Sunday, May 26, 2024

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 pacesetter.

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

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 duty for his workforce’s errors and supplied to resign.

Beneath is an excerpt from Jocko’s TED Discuss (2017). I’ve included it, with out enhancing or summarizing it to indicate simply how POWERFUL it may be when a pacesetter is BRAVE and WILLING to do the precise 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 duty when issues went WRONG.

One of the vital impactful classes that I discovered from conflict 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 unfastened.

We had a number of items out on the battlefield combating 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 conflict rolled in, with its confusion and chaos and mayhem, and with its gunfire, and enemy assaults and screaming males and blood and loss of life. And in that fog of conflict, by means of a collection 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 towards pleasant forces — fratricide, the mortal sin of fight and probably the most horrific a part of conflict.

And when it was over and the fog of conflict lifted, one pleasant Iraqi soldier was lifeless, two extra had been wounded, one in every of my males was wounded, the remainder of my SEALs had 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 once we received again to base, issues didn’t get a lot 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 had been inbound to my location. They usually advised me to arrange a debrief to clarify precisely what had occurred on the operation and what had gone mistaken.

Now I knew what this meant. It meant that someone needed to pay. It meant that someone needed to be held accountable. It meant that someone needed to get fired for what had occurred. So I started to arrange 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 chargeable 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 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 repeatedly and I struggled for a solution.

After which after 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 data, I walked into the debriefing room with my commanding officer, and the grasp chief and the investigating officer had 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 together 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 in every of my SEALs raised his hand, and he mentioned, “It was my fault. I didn’t preserve 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 move our location over the radio quick sufficient, so nobody knew what constructing we had been in. And that’s what triggered 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 advised 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 chargeable for all the pieces that occurs. Every thing!

I’ve labored for, examine, and heard from many individuals (from rank-and-file staff, to center managers, to executives) about leaders who did NOT tackle an “excessive possession” angle and conduct. Sadly, the adverse influence 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 pieces that had gone mistaken 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 job unit commander, the senior chief on the bottom accountable for the mission, I used to be chargeable for all the pieces in Activity Unit Bruiser. I needed to take full possession of what went mistaken. 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 concerning the actions leaders should take as a way 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 unimaginable 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 constantly. 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 simply don’t actually know individuals till you may have noticed them after they work together with a baby, when the automotive has a flat tire, when the boss is away, and after they assume 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 ideas” (Maxwell, 2007, p. 343).


When leaders undertake an “excessive possession” solution 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 individuals 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 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 solution to get issues accomplished.” –Leif Babin (Excessive Possession)

“Leaders should personal all the pieces 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 Growth Chief


Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2011). Credibility: How Leaders Acquire 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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