The Leadership Secret Every Navy SEAL Knows

What can my church learn from the mission-focused leadership of the United States Navy SEALs?

A clear, executable mission is the key to success for every branch of the military. An outstanding attention to teamwork and training make the United States Navy SEALs the most formidable fighting force on the planet. Leadership is just as important to each SEAL Team as it is to your church.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Extreme Ownership, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Sent to the most violent battlefield in Iraq, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin’s SEAL task unit faced a seemingly impossible mission: help U.S. forces secure Ramadi, a city deemed “all but lost.” In gripping firsthand accounts of heroism, tragic loss, and hard-won victories in SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser, they learned that leadership―at every level―is the most important factor in whether a team succeeds or fails.

Willink and Babin returned home from deployment and instituted SEAL leadership training that helped forge the next generation of SEAL leaders. After departing the SEAL Teams, they launched Echelon Front, a company that teaches these same leadership principles to businesses and organizations. From promising startups to Fortune 500 companies, Babin and Willink have helped scores of clients across a broad range of industries build their own high-performance teams and dominate their battlefields.

Now, detailing the mind-set and principles that enable SEAL units to accomplish the most difficult missions in combat, Extreme Ownership shows how to apply them to any team, family, or organization. Each chapter focuses on a specific topic such as Cover and Move, Decentralized Command, and Leading Up the Chain, explaining what they are, why they are important, and how to implement them in any leadership environment.

A compelling narrative with powerful instruction and direct application, Extreme Ownership revolutionizes business management and challenges leaders everywhere to fulfill their ultimate purpose: lead and win.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Today’s Naval Special Warfare operators – SEALs, for Sea, Air, and Land – can trace their origins to the Scouts and Raiders, Naval Combat Demolition Units, Underwater Demolition Teams, and Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons of World War II. Their pioneering efforts in unconventional warfare are mirrored in the missions and professionalism of the present Naval Special Warfare teams.

The principles critical to SEAL success on the battlefield – how SEALS train and prepare their leaders, how they mold and develop high-performance teams, and how they lead in combat – are directly applicable in any group, organization, corporation, or business.

For SEAL teams, the beginning and foundational leadership principle is this: the leader is truly and ultimately responsible for everything.

The best leaders don’t just take responsibility for their job. They take Extreme Ownership of everything that impacts their mission.

This fundamental core concept enables SEAL leaders to lead high-performing teams in extraordinary circumstances and win. But Extreme Ownership isn’t a principle whose application is limited to the battlefield. This concept is the number-one characteristic of any high-performance winning team, in any military unit, organization, sports team or business team in any industry.

When subordinates are not doing what they should, leaders that exercise Extreme Ownership cannot blame the subordinates. They must first look in the mirror at themselves. The leader bears full responsibility for explaining the strategic mission, developing the tactics, and securing the training and resources to enable the team to properly and successfully execute.

Extreme Ownership requires leaders to look at an organization’s problems through the objective lens of reality, without emotional attachments to agendas or plans. It mandates that a leader set ego aside, accept responsibility for failures, attaché weakness, and consistently work to build a better and more effective team.

Such a leader does not take credit for his or her team’s successes, but bestows that honor upon his subordinate leaders and team members. When a leader sets such an example and expects this from junior leaders within the team, the mindset develops into the team’s culture at every level.

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, Extreme Ownership

A NEXT STEP

As the senior leader of a staff team, or as a staff member leading a ministry team, the principle of Extreme Ownership means that you have the responsibility for everything that occurs with your team – everything.

To begin utilizing the concept of Extreme Ownership, select a recent ministry activity that did not go as well as you had planned. On a chart tablet, write the activity and date at the top.

On the chart tablet, review the development of the activity, by listing the genesis of the idea, discussion and planning prior to the activity itself, and all individuals along with their specific responsibilities in carrying out the activity. In addition, list any external factors that may have impacted the result of the activity.

Go over the chart tablet in detail with the following questions in mind:

  1. What leadership support did I provide in the genesis of the activity?
  2. How did my words and actions affect the initial planning of the activity?
  3. How involved was I through direct or indirect decision-making in the initial planning?
  4. Once initial planning had begun, did I connect on a regular basis with the leaders of specific tasks?
  5. If so, did I encourage them, offering additional training or insights as needed?
  6. Did I pull all the leaders together regularly to briefly review their individual progress toward the common goal?
  7. If so, did I help them understand how their individual and team success would lead to the success of the overall goal?
  8. On the day before the activity, did the team meet to verbally run through the activity’s main actions?
  9. If so, what was your level of participation? Did you verbally support and affirm your subordinate’s plans or critically suggest other options?
  10. At the activity itself, what was your role?
  11. How often did you circulate around during the activity and speak to your subordinates?
  12. How did you “take notes” during the activity for later discussions?
  13. Did you realize during the activity that it had not met your expectations?
  14. At the conclusion of the activity, how did you thank everyone for his or her involvement?
  15. Did you have a preplanned “debrief” of the activity, or was it only after you realized things didn’t go as planned?

To successfully complete an activity, or lead change, or to challenge people to accomplish a difficult or complex task, you can’t make people deliver the result you envision. You have to lead them.

Extreme Ownership is a mind-set and attitude. When leaders practice Extreme Ownership and develop a culture of Extreme Ownership within their teams, the rest will begin to fall in place.


Taken from SUMS Remix 41-1, published May 2016


This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

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