Dichotomy of Leadership

Dichotomy of Leadership

Jocko Willink & Leif Babin   *   St. Martin’s Press   *   September 25, 2018   *   320 Pages

Goodreads | Amazon | BN

Dichotomy of Leadership is the follow-up book to Jocko Willink and Leif Babin’s wildly popular book on leadership, Extreme Ownership. Both men are former Navy Seals and now run a consulting company together called Echelon Front.

Dichotomy of Leadership follows the same general format as Extreme Ownership. The book is divided into three parts:  1) Balancing People, 2) Balancing the Mission, and 3) Balancing Yourself. Each part is then divided into four different chapters—so twelve chapters all together—with each one covering common issues that leaders face. Special emphasis is put on balancing preferable leadership qualities without going to extremes. Here’s a quick summary of each chapter:

  1. Care about your individual team members, but accept that you might have to sacrifice individuals to save the group.
  2. Claim ownership, but don’t micromanage others so much that no one else has the opportunity to take control and feel ownership themselves. (One of my favorite chapters.)
  3. Be resolute but not overbearing.
  4. Do everything you can to help struggling team members, but know when it’s time to fire them.
  5. Train your team well, but don’t be so hard on people that they become overwhelmed and can no longer learn.
  6. Be aggressive but not reckless.
  7. Be disciplined but not rigid. Allow for flexibility.
  8. Hold people accountable, but don’t smother them with direction.
  9. Be a good follower if you want to be a good leader. (Another favorite!)
  10. Plan, but don’t over-plan.
  11. Be humble, but don’t be passive. Prioritize when to push back.
  12. Know the details of the mission, but also be detached enough that you can see the big picture.

The chapter on being a good follower was so eye-opening for me. I don’t work in a business setting, but I am very active in the PTO at my kid’s school. Sometimes the group I lead gets the support it needs…and sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, truthfully, I get mad at my “boss.” But this chapter showed me the importance of developing and maintaining a good relationship with my higher-ups, regardless of whether I agree with them or not. I loved this quote:

Strive to have the same relationship with every boss you ever work for, no matter if they are good or bad. The relationship you should seek with any boss incorporates three things:  1) they trust you, 2) they value and seek your opinion and guidance, and 3) they give you what you need to accomplish your mission and then let you go execute.

It’s not easy to have patience when you’re at odds with your boss, but I appreciate Willink and Babin’s advice to breathe and remember my long term goals.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed this book. It’s well-written and well-organized, and I loved the real-life examples from the authors’ lives. This is a great resource for anyone who works in groups, runs a team, or answers to a boss. In other words, there’s something for everyone in here.


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