The ONE Truth Behind All Successful Leaders

Thirty pages in, the realization hit.

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin is not only one of the best leadership books I have ever read, it may the only leadership book I have ever read cover to cover. Typical books on leadership, especially church leadership, leave me uninspired… at best. At worst, a few seem to me as simply a series of notions stretched thin to create chapters.

Using the U.S. Navy Seals as their frame of reference, Extreme Ownership kept me turning pages by unpacking the depth of ONE astoundingly simple truth behind any successful leadership enterprise: take responsibility. In doing so, the highly effective church leader is no longer a mythical being, existing on a higher plane than the rest of all mere mortal pastors. But with responsibility, every minister at every level of the staff structure, fulfills their duty to ensure success in leading toward the most important mission of all mankind: the Great Commission.

In this, Willink and Babin’s book is practical: Every minister, in every staff role can appreciate and live out the principles of Extreme Ownership. Additionally, actual stories from their leadership during the Battle of Ramadi in Iraq, illustrating these principles in action, keep the reader connected becausetestimony is the currency of transformation. Finally, a sense of gravity is felt throughout the book as effective leadership for these authors was a matter of life or death. The obvious parallel for leaders in the church, is that extreme ownership could mean eternal life or death in our theater of operations.

Here is a summary of Extreme Ownership in 3 sentences:

  1. Leadership is taking total responsibility for the effective execution of what you are called to accomplish.
  2. When you are a leader, success always belongs to the team, failure always belongs to you.
  3. A clear, simple, actionable mission that everyone believes-in is critical to the success of every team.

My Top 15 Quotes for Church Leaders from Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

  • Without a team there can be no leadership.
  • For all the definitions, descriptions, and characterizations of leaders, there are only two that matter: effective and ineffective. Effective leaders lead successful teams that accomplish their mission. Ineffective leaders do not.
  • For leaders, the humility to admit and own mistakes and develop a plan to overcome them is essential to success.
  • The best leaders are not driven by ego or personal agendas. They are simply focused on the mission and how to best accomplish it.
  • Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.
  • The leader bears full responsibility for explaining the strategic mission, developing the tactics, and securing the training and resources to enable the team properly and successfully execute.
  • If an individual on a team is not performing at the level required for the team to succeed, the leader must train and mentor that underperformer… But the leader must be loyal to the team and the mission above any individual.
  • When it comes to standards as a leader, it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.
  • There are no bad teams anywhere… Only bad leaders.
  • It is incumbent on senior leaders to take the time to explain and answer the questions of their junior leaders so that they too can understand why and believe.
  • Leadership isn’t one person leading a team. It is a group of leaders working together up and down the chain of command to lead.
  • A broad and ambiguous mission results in lack of focus, ineffective execution, and mission creep.
  • If your team isn’t doing what you need them to do, you first have to look at yourself. Rather than blame them for not seeing the strategic picture, you must figure out a way to better communicate it to them in terms that are simple, clear and concise, so that they understand.
  • A public display of discontent or disagreement with the chain of command undermines the authority at all levels. This is catastrophic to the performance of any organization.
  • If your leader is not giving you the support that you need, don’t blame him or her. Instead, reexamine what you can do to better clarify, educate, influence or convince that person to give you what you need in order to win.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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Recent Comments
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

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