“ How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win ”

by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Book Cover

A list of leadership principles from Navy Seals commanders, with application to business. Nothing revolutionary, but examples out of business and the industry. Once I got beyond the somewhat redundant military examples, I actually appreciated the different style. Bonus points for a clear organization, clear points, and the straight-to-the-point approach. A book that practices what it preaches.


Leaders take full responsibility for their teams, their primary goal is the mission, they understand it, its reasons, and gather the team around it. They provide clarity and organization, and keep the big picture in mind when planning. They keep things simple and in check. They practice self discipline

reading notes

Take full responsibility for what happens in your team. No excuses. (7h1: Habit #1)

There’s no such thing as a bad team, only bad leaders. A good leader is viral, their effects are long term (#1)

Understand the why, challenge it (or its understanding) if necessary. Explain it to your troops (7h: Habit #2)

Work as one with other teams. What matters is the mission, not who wins it. Work as a team, doesn’t matter if you’re in the same organization or company as long as your mission is aligned. Remember who the enemy is. (7h: Habit #4/#6)

Leave ego checked at the door. Listen to others, use their skills and knowledge. (7h: Habit #5)

Simple principle. Smallest step possible, don’t try to over plan. Keep it simple. Plans need to be easily understood, visible for everyone, well communicated (KISS)

Prioritize and execute. Things go sideways, and snowball into a multitude of issues. This can be overwhelming even if for seasoned leaders. When in stressful environments, prioritize and and execute. Relax, observe, define the highest priority and execute on this one. Evaluate the highest priority effort. Communicate it clearly. Re-evaluate as priorities can shift. (7h: Habit #3)

Decentralize command - 4 to 6 reports max, give latitude of making decisions and support them, stay connected to what’s happening. (PoPDF2: Delegation framework)

Plan. Analyze the mission, understand the intent. Identify personnel resources and time. Decentralize planning, let junior leaders come with course of action. Determine course of action, lean towards simplest. Empower leaders to come with plan for specific course of action. Include contingencies through each phase of the plan and mitigate risks. Delegate portions of the plan to junior leaders, and remain at the big picture/strategic level to make sure you identify gaps. Check plan against emerging info and validate it still fits. Brief everyone. (PoPFD: Exploit variability)

Manage up. You need to provide situational awareness to the leadership. If upper management questions or requests seem out of phase, that means you need to do a better job at explaining the situation. Ask yourself: do they want me to fail? If it’s helping situational awareness it’s not a waste of time, it’s helping ensuring you get everything you need.

Be decisive. You’ll never have all the data you need, and situation will be stressful. Make the hard calls. (Radical candor3)

Have self discipline. Wake up early, practice your craft, study. Don’t let discipline prevent you from executing. Be systematic but don’t become a robot. You can have emotions and be angry, but don’t let that deteriorate the mission success. Be close to your team but not so close that a person becomes more important than the mission. Be confident but not so confident that you stop listening to others. Be calm but not silent. etc. (7h: #7, Clean Coder, 12rfl: keep should straight4)

foot notes

About Reading Notes

These are my takes on this book. See other reading notes. Most of the time I stop taking notes on books I don't enjoy, and these end up not being in the list. This is why average ratings tend to be high.