Anyone in a leadership position knows the challenges of leading their team. During this period of shifting economic winds marked by great losses and surprising gains, knowing how to pivot can make or break your company.
Leadership Strategy and Tactics by Jocko Willink is a new entry into the genre of books that sell to the crowd that looks to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War for business advice. As with most in this genre, not all of the principles carry over (such as the five ways to attack with fire or the use of spies), but the author’s vast body of work on the subject does give a number of useful insights. Willink is most well known for his podcast and previous two books, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win (2015) and The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win (2017).
Leadership Strategy and Tactics draws from Willink’s extensive experience as a platoon commander and his corporate consulting work and focuses on building a leader’s mindset by offering strategies to execute your goals. Leadership builds off the principles established in Extreme Ownership and Dichotomy in order to offer codified rules with discussion on how to lead in any environment or industry. The core of Jocko’s work can be summarized by three key concepts:
- Extreme Ownership: everything is your responsibility
- The Dichotomy of Leadership: leadership encompasses a series of opposing duties, needs and priorities that must be managed to fulfill the mission and keep the group functioning
- Laws of Combat: Cover and Move, Simple, Prioritize and Execute, Decentralized Command
The book is divided into two sections, Leadership Strategies and Leadership Tactics. The Strategies section expounds on the foundations, core tenets and principles of leading. The Tactics section focuses on the practical challenges of becoming a leader (or working with one), skills, maneuvers and communication.
As much as I like Willink’s previous works, the content here is lacking. This book is set up as a general guide to leadership, but most of the examples used are from his training and military deployments, which do not always apply to general leadership. While it is sold as a playbook that you can reference when you need an idea, the formatting is suited more for a general read through. Some diagrams, flowcharts or other figures would have helped to quickly pull information instead of sorting through paragraphs for answers.
The content is useful from a general perspective on leadership (especially the unit on communication), but it would have been greatly improved if he included examples from outside his own life. It is a shame as he does this in his podcast, which frequently hosts civilian professions from a variety of industries. Still, if you don’t have time to go back and read his other books, it is an excellent summary of his work.
If you’re looking for more in-depth information on the topics discussed in this book, the author’s podcast includes more examples and discussion, especially from his business consulting work.