Book Review: The Dichotomy of Leadership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

The Dichotomy of Leadership is Jocko Willink's and Leif Babin's sequel to their first book, Extreme Ownership. Together, these two books provide a comprehensive and excellent guide to leadership. In Extreme Ownership, Willink and Babin teach about the most fundamental mindset of leadership, which is extreme ownership. They also break down the most important elements of leadership. From reading this book, you get a great understanding of leadership theory, as well as the inspiration to take more ownership. The Dichotomy of Leadership adds to all of this by filling in the gaps, and teaching the art of leadership and how to better apply the principles of Extreme Ownership.

The Dichotomy of Leadership does this by teaching about the many dichotomies of leadership characteristics/behaviors, and how becoming aware of these dichotomies and finding balance within them improves your leadership. Willink and Babin aren't the first to discover this idea. The philosopher, Aristotle wrote about the "golden mean," which is the virtue between two extreme vices. Even before Aristotle, the Buddha preached about the "middle path." All three of these philosophies share the same principle: any positive trait or behavior can turn into a negative if taken too far. In other words, effective leadership exists between two opposing forces that must be carefully balanced to fit the situation at hand. The book gives many examples of leadership dichotomies. Here is a list:


Caring about your people vs caring about the mission
Taking extreme ownership vs empowering others to take ownership
Enforcing rules, but not being overbearing
Mentoring people vs firing people
Training hard vs training smart
Being aggressive, but not reckless
Being disciplined, but not rigid
Holding people accountable, but not holding their hand
Being a leader, but also a follower
Planning, but not over-planning
Being humble, but not passive
Being focused, but also detached

I personally believe that the dichotomy of leadership, or whatever you want to call it, is one of the most important lessons in life. This is because it is so realistic and applicable. In real life, not everything is black and white. Life is filled with grey areas. No single trait or behavior is going to work every time in every situation. There are pros and cons to everything and every situation calls for something different. The dichotomy of leadership philosophy takes this into consideration. It teaches you to think critically to find the proper balance within a dichotomy for the situation at hand. Sometimes you'll need to be more extreme in one direction, sometimes you'll need to be more extreme in the opposite direction, and sometimes you'll need to be completely balanced. Just this awareness of dichotomies itself is one of the most important skills you can have. Once you're aware of a dichotomy, you can then actively find equilibrium to effectively solve problems, improve performance, and lead better. The more you learn about the infinite amount of dichotomies in life, and the more you practice finding balance, the better you'll become at it! This is the art of leadership.

A normal leadership book can teach you the science of leadership, but it can't always teach you the art of leadership, which is knowing how to apply leadership principles to your specific circumstances. This book is all about the art of leadership. It teaches you how to apply leadership principles to your specific circumstances, which in the end, is what it's all about! That is the reason why this book is special and why you should read it!

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