Jocko Willink MasterClass Review

by Wayne Leto

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There’s very few people on Earth who can claim to have had their leadership skills tested to the same extent as Jocko Willink. He’s had to make split-second life-or-death decisions in some of the most pressurized and inhospitable environments imaginable.

And now, in his Critical Leadership Training MasterClass, you can learn the same skills that he took years to develop both on the battlefield and in the boardroom.

But despite his indisputable experience, this course is not going to be for everyone. So read on to find out what you can expect to learn, what alternatives are available, and whether the Jocko Willink MasterClass is worth investing your time and money in.

First though, let me outline the main points:

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Quick summary

You will learn to: 

  • Become a better leader and communicator
  • Improve your relationships both in and out of the workplace
  • Keep your team members motivated and engaged
  • Prioritize your tasks and act decisively
  • Resolve issues within your team and deal with underperformers effectively
  • Inspire confidence by taking ownership of situations
  • Keep plans and objectives simple
  • Foster a culture of leadership, and learn why this is so important 

Pros

  • Confident, articulate presenter with a wealth of experience
  • Simple and concise structure
  • Good use of real-world examples and anecdotes
  • Takeaway techniques that can be utilized immediately
  • Universal relevance, everyone can learn something

Cons

  • Occasional lack of depth
  • Some of the same takeaway points are available in Jocko’s book (but seeing it in video is more impactful)

Length of course: 10 videos, 1 hour and 11 minutes.

Best for: Anyone can benefit from this course as you can implement leadership throughout your daily life. However, those looking to get into leadership or improve will get the most from the class.

Price: Check latest prices here.

Overall: Jocko Willink’s depth of knowledge when it comes to leadership is hard to beat, and with his MasterClass you can learn the leadership techniques that took decades of experience and training to refine and perfect. Although he covers similar ground in his book, Extreme Ownership, here we get to see the same techniques neatly summarized in a video course, and being applied in real-world situations. It's well worth the investment.

Now, moving onto the in-depth review where I’ll be talking about:

  • A look inside the Jocko Willink MasterClass
  • Pros and cons of the course
  • Is the course content unique?
  • Are there better alternatives available?
  • My verdict: is the Jocko Willink MasterClass worth the money?

But first, let me tell you a bit more about Jocko and the MasterClass platform.

About Jocko Willink

Jocko Willink is a legend within the military community. Starting his career as an enlisted U.S. Navy SEAL, he rose through the ranks to become a SEAL officer, ultimately commanding troops during the Battle of Ramadi, one of the most intense battles of the Iraq conflict.

After 20 years of decorated service, Jocko retired from the Navy and co-founded Echelon Front, a leadership development company whose goal is to provide tailored, high-quality leadership training that maximizes team performance.

With leadership credentials second to none, he is also the host of the popular Jocko Podcast and an accomplished writer, having co-authored the #1 New York Times bestseller Extreme Ownership: How U.S Navy SEALs Lead and Win. 

Now, if you haven’t yet seen the trailer for his MasterClass, I recommend you do so here:

About MasterClass

Sometimes referred to as the Netflix of e-learning, MasterClass is an online learning platform that allows you to learn from the world's foremost experts in their fields.

There are over 180 courses available to you with a subscription, including lessons in leadership from George W. Bush, cooking classes from Gordon Ramsey, and an electronic music production course hosted by deadmau5. 

Despite the mouth watering array of course options to choose from, the platform is by no means suited to everyone. Therefore read on to find out whether this MasterClass is for you.

If you want more details on MasterClass and some of its most popular classes, check out our Masterclass review and best MasterClass article.

Inside the Jocko Willink MasterClass

The Jocko Willink Critical Leadership Training MasterClass runs for a total of 1 hour and 11 minutes, and consists of 10 video lessons that vary in length between 2 and 12 minutes.

What follows is a breakdown of each lesson that will help you decide if this MasterClass is what you’re looking for.

Lesson 1: What Makes a Leader?

Jocko Willink in the military

“Leadership is the most important thing on the battlefield, the most important thing in business, and the most important thing in life”

In this introductory lesson, Jocko sets out his goals for the course, proclaiming that by its end you will be:

  • A better team-builder
  • A better motivator
  • A better communicator
  • Better at prioritizing and executing decisions

The definition of what makes a leader in his eyes is explained, and he emphasizes the importance of leadership in everyday life. It’s his belief that everyone will have to lead someone at some point, even if they don’t believe this fact to be true.

Jocko then defines 2 common leadership styles: The Silent Leader and The Authoritarian, and explains why you should strive to be the former; a leader who listens to their team and values their input.

Lesson 2: Leadership is About Human Interaction

Jocko Willink teaching his MasterClass

“The stronger the relationships, the stronger the team”

Here, Jocko breaks down what he believes are the core components of all strong relationships, think qualities such as trust, respect, and care.

Our relationships with our subordinates and fellow team members need to be built on the same components for the team to work as effectively as possible.

Jocko explains how you can use these qualities in your day-to-day interactions, and the benefits you may reap as a result.

You’re also introduced to the concept of ‘leadership capital’, something that you should be continually trying to earn by displaying the aforementioned qualities.

Lessons 3 and 4: New Manager 101, Building an Effective Team

“When we have a problem with our team, we need to look at ourselves”

Jocko continues by teaching you:

  • The steps that every new leader needs to take
  • The importance of being relatable to your team and proactive in your relationships
  • How to tackle underperformance effectively
  • The importance of self-reflection when things don’t go as planned

In these video lessons, a group of professionals from different backgrounds are taking Jocko’s course in person, and he uses their example and the issues they face within their teams to give weight to his lessons.

Jocko Willink MasterClass students

For instance take Matthew, he works in real estate and manages a number of agents, yet struggles to find candidates for positions and maintain employees long term. Jocko suggests that he:

  • First self-reflect – is there anything he’s not doing that he should be that could be affecting his team members motivation
  • Provides leadership opportunities to team members that can serve to both boost confidence and humble the ego where required
  • Adopts the ‘escalation of counseling’ protocol to tackle underperformance

Jocko explains how to implement this advice in detail, and why it works so well in contrast to other leadership techniques.

Lesson 5: Extreme Ownership

“You can’t blame anyone else, or anything else, when something goes wrong”

This is by far my favorite lesson of the course. Here Jocko teaches you to take accountability for the performance of your team. By taking ownership of everything that happens in your world, you will forge strong bonds of trust with your team members, be that in the workplace or with your friends and family.

Jocko exemplifies this principle of extreme ownership with a nerve-wracking anecdote from his time in Iraq, where a friendly-force member was killed as a direct result of the actions of his team. 

Rather than seeking to apportion blame, he owned the situation and took full responsibility for what happened. And because of this level of humility, the confidence that both his managers and his subordinates had in him actually increased, because they knew he wasn’t afraid of admitting when he made mistakes.

Jocko Willink in the army

Hence, the importance of extreme ownership, and why you should seek to hold yourself accountable for anything and everything that comes to pass.

Lessons 6 and 7: Leadership Law 1 – Cover and Move, Leadership Law 2 – Keep it Simple

“We can’t do things by ourselves, we have to work together”

In these lessons you are introduced to the 4 laws of combat leadership: the same lessons that were learnt on the battlefield and then taught to SEAL leaders that were getting ready to deploy into combat overseas.

Cover and Move describes a military tactic where one team moves while the other provides suppressive fire. If one team fails in their task the results can be catastrophic. 

The takeaway lesson here is that if one component of your team fails to function correctly, then everybody can fail. Jocko explains how you can minimize the risk of this happening by empowering your team members, giving them a break when needed and ensuring they understand their purpose.

Keep it Simple emphasizes the need for managing workloads in small, simple chunks. Complexity breeds error, and in this lesson Jocko shows you the methods you can use to ensure tasks are not overcomplicated.

One of Jocko Willink's leadership princples

Lesson 8: Leadership Law 3 – Prioritize and Execute

“If your try and solve all your problems at the same time, you won’t solve any of them”

This class teaches you to prioritize your tasks correctly to avoid becoming overwhelmed at your workload, you will learn how to:

  • Identify your biggest problem and resolve it first
  • Detach from your situation, take a step back and make holistic decisions
  • Utilize interdictive actions, which are actions designed to stop the continuation of harmful activities
Jocko Willink teaching

Jocko also talks about the iterative decision-making process, a method of decision-making which requires you to:

  • First and foremost, be decisive
  • Make small decisions quickly and then adjust them if required

This is a foundational life skill that will not only help you in your goal of becoming a better leader, but also a better person. 

Lessons 9 and 10: Leadership Law 4 – Decentralized Command, Leadership is the Most Important Skill

“When you are in charge of a team, you want every single person on that team to be a leader”

The final law of leadership, which Jocko describes as the most powerful, is decentralized command. 

If everyone on your team understands the mission, they can act independantly, without needing to continually refer up the chain of command. The only way to achieve this is by relinquishing responsibility and empowering them by giving them the opportunity to forge their own trail.

To illustrate his point Jocko introduces Sarah, who runs her own catering company yet struggles to lead those team members she works with on a temporary basis. 

His advice to her is to let go of trying to control everything, and empower those employees if required. He emphasizes that for many team members, being given the freedom to decide how they are going to accomplish a task, is more important to them than money.

The course concludes with a short summary class by Jocko, who reiterates that everyone has the ability to become a better leader, all it takes is a little bit of humility.

What I liked about Jocko Willink’s MasterClass

Jocko himself

Jocko is an engaging and charismatic instructor who clearly knows what he is talking about. And when listening to him teach I found myself aspiring to be the kind of leader he is.

Learning something new becomes so much easier when you have a strong motivation for doing so, and when being taught by Jocko, let me assure you that your motivation to take on his lessons will not be lacking!

Furthermore, with decades of training and experience both in and out of the military Jocko is clearly at the top of his field. And that’s what’s so great about MasterClass, you have unlimited access to lessons from people who are the very best in the world at what they do, teaching you the secrets to their success.

The simple nature of the course

Leadership Law 2 of the Jocko Willink MasterClass is this: keep it simple. And with his course Jocko does exactly that.

Thousands of hours of experience and lessons have been condensed into bite-sized classes that are explained in a way that is easy-to-understand, and then exemplified with either anecdotes from Jocko or the current dilemmas facing in-person audience members.

Each class then concludes with a bullet-list of takeaway points for you to try out in your own life. And that’s it. Nothing complicated, and people from any background will be able to understand the content and gain something from it.

The use of real-world examples and anecdotes

We follow Jocko as he teaches his MasterClass to an in-person audience of professionals all seeking to improve themselves as leaders. 

Each member of the audience is currently facing their own dilemmas within the workplace, and Jocko shows you how his lessons can be applied so as to successfully resolve them. He also refers to events within his military career that exemplify the course takeaway points being used in action.

This combination really serves to demonstrate the effectiveness of the lessons you receive on the course when they are applied in real-world situations.

What I think could be improved

Lacking in depth and detail

Jocko Willink’s critical leadership training MasterClass is a fantastic course, but I definitely finished it with a feeling of wanting more. The course has a total run time of 1 hour and 11 minutes, which should tell you not to expect too much depth given that there are 10 lessons squeezed into this time.

While each lesson is simply explained and leaves you with some good takeaway points, I really believe the course could be improved if it were longer and included more detail.

Each individual lesson could easily fill an hour itself. And I feel there should be more discussion and explanation around each of them, especially about what to do if a particular piece of advice fails to have the desired effect.

No feedback about the effectiveness of the course

Throughout the course Jocko dispenses his advice to the in-person audience so as to aid them in resolving their workplace problems.

While the advice is sound you are offered no indication as to whether it was successfully implemented or not, or what problems the audience faced in applying it.

I think it would be great if he had had a follow-up with some of the audience members so that you may have a better understanding of how effective his solutions are or not. And what to do should they not be as successful as hoped.

Although the course uses the audience’s examples and Jocko’s personal stories effectively otherwise, this confirmation was something that I felt was noticeably lacking throughout the lessons.

Who is this course for?

As Jocko continually reminds you throughout his MasterClass, everyone will have to lead someone at some point in life, even if you don’t believe this to be true. 

Therefore his lessons are relevant to all of us. They will improve not just your leadership skills, but also your interpersonal and social skills, strengthening your connections with both your colleagues, and your family and friends alike.

That being said, I believe the course content is more relevant to some people than others, including:

  • New leaders/managers looking to start on the best possible footing
  • Those wanting to gain promotion to a leadership position
  • Those currently in a leadership role who are wanting to better themselves as leaders and/or gain insights into how to resolve problems within their workforce

But anyone interested in either self-development or improving their communication skills will gain a great deal from Jocko’s insights, regardless of whether they currently are, or are aspiring to be, a leader.

How much does the Jocko Willink MasterClass cost?

At the time of writing MasterClass has three subscription options. The cost of these (per month) is:

  • Individual (1 user) $11.90
  • Duo (2 users) $17.85
  • Family (6 users) $23.80

All are billed annually, which may seem pricey at first glance.

However, you can considerably reduce your costs by taking as many courses as possible.

With over 180 courses on the platform you’re likely to find quite a few to interest you. Even if you buy an individual membership and find only 10% of the courses of interest this still works out to only $7.90 a course:

$142.80 (annual individual membership fee) / 18 courses = $7.90.

And if you join with friends or family then the cost of each course is drastically reduced. Check out our MasterClass review or MasterClass cost articles to see how.

Don’t forget that these classes are taught by global leaders in their fields. So the value is unbeatable. You can pay over $100 for an online course taught by someone you’ve never even heard of, never mind the caliber of teachers on MasterClass.

What’s more, MasterClass also offers a 30 day refund if you’re unhappy with your purchase.

You can also purchase MasterClass as a gift.

Alternatives to the Jocko Willink MasterClass

Jocko has authored several books that explore the subject of leadership, including:

  • Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win (2015)
  • The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win (2018)
  • Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual (2020)

There are also a number of other courses to be found in the MasterClass business category that are relevant to this topic. For example you may choose to learn Business Leadership with Howard Schulz, Inclusive Leadership with Bill Clinton, or Creativity and Leadership with Anna Wintour. Don’t forget: you will gain unlimited access to all these courses with a MasterClass subscription. You might also like James Clear's MasterClass on habits.

Many universities offer stand-alone leadership and management courses giving you the chance to be professionally recognised for your studies, and you can also find a host of leadership courses available online on a number of different platforms and with a wide range of prices.

LinkedIn Learning for example has dozens of courses relevant to leadership, including:

  • Develop Your Skills as a New or Emerging People Leader
  • Leadership Foundations
  • 20 Habits of Effective Leadership

Just bear in mind that the platform currently has a subscription fee of $29.99 per month, almost 3 times that of MasterClass.

Udemy also has a number of online leadership courses available, but these must be bought individually (prices range between $10 and $60). However none of the instructor's credentials can match those such as Jocko’s, so although the courses may be good, they cannot be said to be world-class.

In my eyes the bottom line is this: if you’re looking for an online leadership course that strikes the best balance between value and quality, it’s hard to find a platform on the market that can outdo MasterClass.

Is the course content unique?

Not entirely. Jocko has a host of podcasts that you can find freely available on Youtube or Spotify that cover the majority of the lessons learned on the course.

Additionally, in his book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, he teaches you the same material.

However, neither the books nor the podcasts summarize his teachings as effectively as the MasterClass does. To have all the advice that he and others have painstakingly gained over the years contained in a 1-hour video course is a real privilege. 

Furthermore, Jocko’s engagement with the camera and the audience adds an intensity and familiarity to the course that you can’t equal just by reading the book.

Therefore it’s really up to you as to how you want to engage with Jocko’s lessons. If you think you learn better by reading at your own pace, and you aren’t interested in anything else the MasterClass platform has to offer, maybe the book will be more relevant for you.

But if you’re a strong visual learner, or you want to get to the point and hear all Jocko’s teachings summarized in one short course, whilst simultaneously gaining access to dozens of other video courses at the same time, then MasterClass is your best bet.  

Is the Jocko Willink MasterClass worth it?

My honest opinion – Yes.

The Jocko Willink MasterClass is a well put-together course with a world-class instructor that everyone can gain something from.

I understand if you still have doubts: it’s true, the MasterClass is (slightly more than) a 1-hour course of which you can find the majority of the material online free, albeit piecemeal. And there is also the option to learn the same lessons from his book, instead of investing in a MasterClass subscription.

However:

On the MasterClass platform you gain unlimited access to this course and many others, such as those by former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss, and high profile salesman Daniel Pink.

Money spent on educating and improving yourself is never money wasted. And this is your opportunity to learn from absolute world-leaders in their fields. 

With over 180 courses to choose from for just $11.90 per month you’ve nothing to lose by trying out a subscription, thats’s insanely good value-for-money. 

And with MasterClass offering a 30-day refund policy there’s no risk to yourself if you find out you’ve made the wrong choice.

Frequently asked questions

How much does the Jocko Willink MasterClass cost?

At the time of writing an individual, all-access MasterClass subscription costs $11.90 per month. This is billed annually and gives you unlimited access to the Jocko Willink MasterClass and over 180 other courses for one year.

How long is the Jocko Willink MasterClass?

The Jocko Willink MasterClass consists of 10 videos with a total run time of 1 hour and 11 minutes.

Can you get the Jocko Willink MasterClass for free?

Unfortunately you cannot access the Jocko Willink MasterClass for free. However, MasterClass has a range of purchasing options available and offers refunds if you’re unsatisfied.

Can I get a refund if I don’t like the Jocko Willink MasterClass?

Yes. MasterClass offers a 30-day refund policy if you purchase your subscription through them. If you purchase through other providers, their returns policy may apply.

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