What did I learn about leadership from meeting Jocko Willink

I was lucky enough to get to listen to Jocko on the weekend. He is the author of the book Extreme Leadership which I had happened to read last month. I wanted to share the three things I took away from his compelling talk.

  1. Take a step back, look around, and assess what’s happening.

When you are in the thick of the action in your business, it is too easy to not see the forest for the trees.

Leaders need to have the self awareness of when they are getting dragged into the action too much. It is not that they are not willing to graft with the troops, its just that is not their position, leaders want to keep their team safe, and to do that they have to look up from the doing and see the bigger picture.

In the technological age, more than ever, your leaders need to look up and see the risks coming and come up with a plan that will keep the team on the path to greatness.

2. Leaders are humble, leaders put the bins out

Jocko told a great story where their boss used to go and take the bins out, and you know what they used to do, they used to sneak in and take the bins out before their boss could. This is a beautiful example of being humbler as a leader but also your team wanting to serve their leader. They WANTED to do the task for their leader, knowing that their leader was 100% willing to do it for them. The lesson here is for leaders AND followers. Both roles are vital.

3. Let your team come up with the plan

If you want your team to take massive ownership of the plan, let them come up with the plan! Jocko noted that if you as a leader come up with a plan that is 90% right and one of your team comes up with an 80% plan, which plan do you execute?

The 80% PLAN every time. Why? Because the team will make up for the 10% deficit in their plan through the commitment and ownership of the plan. This is real leadership, as you are letting go of absolute power and instead empowering others. Leaders are scared this will make them irrelevant when in fact it will do the opposite.

At FJA we do everything to empower our teams to deliver massive success for our clients. We as leaders have some way to go to be able to orate with the presence that Jocko has. Although I am pretty sure my guns are bigger (see photo for proof).