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.
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.
TL;DR War stories and pieces of advice from the high tech industry veteran.
I read this book following recomendations by Reem Sherman, the host of the excellent (!!!) podcast Geekonomy (in Hebrew).
Ben Horowitz is a veteran manager and entrepreneur who found the company Opsware, which Hewlett-Packard acquired in 2007. This book describes Horotwitz’s journey in Opsware from the foundation to the sale. Book’s second part is a collection of advice to working and aspiring CEOs. The last part is, actually, an advertisement for Horowitz’s new project — a VC company.
Things that I liked
The behind the scenes stories are interesting and inspiring. Ben Horowitz devoted the second part of the book to share his experience as a CEO with other actual or aspiring CEOs. I don’t work as a CEO, nor do I see myself in that position in the future. However, this part is valuable for people like me because it provides insights into how CEOs think. Moreover, “The Hard Things” is a popular book, and many managers learn from it.
Things that I didn’t like.
Ben Horowitz was a manager during the early days of the high-tech industry. As such, parts of his attitude are outdated. The most prominent example for this problem is a story that Horowitz tells, in which he asked the entire company to work 12+ hours a day, seven days a week for several months. He was very proud about this, but IMO, employees will not accept such a request in today’s climate.