The Military Leader Reading List

Plus the Army Chief of Staff's Reading List

A recent email from a reader asked simply if there is a Military Leader reading list. As a professional who credits books with providing a sizable portion of my development, I was embarrassed to respond in the negative. Though I often write about what I learn from books (here, here, and here), I have neglected to compile a list. This post is a partial remedy.

This is not a cursory list. These are the books that have shaped me and imprinted lessons that directly reflect in my daily leadership life. These are the books that I reference and quote from, and I think you might benefit from reading. Be sure to scroll down, there’s a bonus list at the end. Enjoy!

In Leadership, You Are a Consumer, a Producer…or Irrelevant

Today, I want to share a framework for thinking about personal development as a leader. It’s a “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” approach that shines the spotlight on the personal habits that grow leaders into a position of effectiveness. Here you go:

When it comes to personal leadership development,
you are a content consumer, a content producer…or irrelevant.


U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Clarence Washington, Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul security forces squad leader, takes accountability after an indirect fire attack in Qalat City, Zabul Province, July 27, 2010. Photo by U.S. Air Force Sr. Airman Nathanael Callon.

Putting Leadership Back in Leader Development

Take a look at your unit calendar. Scan the clutter of appointments, meetings, formations, training events, ceremonies, and administrative commitments. Do you see any events dedicated to improving the quality of your people’s leadership? If not…if leadership development isn’t a separate line of effort…then how are you developing leaders?


A U.S. Army Ranger from Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, keeps his sight on a target with an M240L machine gun during a company live fire training at Camp Roberts, Calif., Jan. 30, 2014. U.S. Army Photo Illustration by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade. I like this photo because it’s a reminder that all military leadership boils down to supporting this Soldier on the ground.

My In-Depth Guide to Creating a Blog Post

The Military Leader - from "Birth to Buffer"

There are two types of people who will really like this post. First are the content producers (bloggers, website managers, writers), because I’m going to lay out some really geeky blog stuff. The other people who will enjoy this are those who want to peek behind the curtain of The Military Leader blog. This post is an inside look at everything that I invest and every step that I take to make The Military Leader what it is today. If you’re not a content producer, don’t worry. I’m going to give you a few takeaways right up front. Here we go!


The Most Important Leadership Quote You’ll Read this Year

When I read this leadership quote a few weeks ago, I kicked myself for not having found it sooner. (It’s the type of advice I’d put in my signature block…and I’m not even a “signature block philosophy” kind of emailer.) It is attributed to the immutably inspirational leader of the Allied coalition in World War II, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. This insight is powerful because it captures the fundamental nature, the heart, of what it means to be a leader. And Eisenhower uses only 26 words to do it.

Leadership Quote

Senior military commanders of World War II. Link to photo.
[Seated L-R: Gens. William Simpson, George Patton, Carl Spaatz, Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, Courtney Hodges, & Leonard Gerow
Standing L-R: Gens. Ralph Stearley, Hoyt Vandenberg, Walter Bedell Smith, Otto Weyland, & Richard Nugent.]

How Do You Spot a Leader?

I was looking through my document archives the other day and thought this might be interesting. From time to time as a company commander, I’d send out emails on leadership, training, and the like. (I suppose they were an early version of what I’m contributing now on The Military Leader.) This excerpt is my take on how a leader’s behavior says something about his talent, his commitment, his success, and ultimately, the success of his team.


Soldiers from the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, race for first place during an annual Physical Training Competition on Fort Riley, Kansas. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Robert DeDeaux, 1st Infantry Brigade, 1st Inf. Div. Public Affairs. Link to photo.

Quote: Visionary and Practical

Great leaders always seem to embody two seemingly disparate qualities. They are both highly visionary and highly practical. Their vision enables them to see beyond the immediate. They can envision what’s coming and what must be done. Leaders possess and understanding of how:

  • Mission provides purpose – answering the question, Why?
  • Vision provides a picture – answering the question, What?
  • Strategy provides a plan – answering the question, How?

– John C. Maxwell in the The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership