leader, in their own right. Good leaders do not make excuses, they get things done by taking responsibility for their role in the failure. They believe in the greater cause and are able to address any question that starts with “why” with an answer, rooted in personal accountability. Ego has no place in their work ethic, it is for the best to leave it in the glove compartment, before checking in.

To successfully implement extreme ownership in a team, a good leader asks themselves: “what am I doing that is causing my team to not perform optimally or causing us to fail? What can I do differently to get the outcome the project needs? Am I taking responsibility for my part in this failure?”

Reasons for Lack of Extreme Ownership in a Workplace

  • Lack of trust in the team Team members must have each other’s backs. When things go wrong, they can’t become scapegoats. And leaders must take responsibility for their mistakes and inspires the rest to follow suit.
  • Lack of modeling by leadership “Do as I say, don’t do as I do.” You can not expect others to follow your lead if you yourself are not leading by example.
  • Egocentrism in team environment Not everything is about you. In fact, when pursuing a common goal, nothing is. Results are what matters. If the team values their own egos over overarching goals, extreme ownership values will be very difficult to implement.
  • Lack of action-oriented plans If you can’t answer the questions “why? Or “how?” Do not expect others to fill in the blanks for you. You will not be happy with the results.
  • Lack of communication You communicate goals clearly, and frequently. Your team members don’t know their place in the overall mission without you, nobody can read minds. Just like your superiors don’t automatically understand all your needs. It is your responsibility to push situational awareness up the chain of command, especially when mistakes have been made and need to be corrected.

Resources for Extreme Ownership

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