Recently I had three conversations in one week that made me think about the topic of high performance leaders a bit more. The first conversation was about high performance organizations and the book of André de Waal “What Makes A High Performance Organization”. The second conversation was with a very effective senior executive. Shortly after that conversation, I was pointed to the podcast of Brian Johnson and I listened to his interview with Leif Babin, author of the book “Extreme Ownership”.

What I noticed in the conversation with the senior executive, was that he had a lot on his plate due to his many responsibilities and roles. Still, he was able to perform in a very effective manner. Over the past months, I have already had the pleasure of seeing him perform in numerous situations. The fact that he is an effective executive was already very clear to me.

In our conversation I asked a number of questions to find out what it was that made him so effective. His answers summed up a series of characteristics that were intrinsic to himself and also showed an environment that he created within the boundaries of the organization. An environment that allowed him to operate as effective as he does.

Later when reading the book on high performance organizations, I had to think back to this conversation. I could now recognize that the senior executive possessed at least 9 out of the 12 characteristics of the high performance organizations’ quality of management:

  • He is trusted by his organization
  • He has integrity
  • He applies fast decision-making
  • He applies fast action taking
  • He focuses on achieving results
  • He is very effective
  • He applies strong leadership
  • He is confident
  • He is decisive with regard to non-performers

This senior executive takes full ownership for everything he does. That is what the book Extreme Ownership is all about. Leif Babin and Jocko Willink wrote the book based on their experience in the US Navy Seals. In difficult war zones they learned how at every level leadership is essential for success and survival. Their book explains the Seal leadership principles and how to apply them to any group, team or organization.

In the end, great leadership drills down to one essential element, and the title of their book “Extreme Ownership” already hints at it. You own everything, you are responsible for your own world, there is no one else to blame and there are no excuses. If someone else or a team is not doing what they need to do, then you need to look at yourself first and change your communication. You constantly strive for improvement.

Two questions as some food for thought for you this week:

  • Do you take full ownership of your leadership at your level?
  • Where are your areas for improvement?

Links to some supportive material: