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Leadership Strategy and Tactics
Read in 16 min.
Listen in 20 min.
Learn the key ideas of the book by Jocko Willink

Leadership Strategy and Tactics

Improving leadership in theory and in practice

Being a leader means many things: it means being responsible for all major decisions affecting a team, but also being the person who builds the relationships that shape that same team. Although some people are born leaders, others can also develop leadership skills by overcoming their shortcomings with study and practice. The most important trait for a leader to have is humility: our ego can easily become a real impediment to leadership. In his book, Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual, former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink provides a simple and clear set of theoretical and practical concepts to improve your leadership skills.

Leadership Strategy and Tactics
Read in 16 min.
Listen in 20 min.

Some people are born leaders, but we can also develop into leaders if we come to recognise our own limits

Everyone is born with certain strengths and weaknesses. Physical characteristics are obvious: some people are born taller, or shorter, some are physically stronger, others more flexible. Some of these traits can be improved through training, but our genetic makeup nevertheless put limits on the goals we are able to achieve. People are also born with different cognitive capacities: some are born with a high IQ, others have strong reasoning abilities, highly developed emotional intelligence, or are able to feel empathy. Studying, reasoning, curiosity, and learning a language can help increase our reasoning skills, but we will always be confined by our DNA. 

A good leader has certain innate skills, such as eloquence (being able to communicate ideas simply and clearly), the capacity to break down a complex problem into smaller and simpler parts, charisma and self-confidence, and the ability to read people’s behaviour and sense their thoughts and mood swings. 

All these characteristics are largely innate, but we often don’t know if we possess them or not, until we start to test our own limits. Eloquence can be developed by reading and writing, and trying to communicate our thoughts in an increasingly linear way. Analytic skills can be improved by dividing up problems and formulating simpler solutions, which involves dedication and chiselling away as much as possible, just as Michelangelo suggested when sculpting a block of marble. To increase our ability to read people’s behaviour, we can start paying attention to someone’s body language, including their tone of voice. Identifying a person’s usual facial expressions allows us to notice every change in their mood simply because they will behave differently. Developing charisma is perhaps the hardest part for a leader, since some people naturally have a certain magnetism. What we can do is learn by observing someone who is innately charismatic, for example, by observing their posture or gestures. 

Although we can strengthen our leadership skills, it would be unrealistic to think that someone who doesn’t naturally possess any of them could go on to become a great leader, just like it would be unrealistic to try and turn an Olympic marathon champion into a champion weightlifter. 

However, there is one more secret for people who lack these skills, but who want to try their hand at leadership: building a team that counterbalances their weaknesses.


The key ideas of "Leadership Strategy and Tactics"

Some people are born leaders, but we can also develop into leaders if we come to recognise our own limits
We learn to become a leader to help our team to succeed, not for personal gain
A good leader is distinguished by three characteristics: detachment, a sense of responsibility, and balance
Leaders are responsible for everything a person on their team does
Another key element of leadership is the ability to build solid and honest relationships
True leaders trust their team
Leaders stay humble because they know that this is the most powerful way of making sure the group respects them and is prepared to follow them anywhere
Leaders knows how to ask for help, without worrying about undermining their authority
The four Laws of Combat are basic principles that can be applied to every leadership situation
Take-home message
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