It’s been said “Leaders are readers.” But what should a leader read?
My guest today set out to answer that question by polling 4-star generals and admirals in the U.S. military to get their best recommendations.
His name is Admiral James Stavridis. He’s served as the commander of US Southern Command, US European Command, and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe. He now serves as dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. In his book, The Leader’s Bookshelf, Admiral Stavridis explains why reading is fundamental for all leaders and provides a list of 50 books suggested by senior officers.
We begin our conversation by discussing the culture of reading amongst military officers past and present, including Generals James Mattis and George Patton. Admiral Stavridis then shares tips on how to read more even with a busy schedule and how to get more out of your reading. We then dig into the list of 50 books military brass recommend most and the lessons on leadership they provide.
You’re going to be adding a lot of books to your reading list after listening to this podcast.
- Why Admiral Stavridis decided to write a book about books rather than a book about leadership
- Is the culture of reading among military officers?
- Why reading is so important for military folks
- The reading habits of famed generals: James “Mad Dog” Mattis, John Kelly, George Patton, George Marshall
- Why do leaders need to be readers?
- How does the Admiral make time to read? What’s his reading strategy?
- Why Admiral Stavridis keeps a reading journal, and the information he logs
- Why it’s okay to quit a book
- The books and trends that surprised Stavridis when he polled military leaders
- The #1 book that was recommended by the most people
- What do fiction books offer that non-fiction doesn’t?
- Recommendations for memoirs and biographies
- Military books that civilian readers would do well to read
- The dearth of classic “leadership” books on the list
- What younger officers/leaders are reading
- The culture of reading lists in the military
- Why are lists a powerful tool in improving your reading?
- The leadership lessons that Stavridis noticed again and again
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- How to Read a Book
- Libraries of Famous Men
- How to Read for Greater Self-Reliance
- 100 Books Every Man Should Read
- Possibilities in Spare Moments
- The Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
- The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
- Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Why Men Should Read More Fiction
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
- Fiction for Men, as Recommended by AoM Readers
- Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer
- Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
- The Art of War by Sun Tsu
- The Mask of Command by John Keegan
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
- Hope Is Not a Method by Gordon Sullivan
- Duty by Robert Gates
- Invisible Armies by Max Boot
- The New Digital Age by Eric Schmidt
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- The Road to Character by David Brooks (and my podcast with him)
- Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
- The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
- Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
- Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield
- Truman by David McCullough
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- Department of Defense reading lists
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Read the Transcript
Last updated: February 7, 2018