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Thread: Suggested books for Company Level Leaders

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Default Suggested books for Company Level Leaders

    All,

    I am taking up one of the facilitator slots over at Company Command for their professional reading program. The program helps Platoon Leaders and Company Commanders develop professional reading programs. It even pays for the books they select to use! The point is to help improve some or all of the following items - leadership performance, teamwork, task management, morale, general military knowledge, history, leadership tips, and tricks, and OIF/OEF understanding.

    To that end, I'd like to poll the council for the following:

    1) The best military leadership/management/teambuilding book you know of (ex Lead On!, Small Unit Leadership: A Commonsense Approach, Taking the Guidon, Three Meter Zone)

    2) The best civilian leadership/management/teambuilding book you would recommend. (ex. Good to Great, Made to Stick, Winning)

    3) The best single book on Iraq you would recommend for company level leaders.

    4) The best single book on Afghanistan you would recommend for company level leaders.

    5) Any other book that doesn't fit in the categories above that should be a "must read"

    Please also include the "why".

    Again, this is a high payoff list for Company Commanders and their Platoon Leaders, Platoon Sergeants, and Squad Leaders.. Clausewitz is probably not going to make the cut. Think direct, practical, and good for group discussion. Looking forward to the input!
    Last edited by Cavguy; 07-31-2009 at 04:42 AM.
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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    On Systems Thinking... I would recomend Meaning The Secret To Being Alive by Cliff Havener. One of the easiest and most informative books on Systems Thinking I ever read. You can download the first 3 chapters for free at the site below.


    http://www.forseekers.com/book.htm
    Last edited by slapout9; 07-31-2009 at 03:05 AM. Reason: add stuff

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    Neil,

    This doesn't answer the mail directly, but it's a list I came up with for the cadets I taught as an intro into professional reading.

    http://www.amazon.com/Sheks-Professi...R2GBQLF54YTD9L

    Best,
    Shek

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    Default books

    Sir, as a long time user of Platoonleader.com and Companycommand.com (7+ years, I think), the sites are great resources and thank you for compiling this info. I received a copy of Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife from the sites while deployed to OIF IV. Here are my humble recommendations. None are overly scholarly, and are entertaining and interesting reads.

    1) The best military leadership/management/teambuilding book you know of:
    Not your usual leadership guide book, but my Battery Commander made all his LTs read Ambrose's Pegasus Bridge about the airborne/glider assault into D-Day. The book showed the value of training and rehearsals. It also showed what was expected of us as PLs in combat.

    2) The best civilian leadership/management/teambuilding book you would recommend:
    Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. Great primer into working and living with others, and how to build relationships. His other books on speaking and management are good too.

    3) The best single book on Iraq you would recommend for company level leaders:
    Ricks' The Gamble. or Bellavia's House to House. Ricks is a higher level overview of where the Iraq war was in 2006 and the shift it took in 2007-2008 leading us to where we are today. Veterans and scholars can debate his details and evidence, but as a convoy security PL in 2006, most things I saw were not going well. Bellavia's is just an emotional and powerful depiction of the battle of Fallujah by an Army Infantry Squad Leader. SSG Bellavia writes clearly, but doesn't hold back, just as you would expect. Good depiction of how bad it can get.

    4) The best single book on Afghanistan you would recommend for company level leaders:
    Have not been to A-stan, but Kaplan's Soldiers of God is a great overview of the mujahideen during the Soviet War and the sacrifices they were willing to make. Very readable, and great stories.

    5) Any other book that doesn't fit in the categories above that should be a "must read":
    West's The Village. This book is COIN/FID/SFA/whatever you want to call it. Great description of what really living with and for the people means, and the risks/gains involved.
    "What do you think this is, some kind of encounter group?"
    - Harry Callahan, The Enforcer.

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    For Afghanistan, there is this list, which I am (slowly) working on finishing.

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    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    General: It does not quite fit into any of your categories, but 'The Manoeuvre Warfare Handbook' by William S Lind. I issued this to all my platoon leaders and platoon sergeants. I found it an invaluable plain english guide to the (conceptual) how I expected missions to be accomplished.

    Arabs: Again, not quite in your categories, but 'Arabs' by Mark Allen is a short, concise and very perceptive look at Arabs; their history and culture. To my mind the best value book on the market for trying to understand arabs.

    Iraq: Although not up to date (it does not cover the surge) 'Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Iraq' by Ahmed Hashim I found the best for painting the Iraq picture, in particular the concept of the 'complex insurgency'.

    Afghanistan: 'The Afghanistan Wars' by William Maley is a good general Afghanistan book. The second edition was due out July this year and should accordingly be up to date.

    Military Leadership and Team-building: 'Defeat into Victory' by Field Marshal Slim. Although this deals with his command of 14th Army and the Burma Campaign 1942-45 and you may think it is pitched too high I would make three points:

    • It is very very readable; Field Marshal Slim was a published popular author in the 1920s and 30s
    • It deals with leadership under stress; the retreat from Burma in 1942; soldiers will generally follow a winner - much harder in adversity...
    • It deals with the fundamentals of training. Field Marshal Slim re-built a shattered 14th Army to fight and beat the Japanese in the jungle, he then transformed it again mid-campaign to ensure that it could fight combined arms manoeuvre when they broke out of the jungle and onto the Burmese plains.


    At the least it is worth cherry picking some chapters from the book, there are some real gems.

    RR

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Under the "must read" category I enjoyed Leadership And Training For The Fight by MSG (ret) Paul Howe so much that when I gave it away to a scout section leader I enjoyed working with, I picked up another copy. Although Howe writes from a heavier-hitting perspective as a former Delta member who went on to teach gunfighting and SWAT tactics, he writes on a lot of things relative to team-building, combatives, and raw leadership the likes of which don't have to do with parade field maneuvers.

    For both Afghanistan and Iraq, I think The Defense of Jisr al-Doreaa: With E. D. Swinton's "The Defence of Duffer's Drift" bears relevance for a primer in basic tactics and focusing on the people, when dealing with insurgent foes. It is an easy read, and a good companion to the Duffer's Drift

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    Clausewitz is probably not going to make the cut. Think direct, practical, and good for group discussion. Looking forward to the input!
    Nor should he. CvC is a reading list in and of himself and his work.
    I think reading lists are great, but I would just add a word of caution, about them as a device.

    a.) The fewer books the better, and they don't have to be books - any written source, including manuals - which folks usually don't read.

    b.) Books have to pass a pretty big "so what test," of imparting relevant, and practical, within a useable context. - reading lists often just list books, and don't say "read this because..."

    c.) Reading should only be one part of it. Discussing it is critical.

    Just my opinion and I hope it helps.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    b.) Books have to pass a pretty big "so what test," of imparting relevant, and practical, within a useable context. - reading lists often just list books, and don't say "read this because..."
    Hence the vetting we should be doing for Niel.

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    In the Iraq section of the "doesn't fit" category: The Arab Mind, by Raphael Patai.

    I understand that there are criticisms of the book. I would quote Wilf's tagline:
    "Pedants will be able to cite exceptions, and thus undermine useful (insightful) theory. Their depredations must be firmly resisted by one simple test: does the theory generally aid understanding of useful military problems? If so, then exceptions are permissible."
    J.P. Storr “Human Aspects of Command”
    The LTs will quickly learn what applies and what does not after a few days in country. I found it helpful.

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Great suggestions so far, but I am hearing crickets chirp from a lot of our normally vocal members.

    I am particularly interested in additional suggestions for team/organizational leadership and management, military or civilian. OIF and OEF are fairly well covered in multiple lists, but I'm always trolling for a gem there too.

    Suggestions of books and articles on how to build effective organizational culture while experiencing a great deal of temp-related stress (read deployment) would help a lot.
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
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    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
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    Default Chirp no more

    Best book I read in grad school and a very easy read...

    The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

    Rather than my review... I found the following that states the arguement better than i might...

    Let me describe some of the many levels on which this novel is valuable.

    First, the book explains how to see businesses (or any endeavor) as systems as well as any other book on this subject. It compares favorably in this area to such important works as The Fifth Discipline and the Fifth Discipline Handbook. The metaphor of how to speed up a slow-moving group of boy scouts will be visceral to anyone who has done any hiking with a group.

    Second, the book helps you learn how to improve the performance of a system by providing you with a replicable process that you can apply to analyzing any human or engineering system. The primary metaphor is improving a manufacturing process, but the same principles apply more broadly to other circumstances.

    Third, you will experience the power of the Socratic method as a way to stimulate your mind to learn, and to use Socratic questions to stimulate the minds of others to become better thinkers and doers.

    Fourth, the authors also use problem simulation as a practical way to help you experience the learning process they are advocating.

    Fifth, the book is unusually good in bringing home the consequences of letting your business process run in a vicious cycle: Your family life may also.

    The pacing of the book is especially good. You are given time to stew with issues and come up with your own ideas before sample answers are provided by Alex and his staff in the novel.

    Then again, I had already told you to read the book...

    Live well and row
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    One book I continually turn to is, "The Thinker's Tookit." It's not a leadership book, but it's a great aid for general analysis and problem solving. I'd also consider it a bit of a "self-help" book because I believe it aids instrospection.

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    I’m not sure if this is the sort of material you’re after. This article I think is quite interesting. It’s about how to get from a 30% solution to an 80 % solution rather than focussing on achieving an 80 % solution from the outset and never getting there.

    Who moved my cheese could be an interesting read. It does not directly pertain to what you asked for but it may still be insightful with regards to identifying what may be blocking processes at a personal level.
    Dr. Spencer Johnson
    2000 Vermilion UK, Random House Group Ltd.
    ISBN 0 09 181 697 1
    96 pages
    Here’s a little write-up:
    Cheese is a metaphor for what you want to have in life – whether it is a good job, a loving relationship, money, or spiritual peace of mind. Cheese is what we think will make us happy, and when circumstances take it away, different people deal with change in different ways. Four characters in this delightful parable represent parts of ourselves whenever we are confronted with change. Discover how you can let change work to your advantage and let it lead you to success!
    Then there are ‘The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery’ and ‘The path to leadership’ by Montgomery. I bought the latter at a market for a few bucks. It is signed by Monty with the following words (can’t resist sharing it):

    It is not the countries which lack the atom bombs or the big battalions which should be called “second-rate” powers, but the countries which lack the big ideals.
    Our young people must be taught to make their country mean something more than just a welfare state. They must learn that the privileges and benefits conferred upon them involve complementary obligations.
    Montgomery of Alamein F.M.
    Nothing that results in human progress is achieved with unanimous consent. (Christopher Columbus)

    All great truth passes through three stages: first it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
    (Arthur Schopenhauer)

    ONWARD

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    I am particularly interested in additional suggestions for team/organizational leadership and management, military or civilian.
    The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall, and the Battle for the Supreme Court. This is a pretty quick read. The takeaway for a junior officer would be to observe how Chief Justice Marshall walked the fine line between a confrontation with President Jefferson that could undermine the Court's power and issuing a ruling that could appear to bow to the President's power and thus undermine the rule of law by making it malleable to the prevaling political winds. He took a very awkward and controversial case (Marbury v. Madison) at a time when the Court was politically very weak and most people could not even agree on the role of the Court. Despite the position of weakness, he delivered a decision that was revolutionary at the time, but that we now take as an obvious given: the Court's power of judicial review. In doing so, he avoided a significant confrontation with the President and also expanded the power of the judicial branch.

    It is a good lesson in how someone in a position of weakness can prevail and influence significant change if he focuses upon creatively using the tools available rather than just griping about not having enough money or firepower or whining about overly restrictive ROE.

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    How come no one has mentioned Heinlein's Starship Troopers? Every junior NCO and officer should read that.

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    Default John Marshall, the walker ....

    Marshall's military career, captain and deputy judge advocate on GW's staff, is well-known enough; but this little snippet came as a surprise:

    Physically, he was gifted. Evidence of this physical prowess became obvious during the war years. As he traveled from the battle sites of the Revolution around Philadelphia, to his home in Richmond, VA, it was customary for him to walk the 250 miles, usually taking three weeks for the journey.8 As a competitor in camp contests, Smith says, Marshall was outstanding: “He excelled as a runner and according to numerous accounts he was the only man in the Continental Army who could high jump over six feet — a remarkable achievement in any era.”9 Standing six-feet-three-inches tall, he could have been, according to Marshall house docent E.L. Butterworth, an Olympic athlete in two sports.10

    8 Smith, p. 68. [Jean Edward Smith, John Marshall — Definer of a Nation, New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1996]

    9 Smith, p. 74.

    10 E.L. Butterworth, in a tour lecture at the Marshall home, June 28, 2002.
    Walking was probably a good way to decompress.

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    Council Member Spud's Avatar
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    Probably hard to get now but a fantastic 'issues as a company commander' book is a fiction based on fact book concerning an Apache Company in the lead up to, during and after the first Gulf War.

    Desert Skies

    Pretty much covers off on every conceivable issue including some that I'd never seen (what happens when those pics of you dressed in drag at a function come out later in your career etc.)

    Disclaimer: The author is someone I've known for a long time. I consider Mike one of the reasons I got into this whole IO business in the first place.

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Courtesy of Colonel John Warden this is the full Prometheus Process Training Manual in a PDF file. It is a slightly older version (but not much). It is copyrighted so give appropriate credit where due. This is the whole enchilada from start to finish on how to get Strategic all over them Bad Guys Don't just read it....use it...it works ask Pepe Escobar


    http://publications.campaignroom.com...%20w-Cover.pdf

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    Default Management

    (From Niel's original post)
    2) The best civilian leadership/management/teambuilding book you would recommend.
    .

    From a non-SWC member friend who is into these issues:

    1) Not Bosses but Leaders, John Adair http://www.amazon.com/Not-Bosses-but...9128874&sr=1-1
    2) The Art of Problem Solving, Russell Ackoff http://www.amazon.com/Art-Problem-So...9129165&sr=1-3

    davidbfpo

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