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What it Means for a Chief to Tackle “Excessive Possession”

Photograph: Jocko Willink (left) and Leif Babin (proper)

I’ve written earlier than about “excessive possession” and the way passing the buck (i.e., blaming others), making excuses, and never taking accountability can derail a pacesetter.

On this put up, I would wish to delve deeper and discuss what precisely it means when a pacesetter takes on an “excessive possession” mindset and observe.

Here is an instance of a brave chief (on the time, Jocko Willink was the Activity Unit Commander of SEAL Crew Three’s Activity Unit Bruiser; he is now a retired U.S. Navy SEAL officer) who accepted accountability for his workforce’s errors and provided to resign.

Beneath is an excerpt from Jocko’s TED Speak (2017). I’ve included it, with out modifying or summarizing it to indicate simply how POWERFUL it may be when a pacesetter is BRAVE and WILLING to do the fitting factor. Clearly, as a Navy SEAL, Jocko is courageous within the literal sense in that he runs head-first to confront hazard. Nevertheless, what’s much more impactful to these he led was his willingness to step up and settle for accountability when issues went WRONG.

Some of the impactful classes that I discovered from warfare was within the spring of 2006, within the metropolis of Ramadi, Iraq which on the time was the epicenter of the insurgency, the place brutal and decided terrorists dominated the streets with torture and rape and homicide. And it was in a single neighborhood of that metropolis, throughout an operation that I used to be accountable for, when all hell broke free.

We had a number of items out on the battlefield preventing the enemy. We had pleasant Iraqi troopers, we had US Military troopers and US Marines together with small parts of my SEAL workforce. After which the fog of warfare rolled in, with its confusion and chaos and mayhem, and with its gunfire, and enemy assaults and screaming males and blood and dying. And in that fog of warfare, by means of a collection of errors and human error and poor judgment and Murphy’s legislation and simply plain dangerous luck, a horrendous firefight broke out. However this firefight, it wasn’t between us and the enemy. This firefight tragically was between us and us — pleasant forces in opposition to pleasant forces — fratricide, the mortal sin of fight and essentially the most horrific a part of warfare.

And when it was over and the fog of warfare lifted, one pleasant Iraqi soldier was lifeless, two extra have been wounded, one among my males was wounded, the remainder of my SEALs have been badly shaken. And it was solely by means of a miracle that nobody else was killed. And it was reported up the chain of command what had occurred, that we had fought and wounded and killed one another.

And after we acquired again to base, issues didn’t get significantly better. There was a message ready for me from my commanding officer. And it mentioned, “Shut down all operations.” It mentioned that the commanding officer, the grasp chief and the investigating officer have been inbound to my location. And so they instructed me to organize a debrief to clarify precisely what had occurred on the operation and what had gone unsuitable.

Now I knew what this meant. It meant that any individual needed to pay. It meant that any individual needed to be held accountable. It meant that any individual needed to get fired for what had occurred. So I started to organize my debrief and in it, I detailed each mistake that was made and who made it. And I identified each failure within the planning and the preparation and the execution within the operation and I identified who was answerable for that failure. There was loads of blame to go round. There have been so many individuals that I may incriminate with guilt however one thing wasn’t proper. For some purpose, I simply couldn’t put my finger on who was at fault and who particularly I ought to blame for what had occurred. And I sat and I went over it time and again and I struggled for a solution.

After which once I was about 10 minutes from beginning the debrief, that reply got here and it hit me like a slap within the face. And I noticed that there was just one particular person in charge for the confusion, just one particular person in charge for the wounded males and just one particular person in charge for the lifeless Iraqi soldier. And I knew precisely who that particular person was.

And with that information, I walked into the debriefing room with my commanding officer, and the grasp chief and the investigating officer have been sitting there ready for me together with the remainder of my males, together with my SEAL that had been wounded who’s sitting at the back of the room along with his head and his face all bandaged up.

And I stood up earlier than them and I requested them one easy query: whose fault was this? One among my SEALs raised his hand, and he mentioned, “It was my fault. I didn’t hold management of the Iraqi troopers I used to be with they usually left their designated sector and that was the foundation of all these issues.” And I mentioned, “No, it wasn’t your fault.”

After which one other SEAL raised his hand and mentioned, “It was my fault. I didn’t go our location over the radio quick sufficient, so nobody knew what constructing we have been in. And that’s what precipitated all this confusion. It was my fault.” I mentioned, “No, it wasn’t your fault both.”

After which one other SEAL raised his hand, and he mentioned, ‘Boss, this was my fault. I didn’t correctly establish my goal and I shot and killed that pleasant Iraqi soldier. This was my fault.” And I mentioned, “No, this wasn’t your fault, both.” And it wasn’t yours or yours or yours, I mentioned as I pointed to the remainder of the SEALs within the room. After which I instructed them that there was just one particular person at fault for what had occurred. There was just one particular person in charge and that particular person was me. I’m the commander, I’m the senior man on the battlefield and I’m answerable for all the things that occurs. Every part!

I’ve labored for, examine, and heard from many individuals (from rank-and-file workers, to center managers, to executives) about leaders who did NOT tackle an “excessive possession” perspective and conduct. Sadly, the detrimental affect this had on their followers and the general tradition and vibe of their workforce was disastrous.

“Regardless of all of the failures of people, items, and leaders, and regardless of the myriad errors that had been made, there was just one particular person in charge for all the things that had gone unsuitable on the operation: me. I hadn’t been with our sniper workforce after they engaged the Iraqi soldier. I hadn’t been controlling the rogue aspect of Iraqis that entered the compound. However that didn’t matter. Because the SEAL process unit commander, the senior chief on the bottom accountable for the mission, I used to be answerable for all the things in Activity Unit Bruiser. I needed to take full possession of what went unsuitable. That’s what a pacesetter does even when it means getting fired. If anybody was to be blamed and fired for what occurred, let it’s me.” –Jocko Willink (Excessive Possession, 2017)

“Credibility is about how leaders earn the belief and confidence of their constituents. It’s about what individuals demand of their leaders as a prerequisite to willingly contributing their hearts and minds to a standard trigger, and it’s in regards to the actions leaders should take with a view to intensify their constituents’ dedication.” –Jim Kouzes & Barry Posner

Certainly, as soon as a pacesetter betrays, breaks, or loses the belief of their followers it may be very troublesome if not unattainable for them to regain or re-earn that belief.

John Maxwell wrote this: “For years I’ve taught leaders that of their interactions with others they create ‘accounts’ of trustworthiness. Each interplay with one other particular person both makes deposits in that particular person’s account or makes withdrawals from it. One of the best ways to make common ongoing deposits is by modeling good character persistently. Why? As a result of individuals are satisfied extra by what a pacesetter does than by what a pacesetter says. . . .Folks see what you do. Management confusion happens when your phrases and your stroll don’t match. If that incongruity continues, not solely will you confuse your individuals—you’ll lose your individuals” (Maxwell, 2018, p. 54-55).

“It has been mentioned that you just don’t actually know individuals till you will have noticed them after they work together with a toddler, when the automotive has a flat tire, when the boss is away, and after they suppose nobody will ever know. However individuals with integrity by no means have to fret about that. Irrespective of the place they’re, who they’re with, or what sort of state of affairs they discover themselves in, they’re constant and stay by their rules” (Maxwell, 2007, p. 343).


When leaders undertake an “excessive possession” technique to stay and lead, they’ll earn the credibility, belief, and respect of not solely their followers, but in addition different observers.

“As soon as individuals cease making excuses, cease blaming others, and take possession of all the things of their lives, they’re compelled to take motion to unravel their issues. They’re higher leaders, higher followers, extra reliable and actively contributing workforce members, and extra expert in aggressively driving towards mission accomplishment.” –Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (Excessive Possession)

“Good leaders don’t make excuses. As a substitute, they determine a technique to get issues carried out.” –Leif Babin (Excessive Possession)

“Leaders should personal all the things of their world. There isn’t a one else in charge.” –Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (Excessive Possession)

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.

Organizational & Management Improvement Chief


Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2011). Credibility: How Leaders Achieve and Lose It, Why Folks Demand It. Jossey-Bass.

Maxwell, J. C. (2007). The Maxwell Every day Reader: 365 Days of Perception to Develop the Chief Inside You and Affect These Round You. Thomas Nelson.

Maxwell, J. C. (2018). Growing the Chief Inside You 2.0. HarpersCollins.

TED. (2017, February). Excessive Possession | Jocko Willink | TEDxUniversityofNevada [Video]. Youtube.

Willink, J., & Babin, L. (2017). Excessive Possession: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. St. Martin’s Press.



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