My First Jocko Willink Event

Published: April 14, 2020

As many know, I am a huge fan of Jocko Willink’s and have been for some time.  In Fall 2016, I attended Jocko’s very first “Muster” event, held in San Diego. Muster was a 2 day leadership training course built around the concepts discussed in Jocko’s then recently released book, Extreme Ownership.  

I recently came across my notes from Muster.  I opened to page 1 of my notebook to my first note: 

“Leadership is the most important thing on the battlefield, especially during times of intense chaos.”

Having read this note, I concluded that sharing my notes around “leadership in chaos” may be timely in light of where we stand in our respective businesses today.

Jocko and Leif opened the session with details around the “Laws of Combat”.  The four laws are:

  1. Cover & Move
  2. Simplify
  3. Prioritize & Execute
  4. Decentralize Command

Law #1 – Cover & Move – A team must work together.  There are no “silos”. The enemy is outside the wire (defensive perimeter), and if the team fails everyone fails.

Law #2 – Simplify – A leader must simplify the mission, and in doing so simplify the goal.  Communication must be clear and concise. If your people do not understand then they can’t execute.

Law #3 – Prioritize & Execute – As a leader you must relax, detach, look around, and make a call; recognize, analyze, and react.  Use the OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act).

Law #4 – Decentralized Command – The team must not just understand what to do but why it is to be done.  Your people should not just follow orders but do so intelligently (by knowing the purpose behind the orders). When chaos ensues, the team must rely on each member to step up and lead, however all players must be on the same page.  As a leader you must “build a box” for your team members. In other words, parameters and boundaries must be set. Lastly, the “Why” should be incredibly simple and to the point – think “mantra” style.

After the laws, Jocko focused his attention on the concept of Extreme Ownership.  I think this concept is very important to understand, especially when leading in times of crisis.  

While leaders should honor the Laws of Combat, they must also exemplify “Extreme Ownership”.  Extreme ownership is the attitude and mindset that no one else is to blame, and there are no excuses for a less than ideal outcome.  The leader must own problems as well as the solutions to these problems. How do you build extreme ownership into your team? Model it.  

Jock concluded the morning session of day 1 with the following statement:

“When it comes to standards, as a leader, it is not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate”

And then came a viewing of one of my favorite Jocko “motivational” videos…

I hope these notes help you today.  I know just reviewing them helped me refocus and recommit. 

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