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Book Summary – Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual

Leadership Strategy and Tactics - Book summary

Leading a team isn’t easy, especially if you’re a new leader. In this book, Jocko Willink presents numerous leadership strategies and tactics to help leaders bring their teams to success. It builds on the principles presented in 2 previous books that he co-authored—Extreme Ownership and The Dichotomy of Leadership—with the focus of helping leaders to apply those principles in real-life. In this free version of Leadership Strategy and Tactics summary, we’ll outline the key ideas in 2 main parts: (i) leadership strategies and (ii) leadership tactics.

Leadership Strategy and Tactics: An Overview

A leader’s role is ultimately to get people to do what’s required to support the team and mission. But, how do you go about doing that?

This book comprises many short chapters, each covering an aspect of a leadership strategy or tactic (be it a principle, skill, or technique) that you can apply to become a more effective leader. In our view, these are especially useful for new or emerging leaders.

In our full Leadership Strategy and Tactics summary, we’ve consolidated and organized the overlapping/related insights into several main themes. Here’s a quick overview of the key themes and ideas covered in the book.

Leadership Strategies

Here are several leadership foundations and principles that shape how effective leaders work.  Let’s dive into the details for the 1st area (leadership fundamentals) with a brief overview of the remaining 4 themes.

Leadership Strategy and Tactics summary_Leadership strategy overview

Leadership Fundamentals

There are 4 Laws of Combat that help teams to win in any area:

  • Cover and Move is at the heart of teamwork: when 2 teams work in sync to cover each other and move together, they’re able to make better progress toward the common goal.
  • Simple: Keep plans simple so they can be easily understood and communicated up and down the chain.
  • Prioritize and Execute: Always identify and tackle the most crucial problem, one at a time. Regularly detach to assess what’s going on, so you see the big picture without losing touch with the details.
  • Decentralized Command: No leader can do everything or make every decision. A good leader clearly communicates the goal/intent, then equips and trusts the teams to execute them.

The 4 laws above are linked by 2 fundamental leadership principles:

  • Extreme Ownership: Great leaders take 100% ownership of everything their team does, including their mistakes and failures. When things go wrong, they don’t make excuses or blame others. They accept the blame and take full responsibility to fix the problems. In fact, they take preemptive ownership to (i) prevent problems wherever possible, and (ii) mitigate the impact of unexpected events through contingency plans.
  • The Dichotomy of Leadership is about the inherent contradictions in leadership that pull leaders in opposite directions. Good leaders deliberately manage and balance those opposing forces.

Building Long-Term Relationships

Leadership is built on relationships. Leaders must be willing and able to put their relationships over their ego and self-interests. In our full book summary, we’ll elaborate on how to pick your battles, build trust up and down the command chain, and earn influence and respect.

Subordinating Your Ego

Leaders often pretend to be strong and all-knowing, when they’re actually trying to hide their fears and insecurities. Great leaders understand the difference between arrogance and humility, what it means to be both a leader and follower, and that no task is beneath a leader.  Learn more in our complete version of the Leadership Strategy and Tactics summary.

Organization and Decision-Making

To make great decisions (including times when you’re under tremendous pressure or threat) and you must learn to detach yourself from the situation, and tell the hard truths to yourself and others. Your circumstances will also determine the number of people you can lead effectively (i.e. your span of control).

Building People and Teams

We’re all born with different strengths and weaknesses. Use a blend of nature and nurture to build strong teams, by recognizing and complementing individual strengths and weaknesses, and tailoring your tools and approach to bring out the best in each person.

Instill discipline in your people, push people beyond their comfort zones (without breaking them) and build confidence without excessive pride.  Wherever possible, let people develop their own plans. Get specific insights/tips on how to do so from our full 14-page summary.

Leadership Tactics

Obviously, you’ll need specific skills and techniques to lead effectively. Willink presents numerous related tactics, which we’ve consolidated into 4 main themes.

Leadership Strategy and Tactics summary_Leadership tactics overview
Here’s a brief overview of what each set of tactics involve :

  • Tips for new Leaders: Learn the best way to get chosen to lead, what to do as a new leader, how to overcome insecurity, and how to best to lead your peers if you’re promoted over them.
  • Hone your leadership skills, including knowing when to step up vs hold back, how to make decisions in face of difficult options, know the fine line between doing too much vs too little, and what to do when your views clash with the group’s.
  • Learn to maneuver your way through tricky or difficult situations, including how to use leadership to develop people (both problematic and promising ones), how to handle a lousy boss (who’s micromanaging, indecisive, or outright incompetent), and how to handle under-performance and failures.
  • Learn useful communication tactics, including keeping people informed, keeping things clear and simple, getting people to listen, leading by example, and managing criticisms, praise and hope.

Getting the Most from Leadership Strategy and Tactics

As a leader, you’re ultimately accountable for your team’s results. The strategies and tactics in this book are meant to help you improve your team’s success, not your personal glory. Willink presents the principles and tips in short sections, each focusing on a concept or scenario. In this article, we’ve briefly outlined some of the key insights and strategies you can use to achieve desired change. For more examples, details, and actionable tips to apply these strategies, do get our complete book summary bundle which includes an infographic, 14-page text summary, and a 24-minute audio summary.Leadership Strategy and Tactics summary - book summary bundle

You can purchase the book here for the full details, or get more information about the author’s consulting firm, at

[Do check out our Extreme Ownership summary here and The Dichotomy of Leadership summary here]

About the Author of Leadership Strategy and Tactics

Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual is written by Jocko Willink–a Navy SEAL for 20 years, rising through the ranks to become the commander of Task Unit Bruiser—the most decorated Special Operations Unit of the Iraq War. He received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and other awards for his contributions in the war. After retiring, he co-founded leadership and management consulting company Echelon Front.

Leadership Strategy and Tactics Quotes

“If the leader or the team members try to accomplish too many things at once, they will likely accomplish nothing.”

“The more trust that is built, the more hands-off the leader can be.”

“To build respect and influence you have to give respect and influence.”

“There is no job too small or menial for a leader to do.”

“No pride is built on easy wins, but a team has to win some to have some pride.”

“Take care of your people and they will take care of you.”

“People often argue not for the best idea but for their idea.”

“If you don’t tell people what is going on, they will make up their own versions, and their versions will not be pretty ones.”

Click here to download the Leadership Strategy and Tactics summary & infographic

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