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Jocko Willink’s Critical Leadership Training Review: Is His MasterClass Worth It?

A former Navy SEAL commander teaches leadership for civilians in his MasterClass – we'll go through his approach in this review to see if this is a good fit for you.

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Jocko Willink's MasterClass: Our Verdict (2023)


3.9 / 5

In Jocko Willink's Critical Leadership Training MasterClass, his experience as a Navy SEAL commander lends authenticity to his teachings. The course’s versatility makes it suitable for various professions and personal growth journeys. However, it may not be ideal for those who desire in-depth content or interactivity. And personal preferences in leadership style should be considered. Overall, for learners willing to invest in actionable leadership knowledge, Jocko Willink offers valuable lessons as a start to your leadership development.


  • Clarity and accessibility
  • Practical application
  • Emphasis on responsibility
  • Versatile audience
  • Excellent production


  • Limited interaction
  • Content depth
  • Personal preference
  • Only accessible via a MasterClass subscription

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True leaders listen to their teams, build strong relationships, and find solutions through collaborations

In various aspects of life, be it the battlefield, business, or our everyday experiences, leadership emerges as a crucial factor for progress. Jocko Willink strongly believes in this principle, as evident in his MasterClass titled “Critical Leadership Training.” Although I have taken several leadership courses in the past, none have been instructed by a former Navy Seal commander.

You might wonder whether Willink’s military background skews his view of leadership towards a more hierarchical or authoritarian style, given its military origins. Or does it offer a more nuanced perspective?

Intrigued by the leadership expertise of a former commander, I enrolled in this course to discover the experience Jocko Willink brings to the table. I wanted to understand how his course addresses the complexities of leadership and what practical insights and strategies he provides.

In this in-depth review, my aim is to answer the questions mentioned above and assess Jocko Willink’s MasterClass. I’ll provide an analysis of its strengths and weaknesses. Finally, I’ll share my personal recommendations to help you decide if it aligns with your leadership development goals.

Table of Contents

Overview of Jocko Willink’s MasterClass

In his MasterClass, Jocko Willink undertakes the formidable task of exploring the multifaceted concept of leadership. The course is thoughtfully structured to address a wide array of leadership-related questions and challenges. From the art of decision-making under pressure to fostering effective teamwork, Willink covers a broad spectrum of leadership aspects.

Willink promotes the concept of the ‘silent’ approach to leadership, as opposed to the ‘authoritarian’ one. Within the course, he not only elucidates his perspective on this optimal leadership style but also imparts valuable advice to both viewers and the professionals in attendance in the videos, offering insights into real-life leadership challenges that may arise. His MasterClass provides a unique opportunity to observe how Willink guides leaders from diverse backgrounds and positions in his workshops.

Throughout the MasterClass, Willink generously shares his hard-earned wisdom, placing a strong emphasis on discipline, responsibility, and adaptability. His passion for the subject shines through in his “Extreme Ownership” leadership philosophy and encourages students to view their challenges as opportunities for personal growth.

The course consists of 10 video lessons and can be completed in under 1 hour and 20 minutes. Indeed, this course is relatively brief compared to most other MasterClass offerings, which already tend to be relatively short in duration. However, it is packed with valuable leadership lessons and also includes workshops between professionals from various fields and the instructor. These interactions may prove to be useful for individuals facing similar situations.

Evaluation of Jocko Willink as an instructor

John Gretton “Jocko” Willink Jr. is not only an accomplished author but also a retired U.S. Navy Seal commander with decades of service. His journey toward becoming an authority on leadership is both remarkable and inspiring. I’m always grateful for individuals who, after harnessing skills and related experience, share their wisdom with others.

Willink’s impressive accolades include the Silver Star and Bronze Star for his outstanding leadership in combat. He is also known for co-authoring the bestselling book “Extreme Ownership,” which has since become a cornerstone of modern leadership literature. These experiences have profoundly influenced his leadership philosophy and granted him unique insights, which he generously shares in his MasterClass.

Willink’s teaching style closely mirrors his military background – it’s straightforward, no-frills, and centered on delivering tangible results. His lessons are steeped in authenticity, drawing from real-world scenarios to illustrate fundamental principles. His unwavering commitment to “Extreme Ownership” shines through in every aspect of the course.

As a result, learners can anticipate a no-nonsense approach that challenges them to take responsibility for their actions and decisions. Willink’s ability to distill complex leadership concepts into actionable steps ensures that his MasterClass is accessible to both seasoned leaders and those new to leadership roles.

Target audience of Jocko Willink's MasterClass

Critical Leadership Training” by Jocko Willink is designed for a diverse audience, with relevance for various professional backgrounds and experience levels. His teachings are valuable for:

  1. Business leaders: Executives, managers, and entrepreneurs seeking to hone their leadership skills and foster a culture of accountability within their organizations.
  2. Military and law enforcement personnel: Current and former military or law enforcement professionals looking to translate their leadership skills into civilian roles or enhance their existing capabilities.
  3. Individuals in high-stress environments: Those who regularly face high-pressure situations in their careers, such as healthcare professionals, first responders, or project managers.
  4. Aspiring leaders: Anyone with a keen interest in leadership principles, regardless of their current career status, can benefit from Willink’s insights.

In my opinion, the course’s universal appeal lies in its practicality and applicability across industries. Willink’s emphasis on responsibility and discipline can resonate with individuals from all walks of life, making it a valuable resource for personal and professional development. Understanding the course’s target audience is crucial, as it allows individuals to assess if the content aligns with their specific goals and needs.

Inside Jocko Willink’s MasterClass

Jocko Willink’s “Critical Leadership Training” course offers a curriculum that covers the core tenets of effective leadership. This course addresses fundamental questions about leadership, such as what defines a good leader, the essence of leadership, team building, and embracing leadership roles – all critical for anyone seeking to excel in leadership positions.

A central theme of the course is the concept of “Extreme Ownership”. Willink argues that leaders must wholeheartedly embrace responsibility for both positive and negative outcomes. Drawing from his experience as a Navy SEAL, he illustrates the significance of this principle through personal anecdotes. One standout lesson revolves around adaptability and flexibility. This principle extends to both team members and leaders. Willink emphasizes that leaders must exhibit adaptability and flexibility, especially when it comes to learning from failures. Leaders should be open to team input, particularly in situations where team members have direct field experience and can contribute valuable insights toward achieving common goals.

In addition to this, Willink shares four fundamental principles of combat leadership that he believes have broad applicability to business and life. These include:

  1. Cover and move: This principle underscores the necessity of teamwork. Team members, including the leader, rely on each other and must provide mutual support. Effective communication and teamwork are essential for achieving shared objectives.
  2. Keep it simple: The course advises breaking down complex tasks into manageable components and maintaining clarity about desired outcomes. Simplicity in approach often leads to better task completion.
  3. Prioritize and execute: Willink promotes detached decision-making, focusing on identifying priorities and executing them effectively. This approach allows for problem resolution without being overwhelmed by multiple issues simultaneously. Execution, here, follows an “iterative decision-making process,” breaking actions into smaller steps and adapting based on those decisions.
  4. Decentralized command: Willink advocates for a leadership style where everyone on the team is a leader. Small teams operate with a limited span of control, ensuring that each group comprehends the overarching mission and can act autonomously without the need for constant hierarchical intervention.

The MasterClass strikes a balance between theory and practicality. The content is delivered with clarity and precision, making it accessible to individuals with varying levels of leadership experience. This course provides a comprehensive roadmap for mastering critical leadership skills, at least for a ‘silent’ as opposed to an ‘authoritarian’ style of leadership.

My top lessons from Jocko Willink’s MasterClass

Among the insights Jocko Willink offers in his MasterClass on Critical Leadership Training, several lessons stand out. The following are my favorite lessons.

Team dynamics

Jocko speaking on team dynamics to his audience of leaders

One of the fundamental lessons imparted by Willink is the importance of fostering strong team dynamics. This involves placing trust in team members, actively listening to each other, showing mutual respect, and genuinely caring for one another. Establishing these elements within a team is vital for effective leadership. Nurturing trust, promoting open communication, and aligning team members toward a common goal are essential aspects of successful leadership. In my view, cultivating productive team dynamics is an indispensable skill for any leader.

Extreme Ownership

Taking responsibility for his actions and decisions
Taking ownership of his actions and decisions

Willink’s central concept of “Extreme Ownership,” which emphasizes taking complete responsibility for one’s actions and decisions, is truly transformative. It underscores the significance of accountability in leadership. Instead of laying blame on others, the best leaders engage in introspection, seeking areas for self-improvement. This kind of self-reflection is crucial for a leader’s personal growth and development.

Leadership is a campaign

Jocko discussing the importance of collaboration and synergy of the team

In this lesson, Willink’s teachings showcase the essence of leadership as a skill that revolves around the team rather than the individual leader. This revelation highlights the power of collective effort. Willink emphasizes that there are few accomplishments achieved by an individual that can surpass what a cohesive team can accomplish.

This lesson serves as a vital reminder that effective leaders understand the importance of collaboration and synergy. They understand that a successful team operates on the principles of trust, mutual support, and open communication. Instead of pursuing personal recognition, true leaders focus on empowering their team members to excel collectively. The mark of a great leader lies in their ability to harness the collective strengths of the team, guiding them toward shared goals and ultimately cultivating more leaders. 

What I liked about Jocko Willink’s MasterClass

Jocko Willink’s MasterClass offers several distinct advantages that make it a compelling choice for those seeking to enhance their leadership skills:

Clarity and accessibility

Willink’s no nonsense teaching style ensures that complex leadership concepts are presented in a straightforward and understandable manner, catering to a broad audience.

Practical application

Willink’s extensive background as a Navy SEAL commander lends authenticity to his teachings. His lessons are grounded in practical experience, making them immediately relatable and actionable. The inclusion of real-life case studies and practical exercises allows learners to apply the lessons learned, ensuring that the knowledge is not just theoretical but actionable.

Emphasis on responsibility

The course is peppered with inspiring stories from Willink’s military career, illustrating the power of leadership in the most challenging circumstances. His emphasis on “Extreme Ownership” encourages individuals to take accountability for their actions and decisions, a key attribute of effective leadership.

Versatile audience

The course’s relevance extends beyond the business world, making it valuable for various professions and personal growth journeys.

Excellent production

The cinematic quality of the production makes it easier to immerse in the course and internalize the advice that Willink provides for professionals during the in-class workshops.

Drawbacks of Jocko Willink’s MasterClass

While Jocko Willink’s course offers substantial benefits, it’s essential to consider potential drawbacks as well:

Limited interaction

As online courses in general, and MasterClass in particular, there is a limited opportunity for direct interaction with the instructor or peers, which could be a drawback for those who thrive on in-person learning and discussion.

Content depth

Some learners, particularly those already well-versed in leadership principles, might find that the course does not delve deep enough into certain topics.

Short duration and pricing

The MasterClass subscription, which grants access to Willink’s course along with a wide range of other classes, comes at a cost (the most affordable being $120 for the annual subscription). The subscription gives you access to over 180 MasterClasses from leading figures, including several more on leadership. But if you’re not interested in any other MasterClasses, the course ends up being expensive.

Personal preference

Leadership styles can vary, and what works for one person may not work for another. Willink’s approach may not align with the preferences of every aspiring leader.

It’s important to remember that the perceived drawbacks may not be universal, and individual preferences and needs will play a significant role in determining whether these factors impact the overall learning experience. While the course has its limitations, its strengths in providing practical leadership insights remain prominent.

Conclusion: Is Jocko Willink's MasterClass worth it?

In summary, Jocko Willink’s MasterClass offers several compelling advantages for individuals seeking to enhance their leadership skills. His no-nonsense teaching style ensures that complex leadership concepts are presented in a clear and accessible way, making it suitable for a broad audience. The courses practical application, rooted in Willink’s extensive experience as a Navy Seal commander, sets it apart. Real-life case studies and practical exercises allow learners to immediately apply the lessons, making the knowledge actionable.

Moreover, Willink’s emphasis on “Extreme Ownership” and the inclusion of inspirational stories from his military career highlight the importance of responsibility in leadership. The course’s versatility makes it valuable not only for those in the business world but also for individuals in various professions and on personal growth journeys. The high production value further enhances the learning experience.

However, potential drawbacks should be considered. Limited interaction opportunities in a leadership course may not suit those who thrive on in-person discussions. Some learners, particularly those well-versed in leadership principles, might find the course’s content lacking in depth. This, combined with the pricing, may deter budget-conscious individuals, especially considering the relatively short duration of the course.

In conclusion, Jocko Willink’s MasterClass offers valuable practical leadership insights, but prospective students should weigh these advantages and drawbacks against their specific needs and preferences before enrolling. It remains a valuable resource for those seeking wisdom about actionable leadership, but due diligence is crucial before making an investment.