Book review: Extreme ownership

TL;DR Own your wins, own your failures, stay calm and make decisions. Read it. 5/5

Extreme ownership” is a book about leadership in business written by two ex-SEAL fighters. This book is full of war stories, as in actual stories from a real war. I read this book by the recommendation (an instruction, really) of the serial entrepreneur Danny Lieberman. After three years in the Israeli Border Police and after a cumulative year-and-a-half in active IDF reserve over almost twenty years, I learned to dislike war stories strongly. Had Danny not told me, “you have to read this book,” I would have ditched it after the first couple of pages. The war stories are self-bragging, and the business case studies are oversimplified and always have a happy ending. Moreover, the connection between a war story and a business case is sometimes very artificial.

Nevertheless, I’m glad that I read this book. It has several powerful messages and shows leadership aspects that I haven’t managed to formalize in my head before.

Key points

The best leaders don’t just take responsibility for their job. They take Extreme Ownership of everything that impacts their mission. When subordinates aren’t doing what they should, leaders that exercise Extreme Ownership cannot blame the subordinates. They must first look in the mirror at themselves.

  • It’s not what you preach; it’s what you tolerate
  • “Relax, look around, make a call.” 

This point takes me back to my days as the chief combat medic in an IDF infantry battalion (here we come, more war stories!). One day, an instructor, a very experienced paramedic, told me that the first thing a medic should do when they arrive at a scene is to take a pulse, not the pulse of the victims, but your own pulse, to make sure you’re calm and take the right decisions. 

  • Prioritize your problems and take care of them one at a time, the highest priority first. 
  • Leadership doesn’t just flow down the chain of command, but up as well.

This is a super valuable and insightful message.

The bottom line: Read it 5/5

By Boris Gorelik

Machine learning, data science and visualization

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