Book Review: The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win


As an adult, this is the quickest I ever read a book cover to cover (a little less than 5 days). It is written in natural language and doesn’t do what a lot of books on leadership do which is reference studies and theories that tend to leave most readers with the “yeah, that is interesting but so what” feeling. The book is laid out like a military SOP (Standard Procedure). Each chapter is laid as follows:
A. First person account of a war or training story: This is usually the longest part of each chapter, but it serves its purpose by getting the reader entrenched in the moment of the war/training story. This serves the purpose of preparing the reader to better understand the principle
B. Principle: This addresses how the real-life war/training story fits the principle
C. Application in Business: This takes the Principle and illustrates how the principle was used to solve a real-life business problem


There are several takeaways that really stuck with me.
• There’s story about how one of the SEAL Teams was dead tired after a two-day deployment and the Marines were stacking sandbags, the Marine commander asked them to stand down because they were tired, but the SEALs refused and helped anyway. This small act (although laborious act), helped to solidify the SEALs relationship with the Marines.
• There’s another story about how they SEALs were told remove their patches (for a variety of political reasons) but also to lessen the confusion and establish mutual respect with their Army and Marine counterparts. There is also a good lesson on the flexibility of oversight.
• EGO, everyone has one, but it needs to be checked at the door
• Be humble or get humbled (this was another favorite lesson). If you are not humble, you are going to get cocky and you will get outflanked
• Leadership is a balance, train your people, but don’t train them too hard, help your people but don’t help them so much they don’t learn, don’t abandon them either; there are times to crackdown, and there are times to let things slide, but don’t let them slide too much.
For me, every story in the book reminds me of the sacrifice every soldier is ready to make. If any of the following phrases make you uncomfortable, you are not going to like this book; however, if the following phrases fill your heart with pride in the military, then you are probably going to love this book:
-“Brave fighting men of xxx company
-“were outstanding, aggressive, and professional soldiers”
-“outstanding, aggressive warriors”
-“he was a Big Tough Frogman (BTF)“




Author: Bryon Gaskin

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