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Leadership Strategy and Tactics book summary

Leadership Strategy and Tactics book cover

The author has written all of his leadership theories in this one book, which almost acts as a field manual for anyone who wants to be seen more as a leader, regardless of whatever role they are in right now. Jocko's experience and the perspective he writes from is very much that from his time working as a Navy SEAL leader and from his consultancy practice of working with companies and executive teams.

Here are my key takeaways:

  • Take a step back from situations and take more of a bird's eye view. Detaching yourself from a situation allows you to leave your emotions linked to the task at hand, better understand the situation and therefore increase your chances of making the best decision. Part of this involves observing what your team members are feeling / responding and using that to make your decision.
  • Implementing Extreme Ownership requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and developing a plan to overcome challenges are integral to any successful team.
  • Dichotomy of leadership - you have to strike the right balance, by firstly checking your ego / not being overly aggressive, allowing others to question your judgements and taking responsibility for the ultimate outcome. Find the balance and don't operate at the extremes.
    • Listen to your team members. They are the ones who are on the ground.
  • Extreme Ownership - taking responsibility, regardless of the situation.
    • Don't blame others / your team.
    • As leader, if the team fails, it's on you.
    • Don't let ego get in the way.
    • Don't blame external factors.
  • Leadership requires modesty and eagerness.
    • Having imposter syndrome is not a bad thing. However, don't let it render you ineffective, instead use it to better yourself.
    • Engage in tasks that your subordinates have to do. It will help you develop humility and put you in the shoes of the people you're leading. Your team members will also notice and learn from your actions.
    • Pass along credit for your team's success to them. Take responsibility for the failures.
  • Empower your team members. Providing your team with responsibilities empowers them. Consider a decentralised command structure, where each team member knows they may be called upon to lead at some point.
    • As leader, define the goals for your team. Don't tell them how to achieve it. It is better when they are able to come up with the plan of action themselves as they'll be more motivated to see it through. If you see holes in their plan, guide them and question them, to get them to devise a better plan.
  • Consider iterative decision-making rather than finding solutions. At each step along the plan, reassess the situation, use the new information, and let them inform your next step.
  • Discipline equals freedom.
  • Understand when to discipline your team. When setting expectations, no matter what has been said or written, if substandard performance is accepted and no one is held accountable—if there are no consequences—that poor performance becomes the new standard.
    • A good leader disciplines their team and understands that letting them lead a comfortable, lazy life does not help, but hinders them.
  • Control your ego. An inflated ego leads to more focus on your success rather than leading your team.
    • Have integrity. Do what you say you'll do.
  • Do not micromanage. It is not practical. You also need to be elevating each member in your team so they can take more and more responsibilities, freeing you up for more important things. Help your team understand the big picture goals - leave them to figure out the details.
  • Good communication is crucial.
    • Be precise with your praise. Identify specific people and praise them in front of others. Ensure it's well deserved. Word it so they understand that the praise is good because it's in service of the bigger team goal.
    • Be clear, honest and concise in your communications with all of your team members. Don't allow rumours to percolate.
    • Apologising does not show weakness. Extreme Ownership means accepting fault and apologising.
  • Constantly look to be building long term relationships for effective co-working. Don't try to win the battle if it will make future relationships worse. Play the long game and build trust instead.
  • Get the job done. This is the main purpose of a leader.

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