Extreme Ownership and The Dichotomy of Leadership

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Summary of two books: Extreme Ownership and The Dichotomy of Leadership. In the first book, it covers on the principles of Extreme Ownership, which is to place a lot of agency and responsibility onto yourself. In the second book, it talks about the challenges and balances one must take to be a successful leader.

Extreme Ownership

Take Extreme Ownership in whatever you do

A leader must be responsible for everything. To successfully do this, the leader must remove the ego, and understand that it’s all about the mission.

No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders

Standards as a leader is not what you preach, but what you tolerate.

Leaders must enforce standards, and there needs to be consequences.

Don’t have Tortured Genius mindset, where you think you’re the best, and no one understands you


In order to successfully lead the team, the leader must truly believe in the mission.

Always seek to understand why. Ask questions at higher abstractions until you do.

Check the Ego

Ego disrupts everything. The hardest ego to keep in check is your own.

In business, it’s never about you.

Cover and Move

The team must work together to achieve greater things.

Break down silos and depend on each other.

Small teams often get too focused on what they are doing that they forget the bigger picture, or even forget other team. A leader must constantly keep that in check.

Keep it Simple

Keep strategies, plans and communication as simple as it can be.

Directions and instructions need to be crystal clear, and simplicity enables that.

Encourage a culture of questioning to dispel any ambiguity.

Prioritize and Execute

At any point in time, look at the problem, prioritize, and execute.

Always focus on a single issue, and tackle it swiftly one at a time, never in parallel.

Decentralized Command

You MUST delegate in order to lead effectively. If not, you are just doing your subordinate’s job.

As a leader, your subordinates should not ask you what to do, but tell you what they would be doing. You, having a bigger picture view, would advise accordingly.

You cannot manage more than 6 to 10 people. 4 to 5 is the ideal number.

There are still boundaries to the autonomy, and the subordinates must understand them. The leader must support the subordinates in everyway possible.

Plan in Advance

Everyone must know what the mission is, and what the Commander’s Intent is.

That way, there would not be people running up and down the chain of command asking questions.

Leading Up and Down the Chain of Command

Leaders on top have the bigger picture, but don’t know what’s happening on the ground.

People on the ground know what to do, but don’t have the bigger picture.

It is each other’s responsibility to communicate up (leading your bosses above), and leading down (leading your subordinates below)

When people ask questions, they are not questioning you, but because they have a job of understanding to communicate with another party. This happens often when people get questioned by their bosses, and feel challenged. The boss wants you to succeed, and just needs to understand what you’re doing, and it is your responsibility to communicate to him.

Decisiveness amid Uncertainty

Be aggressive in decision making, especially in times of uncertainty and pressure.

Be prepared to change your decision quickly and adapt.

Be proactive, rather than reactive. Always seek out to perform an action, rather than sit back and wait.

Don’t let the situation dictate your decision, but let your decision dictate the situation.

Discipline Equals Freedom

Discipline forces you to do the things you don’t want to, eventually freeing you up to do other things.

Without discipline, you procrastinate, and that eats up into your time and life.

A true leader is not intimidated by people better than him.

Dichotomy of Leadership

Ultimate Dichotomy

Care for your team, but care for the mission as well. If an individual cannot fulfil the mission, cut the individual. If not, you are hurting the rest of the team.

Own it All, but Empower Others

Even as a leader, allow people to step up. If you own and control everything, people will not do everything but wait for your command.

When people become accustomed to being told what to do, they will simply wait for instructions. Initiative and creativity will fade, becoming thoughtless automatons.

On the other hand, a leader that is too hands off will result in the team making grandiose plans that maybe not align with the mission, or may conflict with each other.

Don’t micromanage, but don’t be too hands off.

Resolute, but not Overbearing

Don’t be too overbearing, but don’t be too lenient.

There is a time to stand firm, and there are times to bend. As a leader, it is important to know where to give way.

Leadership capital is a finite power a leader owns. If the leader spend the capital recklessly on things that don’t matter, when it comes to things that do, it would have been expended, and people would lose faith in the leader.

When to Mentor, When to Fire

Ensure your team succeeds, but know when someone is not up to the task, and remove him. It is a responsibility of the leader to do so

Most underperformers don’t need to be fired, they need to be lead. But once it crosses a threshold, you have to let him go. But make sure you have did everything in your power to assist the person first.

Train Hard, but Train Smart

If training is too easy, you don’t allow people to grow. If training is too hard, people get frustrated and won’t learn.

Train hard, but not too hard that it destroys morale.

Training needs Realism, Fundamental, Repetition

Aggressive, not Reckless

Aggressive decision making must be balanced with Logical Analysis.

You need to be 10X aggressive to win, therefore you need 10X Analysis.

Aggressive just means being highly Proactive, not hot headed.

Don’t let the disease of victory lull you into a sense of complacency.

Disciplined, not Rigid

As a leader, when in doubt, ask.

Excessive Discipline can stifle free thinking and autonomy.

Disciplined procedures allows the application of common sense, and the suggestion of adaptable alternatives.

Hold People Accountable, but Don’t Hold Their Hands

The best way to hold someone accountable is to explain to them why is it required. Once they understand the why, they will hold themselves accountable.

You must uphold standards furiously, but only where it matters most (Leadership capital)

A Leader and a Follower

Leading does not mean pushing your agenda. It means collaborating with the team to come up with the best solution.

This means that you must sometimes follow other people in the team who are experts in their domains.

Never win an argument through rank.

Good leaders are rare, bad leaders are common.

Plan, but Don’t Overplan

Don’t plan for every contingency, you will lose agility. Whatifism.

Choose at most 3 or 4 probably contingencies, and execute.

Humble, not Passive

Push back when things truly matter.

Focused, but Detached

Leaders must always pull back to the bigger picture to effectively lead.

An organization only does well those things the boss checks.


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