27 Jocko Willink Quotes From Extreme Ownership

Jocko Willink, a retired Navy SEAL and author, says that the United States is in real danger of falling into a fascist regime.

He also wrote a book called ‘Extreme Ownership’, which is essentially a manual that teaches people how to be incredible and strong leaders.

Jocko Willink says that the most important thing that leaders can do is to create culture, and then you have to make it a priority. No one ever said it was easy, but it’s something leaders have to do.

27 Jocko Willink Quotes on Leadership

This is more important than ever in the current era of politics. The “brave, but not foolhardy” part is key. The best leaders are able to recognize when they’re in over their head and are able to take charge but also not make the situation worse.

A leader must be attentive to details, but not obessed with them. They must be strong but have endurance. A leader must be humble, but not passive. They must be close to the subordinates, but not too close. They must exercise ‘extreme ownership’, but employ ‘decentralized command’. They must have nothing to prove, but everything to prove.

In chaotic, dynamic, and rapidly changing environments, leaders at all levels must be empowered to make and execute decisions. Decentralized Command is a key component to victory.

The real risk for the American fighting the Taliban, and other groups that fight with a similar strategy, is not that we will be defeated by them, but that we will commit suicide.

This military is made up of men and women who share a common desire to serve in a military, and do so with high standards of excellence. These individuals must be self-motivated, intelligent, have excellent leadership skills and a strong work ethic.

If you expect substandard performance from people, it’s okay to tolerate a substandard performance.
If you expect substandard performance from people, it’s okay to tolerate a substandard performance.

7th of 27 Jocko Willink Quotes

I think the best way to sum up what Jocko is saying here is to say that what most people think is good (compromise, peace, etc.) is not necessarily the best way to live. That there are different ways to be a champion. And that the best way to win isn’t always the one that looks good to others.

While working in the private sector, I’ve managed large teams of individuals, and I can tell you that many of the problems people complain about today, the issues are not new.
Our species has always had a natural desire to group together.
We’re social animals.
And, when you add to that our innate need to be connected to others,
that has made us very successful in our current evolutionary environment.
But, as a species, we’re not well suited to manage groups of over 10 people.

A standardized planning process allows us to create plans that we can execute within a set time frame and follow a set process. When a plan isn’t standardized, we can’t follow the process which is critical for creating successful plans.

Leadership is not about seniority. And it’s about being brave and being willing to accept and run with the bold, daring moves that are always necessary.

I hear a lot of people say that they lead a team. They see themselves as a leader of a group of people. But leadership doesn’t happen when you are the leader of a group of people. It happens when those people trust you and are listening to you.

Ego clouds and stops everything being done.

He had to take ownership and then take responsibility for what went wrong. He did not want to blame someone, but he was fired because he was responsible for the failure.

14th of 27 Jocko Willink Quotes

Leaders need courage, clarity, and trust. They must be committed to the vision and must not be afraid to take risks to achieve the goal. There are no guarantees.

When you are the leader of a group: you are the owner of everything in the group. You cannot blame anybody else if something goes wrong, or if someone is not doing their job. You cannot point your finger at anyone else. You should always be the first one to take responsibility for your group.

Iraq was a country with no oil. Saddam was a dictator. He represented evil – not just for America but for the entire world. Saddam was a threat.
Iraq had oil.
Saddam was no longer the enemy.
Iraq was a country with a government that was stable: a government that was trying to improve the lives of their people.

In the book, Jocko Willink writes that extreme ownership can be found in any type of leadership.

If frontline troops are unclear as to what the plan is and yet are too scared to ask questions, the team’s ability to effectively execute the plan will drastically decrease.

If you’re not leading a company or an organization, then you’re not doing anything. And if you’re not leading a band of people, then you’re not doing anything. Because in order to be a leader, you’ve got to have people to lead, and they’ve got to follow you because no one else will.

When you mentor others, you allow them to grow. This allows the person to do the job and move to another level of responsibility. If you need to retire, do it. If you need to move up, do it. Then you can get someone new that can take your place.

The leadership and leadership development programs that you have experienced and participated in to date have been designed to help you develop leadership qualities, and to teach you how to get and keep people ‘on your team.’ I expect that this will be even more true if you graduate from the program.

22nd of 27 Jocko Willink Quotes

Bad leaders do not lead bad people. They lead to bad results.

The status quo that was created by the leadership is not the right thing to create. We need to make change in this situation.

The whole team must be committed to the highest priority task. One cannot spend time on two things at once. Everyone must focus completely on the highest priority task. Once you are committed, then you can assess your overall success and then determine what the next priority is.

Leaders are responsible for everything, and everyone else is only as good as them.

The team is always bigger than one person and the bigger the team, the more resilient and successful the team is.
It is true that when someone is on a personal mission it usually makes them perform better than when they focus on the mission at hand.
But what becomes really detrimental is when the mission and the personal agendas start to compete for the same resources and the attention of the team and the team performance suffers.

I would like to thank Jocko Willink for the quote that has inspired me to create this blog. His approach to leadership is one that all leaders can benefit from. As a leader myself, I am learning many of the lessons that Jocko has learned in his career in the military. A good leader is never satisfied with a solution. He or she will figure out how to get the job done in the most effective way possible.


Jocko Willink is the best-selling author of the book: “Ego is the Enemy” and Chief Instructor of the world-renowned F.E.A.S.T. Training System. He’s a Navy SEAL, a Special Forces combat commander and a tactical advisor for Hollywood films.

He speaks in front of large audiences at conventions, corporate events and training conferences.

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