Leadership Strategy and Tactics (Book Summary)

What’s it about?

Leadership Strategy and Tactics (2020) teaches you how to take the skills of a high-functioning Navy SEAL team and apply them to your workplace. You’ll learn about practices such as Extreme Ownership, and find out why humility is better than arrogance. These tips will help you to leave your ego at the door and to remember that your team’s success should always come before personal success.

About the author:

Jocko Willink ended his twenty-year career with the US Navy SEALs as a special operations unit commander. Following his retirement, he went on to be the co-founder of the leadership and management consulting company, Echelon Front. His other books include Extreme Ownership (2015) and Discipline Equals Freedom (2017).

One isn’t born a great leader; he is made into one:

Although leadership extents differ, almost all people get to be in a leadership position at a point in their life. If you plan on evolving your career, you’ll end up being in charge of a group of people and be their leader. If you own a business and long to develop it, you’ll need employees in no time and lead them. It’s rare to see adults not chasing after a job or a career or a business. But even if you aren’t, you will someday become a parent and lead your children into the world. The bottom line is, we will all be leaders and steer our own boats.

With that being said, it’s essential to know how important it is to gather as much information as we can about leadership. Sure some individuals are natural leaders, and others aren’t. But both have to have something they don’t know about leadership and learn it.

Leadership is a life skill that can be acquired. If you are one of those who have natural leadership qualities, you need to polish them to achieve your full leadership potentials.

One of the significant leadership figures is Jocko Willink, a retired Navy SEAL. Willink learned his leading skills throughout his entire career. He learned his leadership principles by observation and study and then taught it to other SEALs. After he retired, he found out that the leadership in the SEALs isn’t that different from what is applied in businesses and political environments. So he wanted to spread the principles of leadership he learned over the decades to civilian leaders too. Both Jocko and his SEAL fellow, Leif Babin, started a leadership consultancy, Echelon Front. He also wrote two books, “Extreme Ownership,” and “The Dichotomy of Leadership.” In his third book, he goes on about leadership tactics and strategies, which in the following summary, you’ll learn about first hand.

Buckle up for evolution in your leadership as you pursue these enduring leadership lessons. 

Your character influences your leadership capability:

In team one, where Jocko first got in the Navy SEAL, they had a leader whose personality didn’t motivate his followers at all. The man was selfish, and he always reminded them of his power over them whenever he got the chance. The troop couldn’t keep up with his attitude, so they reported him, and he was detached in a few days.

Luckily, Delta Charlie, their new Platoon, was a great leader with tons of experience. He so greatly led his team, and Jocko was able to learn so much from him about leadership just by observing.

One of the most important lessons he learned was always to respect the opinion of your followers. Delta Charlie allowed every member of the team to give their own strategies. After they brainstorm, Charlie would specify the potholes in their plans then propose the way to go forward.

According to Jocko, Charlie’s technique motivated the team to put in all they’ve got. Eventually, when you are the one with the plan, you can’t blame anyone but yourself for its failure, and thus work hard to fix it. The lesson here for all leaders is to listen to your followers’ ideas. They might surprise you. Don’t go around claiming you know everything and try to take all the help you can get.

“Character is power; it makes friends, draws patronage and support, and opens the way to wealth, honor, and happiness.”

J. Howe

Every leader has a great relationship with their whole team:

As mentioned previously, leaders who reach their goals are the ones who embrace the work of the whole team as one. The key here is trust; trust builds relationships and relationships build a team.

A team without trust isn’t a team, and with no team, no leader can achieve the organizational goals subjected to him.

In most organizations, leaders have both superiors and subordinates. Your goal here is to work your relationship between both of them and thus “trust.”

Maintain trust with your subordinates. Assign them tasks without your supervision. Show them that you believe in their abilities, and they will be motivated to keep up with their best. Don’t overwhelm them with hard tasks that may have serious consequences. Start slow and simple, and if they fail, seize the opportunity to be their guide.

It’s as much important to build relationships with your superiors upon trust. Most leaders try to tell their bosses what they want to hear regardless of their real truth. Go ahead and tell your boss the truth about the work and what’s really going on before you spread the damage. Once he’s aware, he can do his job as a superior leader and cooperate to find a solution. Always remember that the whole truth is better than a lie or a half one.

 How to make decisions as a leader?

As a leader, you are always told to be decisive. Beyond question, the leader in the prime decision-maker, but every leader should acquire some decision lessons. It’s not enough to tell a leader to be decisive.

 For instance, not all situations need the leader to take immediate, decisive actions. There is a delicate situation that needs thorough thinking and proper analysis before taking any steps. Those rash and impulsive decisions a leader makes might lead to losing the lives of your troop in the military or losing an important investor in the business.

When you are expected to make any decision, pause for a second, think it through, and be aware of the possible consequences or benefits your decision will bring before getting through with it. 

When the situation requires you to decide on the spot, let it be. But that’s when you should expect the risk of loss. In this case, you should take iterative decisions instantly, basing it on your intuition. The iterative choices shouldn’t be as risky. The point is to make simple decisions while you analyze the situation and fully understand it.

Let’s say you are a leader of a troop supposed to arrest a deadly criminal. You are given the location and the time period, but you are not expected to just barge in and capture the criminal risking the lives of your men. For all you know, it might be a trap.

At the same time, you shouldn’t just stand there doing nothing. You are the leader! Assign your team to plan an ambush while you stay calm and think about the situation further.

Most leaders might not welcome their subordinates’ ideas because of insecurities to be controlled. Don’t be like that. There is the best idea out there, and it doesn’t always need to be yours. Step down of your egoistic self for a second, let your guards down and remember that as a team, you cooperate to come up with the best plans.

SWOT diagram, Pareto analysis, and decision matrix are all tools that help you master the art of decision making.

How can subordinate leaders manage various relationships?

As a subordinate leader, try your best to keep a happy relationship with your boss and followers, both even if it can be a little bit intimidating.

It gets more complicated if your boss isn’t a good leader. How can you motivate the team to keep up good work if they see you butting heads with a bad leader? What kind of environment will this mess be?

Well, first, compliment your boss and give him credit whether he demands it or not – every leader likes to be credited for a fortunate mission. It might be hard to do that when you know that the reason behind the success is the hard work of the subordinates, but still, you have to let it go.

 Second, never trash your leader in front of your subordinate. Always solve your problems, especially with the boss, on your own. If you are unhappy with your boss’s order, try to privately convince him, if he insists, do your job and keep your opinion to yourself in front of the team. Or else, they will lose interest in the proceeding.  

“show respect to people who don’t even deserve it; not as a reflection of their character, but a reflection of yours.”

Dave Willis

Genuine communication can block rumors, arguments, and conflicts:

Communication is essential for every healthy relationship, especially the one that exists between workers.

For instance, if you don’t instruct your team with clear guidance, chances are they won’t know what you want them to do, and they will end up doing the wrong things. Also, the lack of communication contributes to creating misunderstandings and spreading rumors.

Proper communication between you and your team boosts their motivation and helps them feel appreciated. Let’s say you are the CEO of a company. You are working on a project that you didn’t explain its importance to the workers. They will not work full-heartedly and end up doing their job without motivation, just to get their salaries at the end of the month. But you don’t want that kind of drive among your workers. Do you?


As a leader, your character is your weapon; achieve a great one by observation and study. Excel in your career by setting your ego aside and letting your subordinates feel appreciated and motivated. Compliment your superior and give him credit whenever you get the chance. And finally, build a relationship with your team based on trust and effective and clear communication.

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