Leadership lessons from the front lines, just where leadership is most needed.
As the title suggests, Willink (The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership To Lead and Win, 2018, etc.), a retired Navy SEAL, views the world from a military point of view. That said, the lessons he offers here are of universal application, for, as he notes, “what makes leadership so hard is dealing with people, and people are crazy.” Fair enough. The practice of leadership is therefore a fluid thing that has to be tailored to the people at hand, and that requires the ability to observe and listen quietly, sometimes when your head is about to explode. The author has a lesson for that, too, and it’s a highly useful one: Lift your chin, “which elevates your vision and compels you to look around,” breathe deeply, and try to give your brain a chance to catch up to your emotions. Throughout, Willink is tough-minded—one of his lessons suggests that the leader not be too quick to praise or too effusive with it since the natural tendency of folks being praised is to slack off—but he’s also fair-minded: A lesson that will be hard for micromanagers to assimilate is to back off and give people a chance to figure out how to do things for themselves, the paradox being that the person who leads the most actually leads the least. The sitting president might take a lesson or two from the author’s eminently useful manual, especially when it comes to throwing other people under the bus in order to save your own skin. “When people notice that,” Willink writes, “they will not follow you for long.” There’s plenty of psychology at play here but, thankfully, not much in the way of Machiavellian machinations: When things aren’t working the way they’re supposed to, Willink counsels, the first direction to look is inward, not at others to point the blame.
A valuable handbook for leaders and decision-makers at any level of the organizational chart.