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Want to be a great leader? Be a great reader!

  • Published
  • By Debbie Gildea
  • 340th Flying Training Group Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-Randolph, Texas – Google "leadership" and you'll get dozens of pages rife with advice: 23 traits, 10 things leaders do, 11 leadership books, seven habits, 24 best books, eight essential qualities, and the list goes on.

A common theme, though, involves reading. In addition to a host of non-leadership benefits (relaxation, entertainment), reading affects leader development in a variety of ways.

People can only learn so much from personal experience. Readers, however, can significantly magnify their knowledge and understanding through reading.

Reading helps develop cognitive skills, improves analytic skills and reduces stress, which in turn improves communication skills. People who make themselves read every day are also developing self-discipline. Taking advantage of written advice from great leaders, and benchmarking those leaders' best practices, also broadens a leader's knowledge.

Obviously, not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers, or so said President Harry S. Truman. 

The benefits seem obvious, but where do you start? How about a list of great reads suggested by a leader you trust or admire?

Members of the 340th Flying Training Group and its squadrons can look to the group commander, Col. Allen Duckworth, and the superintendent, Chief Master Sgt. Scott Goetze, for advice.

Duckworth and Goetze share a love of reading that has markedly strengthened their team development and mutual trust and respect. A favorite book for both of them is "Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win," by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

"Extreme Ownership" - Combat, the most intense and dynamic environment imaginable, teaches the toughest leadership lessons, with absolutely everything at stake. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin learned this reality first-hand on the most violent and dangerous battlefield in Iraq. As leaders of SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser, their mission was one many thought impossible: help U.S. forces secure Ramadi, a violent, insurgent-held city deemed “all but lost.” In gripping, firsthand accounts of heroism, tragic loss, and hard-won victories, they learned that leadership―at every level―is the most important factor in whether a team succeeds or fails. Since its release in October 2015, "Extreme Ownership" has revolutionized leadership development and set a new standard for literature on the subject. A compelling narrative with powerful instruction and direct application, "Extreme Ownership" challenges leaders everywhere.

If you like the sound of "Extreme Ownership," you may also enjoy the commander's and chief's other favorites below.

Colonel Duckworth

"Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World"

By Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins, David Silverman, Chris Fussell

What if you could combine the agility, adaptability, and cohesion of a small team with the power and resources of a giant organization? Former Joint Special Operations Task Force Commander General Stanley McChrystal and his colleagues illustrate how challenges they faced in Iraq can be relevant to businesses, nonprofits and other organizations. In an ever changing world, the smartest response for leaders is to give small groups the freedom to experiment while driving everyone to share what they learn across the organization. Authors' compelling examples show how this strategy has worked everywhere from hospital emergency rooms to NASA, and its potential to transform any organization.

"Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders"

By L. David Marquet; Foreward by Stephen R. Covey

When experienced Navy officer David Marquet was selected for command of the nuclear submarine Santa Fe, he unknowingly gave an impossible order that his crew tried to follow, with potentially deadly results. Once he realized what happened and why, Marquet immediately flipped the standard leadership model on its head, pushing every sailor at every level to "own" the boat. Since published in 2013, "Turn the Ship Around!" has inspired hundreds of thousands of readers , many of whom have applied Marquet's insights to their own organizations, creating workplaces where everyone takes responsibility for his or her actions, where followers grow to become leaders, and where happier teams drive dramatically better results.

"It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership"

By Gen. (retired) Colin Powell

"It Worked for Me" is filled with vivid experiences and lessons that shaped the legendary career of four-star general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. At its heart are Powell's 13 rules that introduce his principles for effective leadership: conviction, hard work, and, above all, respect for others. An incredible read to enable you to glean valuable lessons from this renowned leader and warrior. 

"Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War"

By Robert M. Gates

When Robert M. Gates received a call from the White House, he thought he'd long left Washington politics behind. After working for six presidents in the CIA and the National Security Council, he was happily serving as president of Texas A&M University. When he was asked to help his nation, engaged in two wars, and to aid the troops doing the fighting, he answered the call of duty. A strikingly candid, vivid account of serving Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Chief Goetze

"It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy"

By Michael Abrashoff

The story of Navy Captain D. Michael Abrashoff and his command of USS Benfold has become legendary inside and outside the Navy. When Captain Abrashoff took over as commander of the Benfold, a ship armed with every cutting-edge system available, it was like a business that had all the latest technology but only some of the productivity.  Knowing he was responsible for improving performance, he knew he had to improve his own leadership skills before he could improve his ship. Within months he created a crew of confident and inspired problem-solvers eager to take the initiative and take responsibility for their actions. The slogan on board became "It's your ship," and Benfold was soon recognized far and wide as a model of naval efficiency.

"Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest"

By Stephen Ambrose

Easy Company, 506th Airborne Division, U.S. Army, was as good a rifle company as any in the world. From their rigorous training in Georgia in 1942 to D-Day and victory, Ambrose tells the story of this remarkable company, which kept getting the tough assignments. Easy Company was responsible for everything from parachuting into France early D-Day morning to the capture of Hitler's Eagle's Nest at Berchtesgaden. Band of Brothers is the account of the men of this remarkable unit who fought, went hungry, froze, and died; a company that took 150 percent casualties and considered the Purple Heart a badge of office.

"The Leadership Lessons of Jesus"

By Bob Briner

More than 70 unique readings that explore and adapt the individual techniques that made Christ’s leadership so powerful.  Going through the gospel of Mark, it highlights succinct examples of guidance methods that can influence work, church, or family; a refreshing look at how Christ prepared a blueprint to become a successful leader. Each chapter is short and easy to read for those who are on the run.

"My Share of the Task: A Memoir"

By Stanley McChrystal

In early March 2010, U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan Commanding Officer General Stanley McChrystal walked with President Hamid Karzai through a small rural bazaar. As Afghan townspeople crowded around them, a Taliban rocket loudly thudded into the ground some distance away. Karzai looked to McChrystal, who shrugged. The two leaders continued greeting the townspeople and listening to their views. The trip was typical of McChrystal's career, from his first day at West Point to his last day as a four-star general. In this memoir, McChrystal explores the major episodes and controversies of his eventful career; delves candidly into the intersection of history, leadership and his own experience to produce a book of enduring value.

Whether you are a leader or hope to become one, reading can only benefit you in your journey.

Note: Reviews courtesy of Amazon Books.