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Monday, September 25, 2023

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

Picture: 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 duty can derail a frontrunner.

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

This is an instance of a brave chief (on the time, Jocko Willink was the Activity Unit Commander of SEAL Staff Three’s Activity Unit Bruiser; he is now a retired U.S. Navy SEAL officer) who accepted duty for his staff’s errors and supplied 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 frontrunner is BRAVE and WILLING to do the best factor. Clearly, as a Navy SEAL, Jocko is courageous within the literal sense in that he runs head-first to confront hazard. Nonetheless, what’s much more impactful to these he led was his willingness to step up and settle for duty when issues went WRONG.

One of the impactful classes that I realized from struggle 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 in command of, when all hell broke free.

We had a number of models out on the battlefield preventing the enemy. We had pleasant Iraqi troopers, we had US Military troopers and US Marines together with small components of my SEAL staff. After which the fog of struggle rolled in, with its confusion and chaos and mayhem, and with its gunfire, and enemy assaults and screaming males and blood and demise. And in that fog of struggle, via a sequence of errors and human error and poor judgment and Murphy’s legislation and simply plain unhealthy 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 probably the most horrific a part of struggle.

And when it was over and the fog of struggle lifted, one pleasant Iraqi soldier was lifeless, two extra have been wounded, considered one of my males was wounded, the remainder of my SEALs have been badly shaken. And it was solely via 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 a lot better. There was a message ready for me from my commanding officer. And it stated, “Shut down all operations.” It stated that the commanding officer, the grasp chief and the investigating officer have been inbound to my location. They usually advised me to organize a debrief to clarify precisely what had occurred on the operation and what had gone improper.

Now I knew what this meant. It meant that any person needed to pay. It meant that any person needed to be held accountable. It meant that any person 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 liable for that failure. There was loads of blame to go round. There have been so many individuals that I might incriminate with guilt however one thing wasn’t proper. For some motive, 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 spotted that there was just one individual in charge for the confusion, just one individual in charge for the wounded males and just one individual in charge for the lifeless Iraqi soldier. And I knew precisely who that individual was.

And with that data, 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 behind 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 stated, “It was my fault. I didn’t preserve management of the Iraqi troopers I used to be with and so they left their designated sector and that was the basis of all these issues.” And I stated, “No, it wasn’t your fault.”

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

After which one other SEAL raised his hand, and he stated, ‘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 stated, “No, this wasn’t your fault, both.” And it wasn’t yours or yours or yours, I stated as I pointed to the remainder of the SEALs within the room. After which I advised them that there was just one individual at fault for what had occurred. There was just one individual in charge and that individual was me. I’m the commander, I’m the senior man on the battlefield and I’m liable for all the pieces that occurs. Every thing!

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” angle and habits. Sadly, the unfavorable impression this had on their followers and the general tradition and vibe of their staff was disastrous.

“Regardless of all of the failures of people, models, and leaders, and regardless of the myriad errors that had been made, there was just one individual in charge for all the pieces that had gone improper on the operation: me. I hadn’t been with our sniper staff once they engaged the Iraqi soldier. I hadn’t been controlling the rogue ingredient of Iraqis that entered the compound. However that didn’t matter. Because the SEAL process unit commander, the senior chief on the bottom in command of the mission, I used to be liable for all the pieces in Activity Unit Bruiser. I needed to take full possession of what went improper. That’s what a frontrunner does even when it means getting fired. If anybody was to be blamed and fired for what occurred, let or not 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 folks demand of their leaders as a prerequisite to willingly contributing their hearts and minds to a typical trigger, and it’s in regards to the actions leaders should take with the intention to intensify their constituents’ dedication.” –Jim Kouzes & Barry Posner

Certainly, as soon as a frontrunner betrays, breaks, or loses the belief of their followers it may be very troublesome if not not possible 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 individual both makes deposits in that individual’s account or makes withdrawals from it. One of the simplest ways to make common ongoing deposits is by modeling good character persistently. Why? As a result of individuals are satisfied extra by what a frontrunner does than by what a frontrunner says. . . .Individuals 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 folks—you’ll lose your folks” (Maxwell, 2018, p. 54-55).

“It has been stated that you simply don’t actually know folks till you’ve gotten noticed them once they work together with a toddler, when the automotive has a flat tire, when the boss is away, and once they suppose nobody will ever know. However folks with integrity by no means have to fret about that. Regardless of the place they’re, who they’re with, or what sort of scenario they discover themselves in, they’re constant and stay by their ideas” (Maxwell, 2007, p. 343).


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

“As soon as folks cease making excuses, cease blaming others, and take possession of all the pieces of their lives, they’re compelled to take motion to resolve their issues. They’re higher leaders, higher followers, extra reliable and actively contributing staff 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 approach to get issues executed.” –Leif Babin (Excessive Possession)

“Leaders should personal all the pieces of their world. There is no such thing as a one else in charge.” –Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (Excessive Possession)

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.

Organizational & Management Growth Chief


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

Maxwell, J. C. (2007). The Maxwell Each 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljqra3BcqWM

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

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