I am a firm believer in the value of professional reading as a critical part of professional and personal development. Early in my career, I began maintaining a list of titles that leaders and peers recommended, a list that expanded considerably during my time in CGSC and SAMS. But I was seldom able to whittle it down, let alone think critically about what I was reading. Professional responsibilities, family obligations, TDY travel, and deployments continued to pile on and, probably just like you, professional reading was the victim.
As historian Hew Strachan states in The Direction of War, “Operational thinking finds its intellectual focus in doctrine.” Doctrine drives how leaders think and fight. But when the Army publishes new doctrine, as an institution we owe it to ourselves to do a better job informing, then educating, the Total Army force.
Military leaders are hard to buy gifts for. We’re busy, we’ve already got a lot of gear, and we don’t talk about what we need until we really need it. If you’re in a pinch to buy for someone in the military (or anyone else, for that matter), check out these easy gifts. I own each and swear by them.
No other book in recent memory has had a more immediate and valuable impact on me as a leader. It reframed how I view my own approach to leadership and gave me a valuable framework to teach others. The research-backed concept is simple: discover your strengths, lead through your strengths, and build your team around your strengths. Very powerful!
StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Gallup and Tom Rath
It’s not often that we find good Thanksgiving-related reading, but Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick is definitely worth checking out.
In vivid detail, Philbrick describes the tumultuous voyage of the Mayflower, the near catastrophe of the first winter in Plymouth, and the struggle for survival that was the first few years in the New World. Philbrick takes you off the boat and into the water as our famously “harmonious” Pilgrims scavenged off the land, stole from the native Americans, and sparked years of bloody war. It’s not the story you read in school.
For me, the most incredible realization was that the birth of our Nation might never had happened if not for a storm that blew the Mayflower off course and prevented them from reaching the British colonies down the coast.
Then, that William Bradford insisted on a pledge with the Dutch voyagers aboard that none would disembark unless they committed to survive together, not as separate national groups. This agreement, known as The Mayflower Compact, not only enabled their collective survival, but was quite literally the seed of democracy in America.
It’s an incredible story and well worth your time. Check it out!
You’ve got a wall full of departure gifts from units past. Framed unit colors…a few coins, badges, and patches…a metal placard with your name and a pleasant inscription. They’re nice, professional…but they’re predictable. It’s time to break the mold…
Check out the Roman Rudis from Purpleheart Armory.
The Rudis brings to life the 2,500 year old tradition of presenting retiring gladiators of the Roman Empire with a wooden replica of their primary weapon, the gladius. (In the movie Gladiator, Proximo reveals to Maximus the he too was a gladiator, displaying his rudis as the symbol of his freedom.)
Purpleheart Armory expertly crafts this Rudis from domestic hardwood like Oak, Maple, and Ash, then engraves up to 5 lines of customized inscription. Unit logos, service seals, rank, branch insignia, and other tailored images give it a personal but professional feel, and unmatched uniqueness. And of course, the Rudis is 100% made in the USA.
Present the Rudis to celebrate departures, arrivals, milestones, accomplishments, or to reward unit competition. I like giving the Rudis to retiring friends and colleagues to symbolize their “freedom” from military life.
Get 5% Off Your Rudis
Purpleheart Armory has a special offer for The Military Leader community. Get a 5% discount when you use the coupon code: TheMilitaryLeader. This is the coolest military gift I’ve ever seen and gets a “Wow!” every time it’s presented. If you don’t need one now, be sure to bookmark this post for a future order.
This week, I was unexpectedly reintroduced to the service and sacrifice woven through the U.S. Army’s 241 year history. It happened at a performance of the Twilight Tattoo, hosted by the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and the U.S. Army Band at Fort Myer, VA. This hour-long show is open to the public every Wednesday throughout the Summer and should definitely be on your DC bucket list.
The Commander in Chief’s Guard, Honor Guard, Presidential Salute Battery, the Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps, and the U.S. Army Drill Team took the field with singers and performers from the Army Band to showcase the vital role the Soldier has played in the formation and preservation of our Nation. Firing muskets, riding horses from the Caisson Platoon, and performing precision rifle drill…the show was a huge hit with kids and adults, civilians and veterans alike.
More importantly, this spotlight on our gallant past inspired a reminder that we can gain valuable perspective by honoring our lineage of service, and that leaders can inject pride into their formations by connecting today’s Soldiers with yesterday’s sacrifice. Here are some thoughts on how to do it.
Bayonets, Forward! With this command Union Army Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain ordered the 20th Maine Regiment to execute a daring counterattack against the 15th Alabama Regiment of the Confederate Army on July 2nd 1863 during the Battle of Gettysburg. At the extreme left flank of the Union Army, the 20th Maine fought off repeated assaults for the past several hours against the determined Confederate Soldiers.
Outnumbered and low on ammunition, Chamberlain’s bold decision and courageous leadership led his men of Maine down the slopes of Little Round Top at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and stopped the Confederate assault against the Union Army’s left flank.
This iconic scene immortalized in Jeff Shaara’s Killer Angels, the movie Gettysburg, and Army Doctrine publications as the epitome of leadership in action, is just a snapshot in the portfolio of Chamberlain’s remarkable and unparalleled career.
It happened today that I was driving to work and caught a glimpse of something that transported me to a hellish battlefield one hundred years ago. The thermometer hovered just north of freezing. Pellets of rain hit my windshield like shrapnel, which concerned me little because I was cozy and warm in, ironically enough, my German-engineered driving machine. The Starbucks latte was a pleasant addition to my comfortable morning.
I glanced around at the surrounding commuters, then to the traffic situation on my navigation display, and then to the roadside construction dedicated to widening the roadway from four lanes to eight. It was the landscape of this construction that instantly gripped my mind with visions of battle, my stomach with the grotesqueness of total war, and my heart with the fear that follows both.