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Thread: Suggested books for Company Level Leaders

  1. #21
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Combat Leadership

    (from Niel's original post)
    1) The best military leadership / management / teambuilding book you know of.
    .

    'They Live By The Sword: 32 'Buffalo' Battalion - South Africa's Foreign Legion' by Col. Jan Breytenbach (Pub. Lemur 1990). A unit formed in 1975 from black Angolans, with South African (white) officers and NCOs. Formidable reputation as mainly COIN fighters and suggested as a non-US / non-Western example. Note Eben Barlow (Executive Outcomes) was an officer in them.

    Few copies about if Amazon is correct: http://www.amazon.com/They-live-swor...9129763&sr=1-1 . Republished in 2003 as The Buffalo Soldiers: The Story of South Africa's 32 Battalion 1975-1993.

    The unit's website; http://www.32battalion.net/index.htm

    davidbfpo

  2. #22
    Council Member EmmetM's Avatar
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    Default Xenophon

    An evergreen oldie (2,400 years give or take) that emerging leaders have read for centuries is Xenophon's Anabasis often also titled The Persian Expedition. The work is an account of an ill-fated expedition by a small Greek army, the legendary Ten Thousand, to Persia to assist Cyrus claim the Persian throne. Cyrus is killed, the Greeks loose all their senior commanders, and they have no choice but to march all the way back home, through VERY hostile territory, with the Persian armies always at their heels!! The book features many very memorable lessons in leadership and styles of leadership. A cracking, accessable read, that is still very very relevant, as it is essentially about the human spirit. I have the Rex Warner translation published by Penguin and well worn it is! There are editions online but they feature older, less accessable translations.

  3. #23
    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Concur with MSG Howe's leadership book. A great book written by a great warrior.

    Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson. The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom. Also, Nate Self's "Two Wars."
    Example is better than precept.

  4. #24
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    Concur with MSG Howe's leadership book. A great book written by a great warrior.

    Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson. The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom. Also, Nate Self's "Two Wars."
    Just caught the by line. Hi RTK,how you doin?

  5. #25
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    I would suggest The Jolly Rogers by Tom Blackburn. It is his story about how he organized, trained and led VF-17 during WWII. Not only did he have to do that but the unit also introduced a sometimes difficult aircraft, the Corsair, to carrier use. He outlines all of his problems, personnel, material and Japanese and how solved them; not only how he solved them but how he harnessed the talents of his men to solve them. Whenever leadership books are mentioned, this one pops into my head. It isn't all that long either.

    Another longer book that very well illustrates how an organization recognized, thought about and solved a very difficult problem is The First Team by Lundstrom. The problem the Navy fighter squadrons had to solve was how to beat Zero fighters flown by brilliant pilots while flying an inferior airplane. It was a fascinating story.

    The 3rd suggestion would have been The Last Place on Earth by Huntford. When I read it I thought it was the best study of comparative leadership in extremely stressful circumstances that I ever read. Some of the reviews at Amazon state it is biased toward Amundson at the expense of Scott. I am not qualified to judge. But I thought it was a great example of how two different people approached an identical problem, getting to the South Pole, at exactly the same time with exactly the same level of technology. One succeeded and lived, one failed and died, along with his men.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  6. #26
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    A book I forgot to mention that is direct, practical and good for discussion was written by Woody Hayes, the former Ohio State football coach. I read it long ago and forgot the name of it unfortunately.

    It told of his first college football coaching experience at Denison. He took a program that wasn't established with a mixed group of players who were mostly WWII vets who hadn't been recruited. He tells how he formed them into a cohesive group, trained them and created a game strategy that took advantage of the men he had and the skills they happened to bring with them. It tells of personalities, group dynamics and imaginative thinking in making the best of what he had.

    Hayes wasn't a polished author but he wrote the book all by himself and it was easy to read. He was an extremely insightful man when it came to leading and teaching young men. I was extremely impressed by this book when I read it. I just don't remember what the name of it was.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  7. #27
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Another longer book that very well illustrates how an organization recognized, thought about and solved a very difficult problem is The First Team by Lundstrom. The problem the Navy fighter squadrons had to solve was how to beat Zero fighters flown by brilliant pilots while flying an inferior airplane. It was a fascinating story.
    I just read an interesting Amazon review of that book, and it sounds like exactly the good read you mention.

  8. #28
    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default Pray tell why???

    Quote Originally Posted by Brandon Friedman View Post
    How come no one has mentioned Heinlein's Starship Troopers? Every junior NCO and officer should read that.
    One of the criterion was to explain why.....

  9. #29
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    Default 2 cents and a plug - daggers out

    My two cents:

    -I have to disagree with Schmedlap's suggestion of "The Arab Mind." Even with his caveat, I still think that the book is garbage for several reasons. The book is old, stereotypical, poorly supported, and biased. Yes, there are a lot of instances where people live up to Patai's stereotypes, but it throws people on the wrong track in trying to figure the Arabs out. Instead of Patai's virtual craniology approach, talking about swaddling, breastfeeding, etc, based on very old anthropological research of villages that have changed drastically since the 20s, we should be teaching military leaders to look for more concrete reasons to understand current behaviors. Why? Because if I can link the behaviors to concrete reasons, you can better figure out how to affect them. In its stead, I'd suggest Nydell's "Understanding Arabs" which covers a lot of the same ground with much more reasonable support for the conclusions. Furthermore, I'd challenge you to find many Lts who would actually get all the way through "The Arab Mind." It is a long and painful read, even if you buy into it completely. I wrote an article for the Jan 2006 Marine Corps Gazette that goes into more details on this topic if anyone is interested ("Cultural Education and the Reading Program").

    -Afghanistan: I liked Rashid's "Descent into Chaos." It does a good job, I thought, of putting recent events in Afghanistan into a broader regional context that shows the complexity of the interests there, especially WRT Pakistan. I am not as well read on Afghanistan as the Arab world, though, so I may be missing a lot here.

    -"The Goal": The book makes valid points, but I'd skim through it to find them. There is a lot of extraneous stuff in it. Naval aviation has based an effort to lean 6 sigma its ops on the Goldratt Institutes philosophies, so my CO had key officers in the squadron read it. (Goldratt is the author of "The Goal")

    -For non-military leadership, anyone have comments on "The Powers to Lead" by Nye? I started reading it and it seemed decent, but didn't get far as I had to shift to some other projects.

    -And for the Iraq suggestion: Here's the plug, so break out the daggers. I wrote a book, "Iraq in Transition: The Legacy of Dictatorship and the Prospect for Democracy" when I found that there was nothing out there as a single source read on what I thought I wanted to know about Iraq. In it, I tried to boil down all of the best sources on Iraq (with extensive citations) and cover what I thought was important for military officers, policymakers, etc, to know about the country's recent history and current events there. Someone recommended Hashim's book, which is a very useful source and was cited in my book. He also endorsed my book, which covers up to the beginning of 2009. There's only been one independent review of my book so far, as it is pretty new, but you can take a look at it on Amazon and decide for yourself. It may not be perfect for company grade, as it doesn't get into local specifics as much as national politics, but it does cover a lot of ground generally about Shi'a politcs, Sunni tribes, Sadr, the constitution, etc.

    (Added by moderator) Link to book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Iraq-Transitio.../dp/1597973009
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-16-2009 at 05:18 PM. Reason: Added article reference and moderator added link.

  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by pjmunson View Post
    -I have to disagree with Schmedlap's suggestion of "The Arab Mind." Even with his caveat, I still think that the book is garbage for several reasons. The book is old, stereotypical, poorly supported, and biased. Yes, there are a lot of instances where people live up to Patai's stereotypes, but it throws people on the wrong track in trying to figure the Arabs out... In its stead, I'd suggest Nydell's "Understanding Arabs" which covers a lot of the same ground with much more reasonable support for the conclusions. Furthermore, I'd challenge you to find many Lts who would actually get all the way through "The Arab Mind." It is a long and painful read, even if you buy into it completely.
    I guess my only additional comments would be that we weren't aware of any other books at the time and this one was being floated in online forums as a recommendation. Agree that much of it was a bit dated and odd - but that is in part what I referred to when I insisted that one can figure out what to dismiss after a few days in country. Perhaps it should not be recommended for the list, but rather put forth as "better than nothing." We did find it helpful, in the absence of anything else.

    But I think your critique is good and fair. I haven't read the others that you recommended (or heard of them until now). When we deployed, we simply weren't aware of anything else. But to the last point - I didn't find it all that painful. All of us (me, as an XO, and all of the platoon leaders) plowed through it pretty quick - perhaps because we were hungry for some information. Up until that point our only information was a 30-minute slideshow on "cultural awareness" by some CPT who was on a soft-shoe profile and couldn't answer any of our questions.

  11. #31
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    Schmedlap-
    Fair enough. Nydell's book, "Understanding Arabs" is much shorter and more user friendly, but it certainly does not have the publicity that "The Arab Mind" did and still does. Despite its flaws, Arab Mind does give some idea of what Arabs on average can be like if you throw out the most insulting bits. It still fails, in my opinion, to give operators what they need to understand Arab culture.

    Arab Mind is almost universally reviled by Middle East specialists, but the problem is that the academic PC versus operator "they live up to the stereotype so why do we have to be PC" arguments that many make for the Arab Mind overlook what is most important to operators. Half the battle is understanding how a group of people act on average. The other half of the battle (at least) is understanding why, because that gives you insight into how to shape actions and interact with people. For instance, "face." I don't remember all of Patai's arguments behind face and hot-headedness, but I know they were pretty obscure (literally swaddling, breastfeeding, and father-son upbringing were part of this). What can I do about this? Nothing. How can I relate to this? I can't. Now, if I relate Arab social groups in a lot of areas to gangs, we can start to get a frame of reference. Why do gangs worry about "street cred"? Why won't a banger let a slight go unanswered? They can't turn to the police to protect them, so they have to keep up the impression that they aren't weak and they won't stand for being messed with. Arab tribes lived in the same sort of lawless environment until recently (or still in some areas) and so similar social traits follow. I agree with the academics in that Patai's approach is insulting and deciedly not-PC, but I can live with that if it gives me information I can act on. My argument is that, due to his bias, he fails in giving actionable analysis.

  12. #32
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Two Wars

    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    Concur with MSG Howe's leadership book. A great book written by a great warrior.

    Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson. The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom. Also, Nate Self's "Two Wars."
    Has anyone seen a comprehensive review of Nate Self's Two Wars? It's a book that I've meant to read for a while. I vaguely remember when it came out, but it did not receive nearly the coverage of other memoirs like Craig Mullaney.

    For those of you that are unfamiliar with Nate, he is a class-act. At USMA, he was one of the upperclassmen that I always looked up to. I remember reading that he was awarded a Silver Star for his actions in the Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan. I was not suprised.

    I googled the book today and found the website. Here is the trailer for the book on his website for those interested. I guess I gotta go pick up a copy of the book and check it out now.


    v/r

    Mike

  13. #33
    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Just caught the by line. Hi RTK,how you doin?
    Doing very well.

    Nate's book helped catalyze my decision to seek help and counsel for my own issues and PTSD in June. I spent a month at Landstuhl in outpatient treatment with a great doctor and a great support network with the USO and Fisher House. It's the second best decision I ever made, right behind marrying my wife.

    I've decided to race the Leadville 100 mountain bike race next August to raise awareness of PTSD and wounded warriors with a few friends I've invited. Working on sponsorship and building the team right now. Will keep you all informed.

    RTK
    Example is better than precept.

  14. #34
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Glad all's well...

    Though I'm amazed to find out you read actual books and stuff...

    On that Bike Race, I think that's taking this Cavalry/ mobile warfare thing to an extreme but I will certainly cheer you on from my L.L.Bean folding camp chair as I contemplate all the ergs you're expending!!!

    Hang tough, stay outa the midday sun -- and be careful.

  15. #35
    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Though I'm amazed to find out you read actual books and stuff...

    On that Bike Race, I think that's taking this Cavalry/ mobile warfare thing to an extreme but I will certainly cheer you on from my L.L.Bean folding camp chair as I contemplate all the ergs you're expending!!!

    Hang tough, stay outa the midday sun -- and be careful.
    I was drawn in by the pictures....
    Example is better than precept.

  16. #36
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default That'll get me every time.

    Better the pictures, better the book...

  17. #37
    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Probably familiar to many, Lima 6: A Marine Company Commander In Vietnam, by Colonel R.D. Camp with Eric Hammel. This was a standout book describing then Captain Camp's assumption of command of Lima Company, 3d Battalion, 26th Marines, at Khe Sanh, 1967. As a civilian reader, I found the clarity of the writing allowed a good narrative insight into elements of the military mindset at this level of engagement.

    Lima 6 Amazon Link

    Perhaps everyone and their laundryman has a copy of the Sun Tzu stashed somewhere, but the Denma Translation is particularly good in its articulation of a "Taking Whole" approach. The three essays in this translation: Taking Whole, The Sage Commander, and Joining The Tradition, are quite instructive and really opened up different areas of understanding in the text.

    Denma Art Of War Homepage

    Denma Interview At Sonshi.com

  18. #38
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    Thumbs up Good to Great

    Jim Collins is on most of our reading lists around here. Hot stuff easy simple great http://www.amazon.com/Good-Great-Com...5555864&sr=8-1

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