Own the failures and distribute the success

​We don’t close this sale? It’s my fault.

We don’t get it done in time? It’s my fault.

We allow our competitor to beat us to it? It’s my fault.

In Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink describes a leadership approach he learnt in the US special forces: 

Take full responsibility for everything that happens. Even if it’s not your fault.

It’s similar to my definition of a grown up: Someone who takes responsibility for their situation.

I know. The idea of ownership and responsibility doesn’t seem worthy of an entire book. It’s obvious and easily understandable. But while many will agree with the statement, few put it into practice in their lives.

Consider the most common leadership and management style:

“If there’s a success, I’ll take the credit and the reward. If there’s failure, I’ll blame the team.”

I’m not even deep into the corporate world and I’ve seen this many times. When times are good, everybody wants to show everyone how much they contributed to the success. But when it gets rough? When there’s pain and suffering and failure? These same people don’t think twice about pointing the finger and pleading ignorance.

What Jocko Willink, as well as most high level leaders advocate is the opposite:

“If there’s a success, the team gets the credit. If there’s a failure, I’ll own it. It’s my responsibility.”

In fact, they don’t just recommend the opposite. They live it.

They own the failures and distribute the success.

A leader who does that is a leader that people will rally behind.