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15 Leadership Principles from the Great Jocko Willink

Jocko Willink canvas

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    • Definition of Leadership
    • Are Leaders Born or Made?
    • Jocko Willink's Experience
  2. Leadership Principles
    • There Is No Bad Team: Just Bad Leadership
    • Believing In Yourself
    • Don’t Let Your Ego Get In the Way
    • Fight through the Hardship
    • Recommit Yourself to Your Team Every Day
    • Empower Your Team: Give Them the Opportunity to Excel
    • Take Cover and Move
    • Lead by Example: Be the First One over the Wall and Watch Your Team's Back
    • Be a Force Multiplier: Increase Your Team's Effectiveness by Working Together
    • Lead with Purpose: Make Decisions That Benefit Everyone Involved and Help Your Team Grow
    • Set Priorities and Act on Them
    • Keep Things Simple
    • Delegating and Decentralizing Command
    • Be Decisive: Stop Wasting Time and Act on Your Intuitions When Necessary
  3. Jocko Willink's Quote Canvas
    • Discipline Is More Important Than Motivation
  4. Conclusion


What is leadership? Are leaders born or made? These are all questions that people may ask. Many believe that being a leader is difficult. It may be true but in some cases, being a leader is very easy. All you need to do it be yourself. A leader who has a strong and powerful presence is one of the most important qualities that can help lead an organization to success. Jocko Willink, former Navy SEAL commander, talks about how he learned these leadership principles while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. These leadership principles will help you build your own skills as a leader.

There Is No Bad Team: Just Bad Leadership

When you have a team, everyone will face difficult situations. This is inevitable and there is no way to prevent this from happening. The one thing that can be done however, is ensuring the team has good leadership. A leader should know how to handle different types of people whether they are calm or nervous individuals as well as those who do not agree with decisions being made. They must also be able to take criticism because without it, they cannot improve their skills in leading others successfully. Therefore, if your organization wants success then make sure that your leaders encourage constructive feedback and avoid looking for scapegoats when things go wrong. This leadership principle is all about taking responsibility for your team’s success or failure. As a leader, you must own everything in your world. When something goes wrong on the battlefield, Jocko made sure that he would take responsibility and fix it instead of blaming his subordinates for their mistakes. This does not mean that they were always right but what was important was to learn from each mistake so they can make better decisions next time around. 

Believing In Yourself

There are times that a leader will face failure and this can be difficult for them. This is the time when it becomes crucial to believe in yourself because you must have confidence if you want your teammates to trust in you as well. Jocko Willink was always confident about his decisions during tough situations, which allowed him to lead effectively even when things didn’t go according to plan. His team was able to follow his orders without hesitation because he had their backs at all times and believed that they could complete each mission successfully together and one day become Navy SEALs just like himself.


Don’t Let Your Ego Get In the Way

Ego can be a leader’s worst enemy. Leaders must develop the ability to manage their ego because it is one of those things that gets in the way of success. Jocko Willink knows this all too well as his ego almost cost him everything he fought so hard for during his time with SEAL Team Three. There was once when they were on an operation and needed air support but there wasn't any available so they had no choice but to abort command. He wanted everyone's attention on him even though what mattered most at that moment was doing whatever you could do save your team members' lives, which is exactly what happened after the decision to abort mission was made. As soon as everyone got out of there safely, Jocko made sure everyone knew that he was the one who called it off. However, what would have happened if his ego didn't get in the way? Would they all be alive today still fighting for our country or not at all because of a different outcome?

Fight through the Hardship

Successful leaders know how to fight through adversity and stay motivated no matter how tough things may seem. Whether you are leading your team on land or sea, there will always be setbacks along the way especially during critical situations when lives depend on both good leadership skills as well as quick thinking abilities under pressure. You must remember that impossible is nothing even though from time to time it might feel like everything is stacked up against you but what separates a great leader from an average one is how they handle tough situations? Jocko Willink was no stranger to rough seas nor did he shy away from difficult battles during his time in service, which continued even after he retired.

Recommit Yourself to Your Team Every Day

Great leaders are able to get the best out of their team members because they make them believe that there is nothing impossible when working together. This principle isn't just about getting everyone on board with what you want and need done but also helping your teammates reach their full potential so both sides benefit in the end without taking advantage or making false promises along the way. Jocko Willink knew this all too well and always made sure that each member of his team was fully committed before taking on any mission so they could focus more attention on the task at hand instead of worrying about what might happen if things didn't turn out alright.

Empower Your Team: Give Them the Opportunity to Excel

The next leadership principle is about empowering your team to the point where they can make their own decisions and improve themselves. You should not micromanage your subordinates because you may be taking away from time that could have been spent on making other important decisions. Jocko believes in giving them enough power so that they can grow as individuals, take ownership of projects and become more effective at what they do. When someone has control over a situation or task, he will feel confident while working on it while also producing better results than if he was just following orders blindly without thinking for himself.

Take Cover and Move

Like in the battlefield, in order to move forward you should help your teammates move forward as well. It should be a team effort where when some team members are moving ahead, the others are providing them cover. This will ensure that everyone is covered while making sure that they are not left behind. Not only does this leadership principle guarantee a successful outcome but also builds trust and loyalty between team members. If you notice that your teammates are not doing what they should be or worse, neglecting their duties altogether than it is your responsibility as the leader to take corrective action instead of just looking at them from a distance hoping for improvement on their own.

Lead by Example: Be the First One over the Wall and Watch Your Team's Back

Great leaders lead by example which means that if they want everyone else to do something then they need to show them how it's done first. Jocko Willink was always the first one over the wall when entering hostile territory during raids but he never went off on his own without making sure that those behind him were also following suit because he knew all too well that if no one was covering him from behind, he could get killed. In order to earn the respect of your team members you must be willing to put yourself in their shoes so they can see what exactly is expected from them which will help build camaraderie and companionship between everyone involved.

Be a Force Multiplier: Increase Your Team's Effectiveness by Working Together

As a leader it should always be about working together instead of going at it alone because this leadership principle will increase your chances for success by 100%. Jocko Willink believes that whenever possible you should work with other experts even though some may not have the same rank as you but are still knowledgeable on certain topics or issues. It's important to get everyone involved because you never know what kind of information or insight they can provide that could be vital for the success of a project.

Lead with Purpose: Make Decisions That Benefit Everyone Involved and Help Your Team Grow

When it comes down to making major decisions, Jocko Willink believes in doing things with purpose which means making sure that your team is on board and also achieving goals without taking shortcuts . You should always keep your goals in mind but when push comes to shove, sometimes you have no other choice than cutting corners so make better use out of every opportunity instead of just letting them slip by. 

Set Priorities and Act on Them

You can't do everything at once and as a leader you need to prioritize tasks so that your team knows what's expected of them. Jocko Willink believes in setting priorities which means doing the most important things first even though they may be time consuming. It is far better for everyone involved if you make sure to get those tasks done properly instead of rushing through them just because there are more pressing matters on your list.

Keep Things Simple

Leadership is not about making things overly complicated which is why you should always keep it simple. It's easy to let your imagination run wild with all kinds of different ideas but if they are too complex or complicated than there's no way for everyone involved to fully understand what needs to be done. As a leader, you need to break down everything into small steps so that each person can do their own task without feeling overwhelmed by the whole process. Great leaders communicate and listen because they want their team members to feel comfortable coming forward and speaking their mind whenever possible.

Delegating and Decentralizing Command

Jocko Willink believes in decentralizing command which means giving responsibilities to your team members instead of trying to do everything yourself. It is a good idea for you as the leader to put people into positions where they can excel based on their skills and abilities. You should always give them room to breathe because this will allow them to gain valuable experience without feeling too confined or restricted all the time. As a strong leader, it's important that you make sure everyone feels involved whenever possible so don't micromanage those who are working under you even though there may be some instances when things aren't going according to plan. 

Be Decisive: Stop Wasting Time and Act on Your Intuitions When Necessary

Jocko Willink believes that you should always act on your intuitions because sometimes they are the only lead you have. When it comes down to making decisions, there is no time for hesitation or playing around with different scenarios in your head. As a strong leader, you need to stop worrying about being perfect and just go ahead and do what needs to be done even though there may be some flaws or mistakes involved.

Jocko willinks quote canvas

Discipline Is More Important Than Motivation

Discipline is of utmost importance because it can get you through even the toughest of situations. It's easy to think that being motivated or inspired will be enough for your team but Jocko Willink believes in taking a more practical approach towards things. You should always keep their motivation levels high when possible but sometimes, this isn't enough and only strict discipline will help everyone involved make better progress. Many people put focus on motivation, they think that medication will bring them success where as that is not the case. It is the discipline that will bring you success. If you are motivated and you aren’t disciplined then that would lead you nowhere. Motivation may help you do something for once but with discipline you will be able to perform the same task with ease because discipline brings you freedom.

If you are looking for a Jocko Willink canvase art to keep yourself motivated then checkout our range of Jocko Willink canvas at MusaArtGallery. 


Q1: Who is Jocko Willink?

A: Jocko Willink is a former Navy SEAL commander who shares his leadership principles learned from his experiences while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Q2: What is the main takeaway from the "There Is No Bad Team: Just Bad Leadership" principle?

A: It emphasizes the significance of good leadership and the importance of leaders taking responsibility for their team’s success or failure.

Q3: How can ego affect a leader's decision-making?

A: Ego can cloud judgment and lead to decisions that prioritize the leader's own image over the team's well-being and mission's success.

Q4: What is the significance of discipline according to Jocko Willink?

A: Jocko believes discipline is more vital than motivation. While motivation might get you started, discipline ensures consistency, leading to success.

Q5: Why is "Lead by Example" important in leadership?

A: Leading by example earns respect from team members and shows them what is expected, fostering camaraderie and unity.

Q6: How does Jocko view the relationship between motivation and discipline?

A: While many focus on motivation, Jocko believes that discipline is more crucial. Discipline ensures regularity and progress even when motivation wanes.

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