extreme ownership

Here at Hito, we’ve recently started a company book club. For our first review, we’ve chosen Extreme Ownership. We hope you enjoy! 

Extreme Ownership by former Navy Seals Leif Babin and Jocko Willink showcases how winning tactics used on the battlefield should also be used by CEO’s to ensure that their businesses are functioning in a way that allows them to enjoy the best possible results. At the forefront and core of the book’s message is the idea that everything that happens in a business is, at the end of the day, the responsibility of its leader.

I found the book very easy to follow. It reads relatively quickly, ideal for busy business owners. Each chapter is around twenty pages, however, the chapters themselves are broken down into smaller, manageable chunks, so if needed, you can easily stop and start in the middle of a chapter and pick it back up later, or just read one sub-section at a time. It’s difficult to get lost as each chapter follows the same, rigid structure. It starts with a war story, usually an issue that could have been resolved with better cooperation, leadership, or ability to follow the leader, then gives way to a short summary-like section, in which the principle message/theme of the chapter is broken down leading into a third subsection called “Application to Business.”

“Application to Business” is the meat and potatoes of the chapter as it contains the pay-off of the principle. It’s what all of this should mean to you as a business owner. This part typically entails a real life story where either Babin or Willink were hired to consult a struggling CEO. The CEO relays the problem they are having within the company and then Babin or Willink walk them through how that problem can be traced back to a lapse in leadership. The CEO takes responsibility for this lapse and works on the issue with their team. Then the issue is resolved, using a combination of whatever the principle theme of the chapter was and the core theme of the book, which is, of course, that most problems in business can be traced back to leaders resisting taking full responsibility for the issue at hand.

Personally, I had only two problems with this book. The first being that the war parts feel unnaturally dry and devoid of emotion. I understand that the perils of war aren’t necessarily the point of this book, but if you’re going to tell a war story, tell a war story. Really showing the grit, pain, and trauma that war implies within the war scenes would have made for an extremely compelling additional element to the book that would have really helped suck me in and hold my attention, so I feel that their choice to keep it so dry in those parts was a missed opportunity. The second issue was that sometimes, particularly towards the end, the “Principle” and “Application to Business” sections started to feel repetitive as they invariably all revolved around the theme  ownership, namely, the leader’s ability to take responsibility for all company mistakes. I feel the issue of the repetitiveness could have been easily solved either by having fewer stories, and a shorter book, or adding and emphasizing more variation into the principles discussed.

Overall, I recommend this book. I think its main value is in the way it sets up opportunities for leaders in the business world to reflect on all possible aspects of their leadership. A large plus, as I mentioned before, is that the structure allows for an easy breakdown. The book can be read out-of-order even, if you’re interested in examining a particular principle, as each chapter feels like its own separate entity. Plus, I found the business is a battlefield perspective that this book takes to be unique and interesting.

4/5 Stars