Extreme ownership, the secret for sustainable productivity

One of the characteristics of high performing organisations is the consistency in achieving results and creating value for the stakeholders. The results are not just consistent but are delivered in a manner that is sustainable year-on-year.

The value chain components of achieving sustainable results and building high performing organisations are the staff, the culture, service, and the leaders’ perspective. We have identified perspective as the difference between great leaders and those who are followers even with top-level positions.

One universal fact is that all leaders want to achieve results and create a stellar image and performance for their companies. In my series on fit to lead, I have positioned that not putting your team first as a leader will not only jeopardise your influence but will also create the Mourinho’s swing in your results. Focusing on your team as an essential tool for achieving the result is crucial in this emotional age. There can be no leader without a team, and no sustainable result is expected where the team’s focus is at deviant with the company’s direction.

Thus, the number one secret of leaders who achieve sustainable results in profitability, brand image, growth in customer base and other stakeholders’ value is their ability to create teams with an extreme ownership mindset. In Q2 of 2019, my team at Mentoras Limited engaged three organisations in a series of programme tagged institutional legacy and leadership advancement with “think and act like the owners” as the payoff. We focused on the staff and the entire team in our clients’ business to act as leaders and owners of the company toward delivering the budgets and other identified performance indices like customer penetration, brand awareness, zero service failure and above is creating a culture of ownership and stakeholder mindset in the workplace. Within 90 days of our engagements, we received two testimonials of increase in sales figure and volume coupled with positive behavioural changes leading to reduced absenteeism and sick notes from the doctors. Employees became happier and fulfilled with the intervention and think with a leadership mindset. The secret behind our success is the ability to infuse extreme ownership thoughts and actions in the system despite noticeable shortcomings.

Extreme ownership is not a new concept. It is the same as creating a great place to work where most of the staff are connected to the journey of the company and are ambassadors of the brand on and off duty. It is synonymous to having a pool of engaged employees in an environment where performance and teamwork are the primary work tools with an appropriate reward system.

In their book, Extreme Ownership: How U.S Navy SEALs Lead and Win, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin who are former U.S Navy SEAL officers with experience in leading some of the most dangerous combat operations including the battle of Ramadi in Iraq shared their experiences and lessons from the battlefields. They aim to train leaders within the U.S Navy SEAL and in the business world on the foundational principle for winning and achieving set objectives upon which all other factors rest. The principle is for leaders to take extreme ownership of the task and their teams. According to Jocko and Leif, no success can be achieved without all the team members believing in the task at hand with total commitment and most importantly is their belief in the leaders they are to follow to accomplish the mission; be it in the battlefield or the business market place.

In the book, they classify leaders as effective or ineffective based on the results they are achieving through the teams. Without instilling extreme ownership and stakeholder’s mentality in your team members, you cannot win the war in the marketplace, even with the most potent strategy. Hence, we are back to our starting point in my fit to lead series for 2020. The most armoury for a leader is his or her team. For companies, the slogan: staff is our most valuable asset is correct but not in its entirety. The staff of organisations are not just assets, and they are the companies without which all the investment in branding and equipment are but a waste of the shareholders’ resources.

How do you instil the spirit of extreme ownership in your team? The function of doing this is essential for leaders who are keen on delivering on their numbers and the brand promise to the market.

Achieving the ownership mindset is difficult in an environment where there is no alignment of the value of the company with the staff aspirations. However, this is not an excuse for any leader that wants to succeed. It’s like a game of football where the coach gets rewarded or fired for results since he or she has the right to choose, hire and fire players in the purpose of winning matches. In football, there is no one to blame, and the leader must accept responsibility for all, including his or her failure.

The first port of call is to win the battle win. The war within is the war of divergence in what the organisation claims to be and what they are to the staff first, next are the customers and other stakeholders. A leader must, no matter the culture aligns his or her team with the task at hand. The influence of the leader is one major factor that will determine if his or her team is willing to give it all or none to the task at hand.

I have been in an environment that is less conducive to achieving the set objectives of the company. However, the person of the leader and his influence was so potent that the team came out with a slogan “all it takes”. The team posited to do all it takes to protect their leader from failing and ignore the imperfection in the organisation to preserve respect and the integrity of their leader. Their mindset is a form of extreme ownership that will produce results for the leader in the short term, and the long run leaves the organisation in the valley of poor performance. This is because it only takes the leader to move on before the reality of the divergence in the workplace environment begin to influence the staff behaviours southward and consequently, the result they are delivering to the system.

There are many ways of ensuring your team exude extreme ownership of their job and performance. We will explore that and more on the work of Jocko and Leif in the subsequent episode. Before then, please know that your extreme ownership mindset as an individual leader will influence your staff and department. No matter how little the influence is, it will have an impact on your company’s leadership once you have a result to show for it and this will inevitably influence the institutional direction if you are consistent and keep growing as a leader.


Babs Olugbemi


Babs Olugbemi FCCA, the Chief Responsibility Officer at Mentoras Leadership Limited and Founder, Positive Growth Africa. He can be reached on or 08025489396.


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