Extreme Ownership

Have you ever wondered why some people just get things done? Why some people seem in control? And why some people seem to just have the best luck? The answer is simple, extreme ownership.

I want to briefly share with you some strong principles from two books I have read, how extreme ownership applies in practice to the ‘Navy Seals’ and how we can implement it into our businesses and lives.

There is no other greater test than being a Navy Seal in combat according to Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (joint authors of “Extreme Ownership” who both fought in the Iraq War). Their number one principle above any other in combat and leadership was “extreme ownership”.

I also read Jack Canfield’s (motivational speaker, corporate trainer and entrepreneur) book “The Success Principles” where he puts a slightly different spin on it, “we must as individuals take 100% responsibility for everything that happens in our lives”. Jack mentions that the outcome of every event is how we respond to that event i.e. event + response = outcome.  Let me share some practical examples below.

Extreme Ownership

Navy Seals

The horrific and astonishing story that Jocko and Leif share in their book about extreme ownership is quite amazing. I won’t go into too much detail but briefly the story starts off with a battle in Iraq where for multiple reasons Jocko’s Navy Seals ended up in a friendly fire fight with the US army. They were very lucky Jocko turned up to the fire fight when he did because the US army had ordered an air strike on the Navy Seals location. When Jocko arrived on the scene with the US army something didn’t feel right. Jocko and one of his commanders decided to walk up to the building where the US army had been shooting at for hours and opened the door to the building. Low and behold there was his Navy Seals, the worst possible thing that could happen in war, a blue on blue (a friendly fire fight).

Whenever something devastating like this occurred there was a massive investigation into why it happened. Jocko the leader of his Navy Seals platoon had to address the investigators, the chief operations officer, his seals and the US army on what had happened and why.  In the first instance Jocko was trying to work out why this occurred. He went through quite a number of procedural items that went wrong, but came to the conclusion that he was ultimately responsible for what happened.

When Jocko presented his findings to everyone, he first asked “Who is to blame for this?” When he asked this question quite a number of people put their hands up, took ownership and briefly stated what they did wrong. Jocko continually answered “NO, it is not your fault” and continued to ask the same question. After a number of people responded he took extreme ownership as the leader. He said “I am the only one to blame here no one else” he went on to say “under my leadership I will guarantee that nothing like this will ever happen again.”

Jocko assumed extreme ownership for what had happened and by doing so had gained the utmost respect and trust of all his Navy Seals. He also kept his job as a leader of his Navy Seal platoon. If he had not taken complete ownership, his days as a Navy Seal would have been most likely over. It is important that no matter where you are and what you are doing that you take extreme ownership for everything you can control.

Work and Business

I will share briefly an instance where we have been able to implement this principle into a small business. We were asked to assist a client in getting his office administration team to function more effectively and efficiently. We firstly discussed with the business owner what extreme ownership meant to him and his team. Ultimately the buck stops with him but along each line those individuals must own their roles. We then allowed the business owner to educate the admin team on their roles and what is needed from them. We put systems in place for daily checks and discussed how important each role is to be completed daily and how it helps the overall mission. This process has not only allowed the admin staff to take ownership of their roles but also allowed the business owner to concentrate on his role in and on the business.

It was also important that we stressed to the admin staff that no matter what, they must complete each role. Some of the items might seem insignificant but they are very important to the overall success of the business.

This is still a work in progress and like most things it always will be. We have been able to help the admin staff own their roles and therefore limit the stress for the business owner so we can all push forward in the right direction.


The principle of extreme ownership and 100% responsibility are some of the most important principles every successful person seems to abide by. We need to think consciously “am I taking extreme ownership for everything in my control?”

When considering teaching or implementing this principle to staff, fellow colleagues or individuals, we must be aware of the overall mission and how taking extreme ownership of a role helps us achieve it. Without the overall mission in mind, most people will not take that extra step into extreme ownership.


Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink, Leif Babin

The Success Principles(TM) – 10th Anniversary Edition: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield

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