The Leader's Bookshelf

Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 1 year, 7 months ago to Books
12 comments | Share | Flag

The Leader’s Bookshelf, edited by Adm. James Stavridis USN (Ret.) and R. Manning Ancell, Naval Institute Press, 2017. Here are clear and compelling summaries of 50 books recommended by senior generals and admirals. Each review encapsulates the work, explaining its importance, providing a salient quote, and delivering at least one of the leadership lessons within. Often the lead paragraph is a personal statement from the general officer about how the book came to be important to him or her.

While mostly the advice of senior leaders, this collection includes a brief chapter of recommendations from junior officers. They are the future. Atlas Shrugged was one of those, and it is clear from the terse and misinformed blurb that the editors do not like it. They cannot reconcile the self-interested ethics of the merchant with the way of the warrior.

Add Comment


All Comments Hide marked as read Mark all as read

  • Posted by Lucky 1 year, 7 months ago
    The military brass are obviously right that leadership is essential, and that it
    can be taught using examples from fiction. I may disagree with the opinion
    on Atlas Shrugged in that I see Dagny Taggart not just as a heroine and
    manager but as a great leader and the reader sees how it is done. There is no
    pandering to (gender) stereotypes by Dagny, this is what you teach when you
    want to get the best from all your up-and-comers.

    If I may ramble, I hope the limitations of fiction are assessed. How about real
    life heroes in leadership?

    As I write it is 20-October.
    21-October-1805, the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, perhaps
    the greatest ever battle at sea in which Admiral Nelson with 27 ships-of-the-
    line lost none and demolished a combined French/Spanish fleet of 33 ships-of-the-
    line. Nelson had a brilliant plan that required audacious initiative as
    well as competence from his men. This he got from the pre-battle message:
    'England expects every man to do his duty'.
    The commanders thought it was pointless, they thought differently when great
    cheers came from the ships as the message was received (by flag signals).
    Orson Scott Card has Ender Wiggen living and presenting much the same

    On the other hand there is the 4 to 7 of June-1942, the Battle of Midway. As a
    battle, less decisive but for the war far more conclusive than Trafalgar. Admiral
    Nimitz can not be faulted, yet this victory was more from management than
    leadership. The code breaking gave an advantage that required expected skills and
    attention to detail.
    Is this an American characteristic? Effectiveness = Management times leadership.

    Relating to other threads on the the Gulch, there is one military leader I
    much admire, the greatest or not. A general who had the characteristics of
    the greats in fiction, exemplary adherence to the code of ethics then current,
    honorable in private life, respected, well revered, by enemies as well as his
    own troops for leadership, technical knowledge and all-round ability,
    but all of this squelched by being on the losing side, no not Rommel,
    Robert E Lee.
    Would the current brass dare mention this?
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by mccannon01 1 year, 6 months ago
      Books in my library:

      1) "Leadership Lessons of Robert E. Lee: Tips, Tactics, and Strategies for Leaders and Managers" by Bil Holton, Ph.D.

      2) "The Genius of Robert E. Lee: Leadership Lessons for the Outgunned, Outnumbered, and Under Financed" by Al Kaltman (Also the author of "Cigars, Whiskey & Winning: Leadership Lessons From Gen. Ulysses S. Grant")

      All good reads
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by  $  1 year, 6 months ago
      To open with an aside, the Confederate generals are viewed like Napoleon or Rommel: in the past. Everyone knows that the South had the better leaders.

      You should find the book for yourself. I got it from the publisher ($30) because I am a member of the Naval Institute, but you can find it elsewhere for less. About one-fourth of the books are fiction. And aside from Connecticut Yankee and Ender's Game, most of those are firmly based on known facts, such as Jeff Shaara's Gods and Generals: A Novel of the Civil War or Steven Pressfield's Gates of Fire about Thermopylae. The other 35 or 40 are non-fiction.

      To close with that aside, good commanders practice tactics. Great commanders practice strategy. Winning commanders practice logistics. The South was doomed, as were Nazi Germany, the USSR, and ISIS, because a slave society cannot out-compete a free society. A million-man army of Grey Ghosts and Desert Foxes will run out of ammunition, food, and clothing, if it it not supported by a productive economy.

      Among the many brilliant insights offered by Ayn Rand was that morality is practical. And you must start with the moral in order to achieve the practical.
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
      • Posted by  $  allosaur 1 year, 6 months ago
        When I read Gates Of Fire, I was looking forward to it being made into a movie. Never happened.
        Instead, a few years later, I saw 300~based on a graphic novel of historical fantasy as opposed to historical fiction~in a theater.
        Those Spartan idiots did not even wear armor!
        At least 300 is entertaining in a tolerably silly way. The sequel is terrible.
        Early on in the sequel, a guy gets punched in the face by a bare fist and voluminous blood splashes all over the place. Aw, c'mon!
        At the end the vengeful widowed Spartan queen hops from ship to ship whacking Persians.
        The Spartan queen? Heck no! She's Wonder Woman of the Amazons!
        Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
        • Posted by mccannon01 1 year, 6 months ago
          I figure the movie "300 Spartans" made in 1962 was probably closer to being historically accurate as any guesstimate may go. What Persian King, self respecting or otherwise, would look like that creepy thing in "The 300"?
          Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
          • Posted by  $  allosaur 1 year, 6 months ago
            Me then a teenaged dino saw 300 Spartans in the theater and thought it was great. My girlfriend at the time almost cried. I knew they'd all die but I guess I didn't tell her.
            The 300 sequel reveals how Xerxes as he close approximation really looked became a creepy looking god.
            Glad that second 'un was a Netflix rental. I either gave it 2 stars for not liking it or one for hating it.
            Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
      • Posted by Lucky 1 year, 6 months ago
        Thanks MM, A very interesting topic with not just Objectivist but conservative implications.
        So, odd that there are only two commentators so far.

        ' * a slave society cannot out-compete a free society. *'
        Could this be wishful thinking?
        This is a book topic, or at least deserves a new thread.
        Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by  $  Maritimus 1 year, 6 months ago
      Hello, Lucky,
      Did you ever read B. C. Flood's "Lee The Last Years"? I met the author a few times several years and he gifted me a copy. There are 82 reviews of it on Amazon, vast majority 5 points, few 4 points and nothing below. If you did not yet, I am sure that you would enjoy it. What a man and what a gentleman!
      Best wishes.
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
  • Posted by Lucky 1 year, 7 months ago
    Interesting recommendations.
    Atlas Shrugged- The respect that Dagny gets, and how it is done, the overcoming or ignoring of stereotypes, is great reading and learning material.
    Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. A surprising omission. Have you read this Mike? I know it is recommended at senior military levels and is used in military academies.
    CS Forester (to me) an obvious choice. Forester's Hornblower rises from midshipman to captain, and admiral, a clear model of what a leader should do and be. Great at school level as he is a straightforward character.
    In the above examples and in the other authors in the list that I have read, the leaders are very strict, very demanding, there is understanding and sympathy (not shown) but little softness. These extreme high standards are applied rigorously to themselves, even when it does not show. The internal pain as a result is high. In fiction at least it pays off.
    Reply | Mark as read | Best of... | Permalink  
    • Posted by  $  1 year, 7 months ago
      Ender's Game is recommended by Gen. James Cartwright USMC (Ret.), commander of the U. S. Strategic Command, and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

      This is what they (Adm. Stavridis, I believe) said about Atlas Shrugged (which they categorized as a "quirky outlier" with Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent and Starship Troopers: "... is a classic American novel about individualism, the power of society, and the determination of self-selected leaders. Complex and difficult in places, it is in many ways the first postmodern novel."

      (Yes, I read Ender's Game when it came out. I have not read any of the sequels. I have not seen the movie.)
      Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  
      • Posted by IndianaGary 1 year, 6 months ago
        I read Ender's Game and then saw the movie, with which Card assisted. As usual, the book is superior. The problem with the movie is also typical; time compression muddies up the story. I gave the book an A and the movie a C+. That said, the performances by the actors were well done. I would fault the script as the weakest part.
        Reply | Mark as read | Parent | Best of... | Permalink  


  • Comment hidden. Undo