Extreme Ownership – How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

up:: Books


Mike Schmitz on his blog, Bookworm


I think this is one of the books that is actually great but just wasn’t applicable to my situation. Key insights like Extreme Ownership, not blaming others but taking ownership about what’s happening, are crucial and timeless. But beyond that, I didn’t really get much out of the book.

The stories and principles of course are admirable, inspirational and ring true. But still it took me a whole year to finish the book. For my reading speed that is very long. In 2022 my longest read was Words of Radiance which took me two months.

While there are applicaitons beyond it, the book mostly talks about leadership, which is evident from the title. While reading the book I wasn’t in a professional leadership capacity, so it makes sense that it wasn’t super relevant. When I will be in more of a leadership role, this will be a book I would revisit. But it just wasn’t fitting for my period of life.

This makes it a bit hard to evaluate. I landed on 4.0 out of 5. It could easily be a 5/5 when it has more relevance, or more of a 3 out of 5 in the times where there was less relevance. So I split the difference.

Still, the insights into how Navy Seals operate and lead was fascinating. It left me with a huge respect for the authors and for the armed forces in general. There is a ton of heard-earned wisdom there.


Were in the “Battle of Ramaudi” in Irak, an urban battlefield. “Task Unit Bruiser”. Jocko coordinated summer and fall 2016.


  • There is only one metric for leadership: effective or ineffective.
    • Successful leaders have teams which have victory and accomplish their goals

Part 1: Winning the war within

Chapter 1: Extreme Ownership

Jocko shares a story of where he got called in a battle. His soldiers said, they got heavy resistance from a building. Tanks were called in, and airstrikes were being ordered. Somehow, Jocko got the feeling something didn’t add up. Friendlies weren’t supposed to be there and the location of a sniper team was still unclear. He invesigated and turns out the “hostiles” were the sniper team, firing on an Iraqi soldier who they assumed to be hostile and then being locked in an intense gunfight.

Extreme Ownership is looking to yourself as the cause for any problem in the execution of the team. It is to not blame anything or anyone else. But to take full responsibility for why the team succeeds or fails.

Chapter 2: No bad teams, only bad leaders

Leadership is the single most important factor in the success of a team.

Victimisation (blaming others, making excuses) leads to becoming comfortable with substandard performance.

Chapter 3: Believe

Leaders need to believe in the mission passed on from senior leaders. You need to get the “Why?” of the mission. If you don’t, it is your responsibility to think through it and ask clarifying questions.

Only that way, leaders can communicate to their subordinates effectively, so they can believe in the mission as well.

Chapter 4: Check the Ego

Ego clouds our vision and effectiveness in achieving the mission. At some point, you might need to take Extreme Ownership over something that could be someone else’s fault.

Part 2: The Laws of Combat

Cover and Move

Chapter 8: Decentralized command

Mentioning commanders intent from Mattis As junior leader: NOT “what should i do?” BUT “this is what I’m going to do”