“Leaders should never be satisfied. They must always strive to improve, and they must build that mind-set into the team. They must face the facts through a realistic, brutally honest assessment of themselves and their team’s performance. Identifying weaknesses, good leaders seek to strengthen them and come up with a plan to overcome challenges. The best teams anywhere, like the SEAL Teams, are constantly looking to improve, add capability, and push the standards higher. It starts with the individual and spreads to each of the team members until this becomes the culture, the new standard. The recognition that there are no bad teams, only bad leaders facilitate Extreme Ownership and enable leaders to build high-performance teams that dominate on any battlefield, literal or figurative.” ―
Extreme Ownership is the First of 10 hiitide operating principles. A principle made popular by Navy Seal and Author Jocko Willink (his book: Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win).
The ripple effect of this philosophy has created one of the most collaborative and supportive teams I’ve ever witnessed in business. When each team member takes full responsibility for everything in their world, and the overall mission’s success, something special happens, no one is looking for excuses or pointing blame, obstacles simply present opportunities for new solutions to win.
Some patterns you see develop:
- The team doesn’t let excuses hold them back from getting started.
- The natural instinct is for everyone to take stock of their own responsibilities and execute on them regardless of what else happens around them.
- They don’t wait for orders or permission, if it needs to be done, they just do it! Lead by example and get the job done.
Something most of us want but it requires a real commitment for this to materialize inside a growing team or organization, three things specifically as a leader:
- As the leader, you must take ownership of EVERYTHING, even when someone else messes up. You start every challenging retrospective with your miscalculation and what you’ll do next time to prevent it; because even if you weren’t involved you chose the people that were. Importantly, you are not shielding people from taking ownership and responsibility, you are creating a space where it is expected.
- Empower ownership of the process, not just the outcome. Even if that means letting people f*&^ up sometimes, let them. It’s not painless, but it’s less painful than being supported by a team you’ve prevented from learning and leading.
- Teach others how to lead others. Not everyone is cut out to be the CEO but developing people to be leaders of not just themselves but of others is key to scaling and one of the hardest skill sets to learn. It’s taking non-self-starters and turning them into self-starters, then teaching them how to do it for others in your organization, which is game-changing for you AND for them.
Implementing extreme ownership requires we check our ego, learn from mistakes publicly, and share opportunities to learn and improve.
When you can truly trust your teammates to take full ownership over their circle of influence (which is wider than most think), constantly seek and share learnings in any setbacks, and turn those lessons into systems that spread, you’ve created a virtuous cycle and culture that levels up your entire organization, largely independent of your intervention as a leader.
So many of the problems we face are a result of system failures that can’t be solved one piece at a time in isolation but rather require us to think holistically about creating a system that self-corrects and improves over time.
Here are a few videos from Jocko Willink:
- What does Extreme Ownership Mean?
- 3:20 Video: https://youtu.be/BTMgXdT0mQM
- The TEDx Talk:
- 13:49 Video: https://youtu.be/ljqra3BcqWM
- Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink
- Thinking In Systems: A Primer by Donella H. Meadows
About the Authors: Evan Shy
As a published author, scientist, and the founder and CEO of hiitide, Evan has earned experience building teams and technology that help people live positively, better. Growing up in a family of professional athletes and entrepreneurs, Evan started his first business before leaving high school and would go on to found a number of wellness businesses while conducting physiology research and teaching at the University of Illinois at Champaign. His research has been published across scientific journals, college textbooks, and our own titles. Today, hiitide distills hundreds of hours from books and content into bite-sized action prompts, journaling exercises, and community discussions delivered in a virtual book club format so readers can make meaningful, lasting changes to their lives, careers, and relationships… by investing 1% of their day.