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 (listen to my podcast with Stephen’s son)
- 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
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
Recorded with ClearCast.io.
Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. It’s been said, leaders are readers, but should a leader read? My guest today set out to answer that question by polling four star generals and admirals in the US military to get their best recommendations. His name is Admiral James Stavridis, he served as the Commander of US Southern Command, US European Command, and NATO Supreme Allied Commander to Europe. He now serves as Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. In his book, The Leaders 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 today, by discussing the culture of reading amongst military officers, past and present. Including General James Mathis, and George Patten. 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 the 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, so take notes. After the shows over, check out our show notes at aon.ios/leadersbookshelf.
All right, James Stavridis, welcome to the show.
James Stavridis: Great to be with you, Brett.
Brett McKay: So you wrote a book, co-authored a book called The Leaders Bookshelf. As I said, you’re an Admiral in the Navy. I’m curious, what was the genesis of this book?
James Stavridis: The book grew out of a love of books. The way it tactically occurred, was that I had completed four years as the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, and my publisher, Random House, asked me to do a memoir. So, I did. It’s called The Accidental Admiral. And then, they came to me and said, “Okay, Admiral. Now we’d like you to write a leadership book.” And as you know, Brett, the world is awash in leadership books. There are far too many of them. And so, what I thought I would try and do, instead of writing yet another hands on hips, then I told the President to launch the tomahawks, kind of book, I thought why not take my love of books and pour it into a single volume that tries to cut through this thicket of books that make you a better leader. Hence, I found a co-author, and the two of us worked together for a couple of years, finding books that we thought helped people become better leaders. And that is the genesis of The Leaders Bookshelf.
Brett McKay: And the way you went about finding these books, is you asked other officers in the military what their most influential book on leadership that they read. I was amazed, the breath of the authors you reached out to, and the diversity of books. Would you say there is a culture of reading amongst military officers in the United States? Or even in just the world?
James Stavridis: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. So think of General Jim Mathis, whose currently the Secretary of Defense, when he and I were working in the Pentagon together, over a decade ago, he was a one star officer, he’s a bit older than I am. I was a Navy Captain, but we became very close friends and exchanged book ideas constantly. In fact, if you flip over The Leaders Bookshelf you’ll see a very nice blurb from General Jim Mathis. I think General Mathis owns somewhere around 4000 books. My own library is probably 5000 books. General John Kelley, the current Chief of Staff in the White House, inveterate reader, and there are two reasons for that. One is that, as a military officer, you actually end up with a surprising amount of time to read on airplanes, as you’re waiting to go on an operation. As you’re on a ship, in cases of a Navy Admiral like me, sailing home from the Pacific.
There’s actually, as the saying goes about war, it’s a hurry up but wait business. There’s a lot of waiting. So there is time in a military career to read. And secondly, I would say because our business is so serious, that of war, you need chances to step outside it. To refresh yourself in every dimension. From fiction to non-fiction, to geography to history, to politics and all of those books represented in The Leaders Bookshelf.
Brett McKay: And this culture of reading, amongst military officers, goes back even decades. You highlight George Patten, which a lot of people wouldn’t think, based on the reputation he has as being this scholar and thinker, and reader, but old blood and guts, that guy read prolifically.
James Stavridis: Oh, indeed. All of those World War II Generals and Admirals were enormously well read. And as I did more research for this book, I kept tripping over various sites where you can look at the library, the titles in the library of George Marshall, for example. These are officers, and many of them in that World War II generation, don’t forget, didn’t grow up watching television because there really wasn’t much television, so they came out of a culture of reading. I think that’s very much alive in the military today. I’ll give you one other example of it.
Each of the Service Chiefs, the Chief of Naval Operations, who leads the Navy, the Chief of Staff for the Army, who leads the Army, each of them publish lists of books that they think are useful and oriented toward the service, particularly. Again, The Leaders Bookshelf is an attempt to cut across all of the services, and really about cutting across all dimensions of leadership. It’s not a book for the military, it’s a book for anyone who seeks to lead others.
Brett McKay: Why do you think reading is so fundamental for leaders, no matter where they’re leading at? There’s that saying I’ve heard before, leaders are readers. Why is that?
James Stavridis: I’ll give you three reasons. The first is, we only get one lifetime, right? But by reading, you get to dip into dozens and dozens and dozens of other lives. So, whenever you’re reading, you’re tapping into other experiences that you can bring to leadership. Secondly, reading refreshes the mind. It is a chance to be intimate with yourself, and an author, and it gives you a chance to get away from that mindless, daily, 24 hour visual news cycle, and to really contemplate. Almost think about it as exercise for the mind. And then thirdly, it’s fun. It’s entertaining. It’s a great hobby to be able to pick up a book and jump back 200 years in history, and suddenly you’re sailing at sea with Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar. I think for those three reasons, leaders tend to be readers.
Brett McKay: Before we get into some of the books that are highlighted in The Leaders Bookshelf, you have these great chapters on how to read more, how to get more out of your reading. I’d love to get your insights into this. Now, you’re also a college dean, correct?
James Stavridis: I am. I’m the Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where I did my own PhD, back in my 20’s. The Navy took me off five years of sea duty, and sent me here. I was a good mariner, and I could launch a tomahawk missile, but in those days I couldn’t launch an idea to save my life. And graduate school, here, at the Fletcher School, shaped me and it made me very hungry to come back and give back to this institution, which I’ve done by becoming the Dean.
Yeah, let me say a word about first, finding time to read, and there are little tricks of the trade, that serious readers follow. One, I think today is pretty obvious, and it’s using technology. And that is, instead of hauling around four or five books, you take your Kindle. Or I read very effectively on my iPhone. It’s just adapting yourself to using the electronic means we have available, makes you a much more efficient reader.
Secondly, finding time in the course of the day to read in little chunks. This relates to the first point, which is that when you’ve got your electronic device with you, that previously dead 10 minutes waiting for a bus, or jumping in or out of an airport, standing in the TSA security line … Everybody’s favorite activity, read.
Thirdly, I think it’s very effective to record what you’ve read. I would advocate having a small journal of reading that you’re doing. You can maintain that electronically on the same device, but keep track of the books you’re reading. At the end of the year, I like to total them up. I like to go back and read the notes I’ve taken, that brings me to a fourth thing, which is underlining. And highlighting. And marginalizing. You can do this electronically, or you can do it on a paper copy of a book. But, force yourself to really interact with that book. Don’t skim through it.
And then fifth and finally, not all books are great books, Brett. If you start a book, and you’re not enjoying it, or not getting out of it what you’d hoped to, quit. Move onto a different book. So often people say to themselves, “Okay. I’m going to read Dostoyevsky.” And then they start reading The Brothers Karamazov and they realize they hate Dostoyevsky. And yet, they slug through it, painfully. It becomes like scourging yourself in the Middle Ages. Recognize that there are endless books, and endless choices, and don’t be afraid to stop if a book isn’t working for you. There’s five thoughts to make you a better reader.
Brett McKay: That’s great. And your personal reading habits, are you reading multiple books at the same time? Switching between them?
James Stavridis: I do. Although, I do limit myself to two, and as you might expect, typically I’ll have one book of fiction going, and one book of non-fiction going. I find that just as a way to refresh and step away from a particular scene. I find that when I come back to a book, after taking a break, to look at another book, I often come with fresh insight, fresh ideas. Two, however, I think is what works for me. I do know some people that will juggle more than that. My wife, for example. But, two strikes me for a serious reader, about the right number.
Brett McKay: Speaking of taking notes, the other interesting tidbit about General Patten was that he would type out, on note cards, his notes. I thought that was interesting.
James Stavridis: Indeed. And I know a number of people who take the note taking piece of this to very high levels and have a file folder, either electronic or paper on each book. I don’t quite go that far, but I do rely on the notes that I’ve taken to lead me back and if I’m doing research, for example, right now, Brett, I’m working on a book about character. Leadership is exerting influence over others, character is leading yourself. It’s … Character I always say is what you do when you think no one is looking. So I’ve been reading a lot of biographies of various individuals. As distinct from just, if you will, casual day to day reading, when I’m reading for project and reading for research, then I’m taking very meticulous notes so I can get back to sections as I drive them into the book I’m working on next.
Brett McKay: Let’s get to these 50 books that you highlight in the book.
James Stavridis: Sure.
Brett McKay: When you went out and talked to these different officers in the military, what their recommendations were, and you got the results back, what were you most surprised by in the recommendations?
James Stavridis: I was pleasantly surprised at the number of novels. The amount of fiction in the list. I was secondly, very happy to see some classics of memoir. For example, Ulysses S. Grant’s personal memoirs, perhaps the most brilliant, introspective book about character that I’ve come across. Seeing a lot of … Not a lot, but seeing representative memoirs, biography, and auto biography, very gratifying. And then, you see quite a bit of the history that you would expect. I was also happy to see very few, if you will, classic how to books. Very few leadership books like you see in an airport. These were really, I think, very classic books that challenge the reader and deepen the reader, and sharpen his or her leadership skills as a result.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I was surprised to at the number of fiction books on the bookshelf. What were some of the examples that were on the recommendation list?
James Stavridis: The number one book mentioned by multiple Four Star Admirals and Generals, and that’s who we crowd sourced this with. These are all Four Star Admirals and Generals, by definition people who have led big organizations, been highly successful at it, and as we found are almost universally very strong readers. The number one book mentioned most, was a novel, Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara, which is about the Civil War, particularly about The Battle of Gettysburg. What I love about it, is that it shows you that there are so many different kinds of leadership that can be exercised. Think about the distinction, Brett, between the cerebral, almost cosmic Robert E. Lee, in the intense, impetuosity of Pickett. Leading Pickett’s charge across that battlefield. Two totally different leaders, but both of them have a style of leadership.
I think another fantastic novel, it’s really a set of novels, is Patrick O’Brien’s, Sea Novels. Some of the listeners may have seen the film, Master and Commander, with Russel Crowe. That film is quite good, and it’s a reflection of the first novel in series of 20 novels, about the Napoleonic Wars, which are just brilliant. And then a last novel to mention, because it’s so different than the other two, is Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill A Mockingbird, which is of course about integrity. There are other novels on the list, but those are three that really leap out at me.
Brett McKay: What do you think that you can get out of a fiction book? These lessons on leadership, that you can’t say from one of those typical leadership books you get at the airport?
James Stavridis: First and foremost, in a work of fiction, you get to step into another time and place. Here, particularly historical fiction, is incredibly powerful. Pick up Steven Pressfield’s, Gates of Fire, about the Battle of Thermopylae, where the 300 Spartans, led by Leonidas, are fighting the Persians. To pick up that novel is to step into that desperate battle, and to feel with your bones the challenges of leading 300 Spartans, in what they know will be their last mission. They won’t come back. They know that. How do you lead men in that setting? Or, back To Kill A Mockingbird, putting yourself in the footsteps of Atticus Finch. Small town lawyer in the deep South, who defends an African American, and endures all that comes from doing so.
First and foremost, with a novel, is you get to jump into another time and place. Secondly, Brett, you can say to yourself, “What would I do in that setting?” It’s almost like a simulator of leadership, where you can think about how you would deal with the challenges. Here, a good example would be, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, where an engineer goes back in time a thousand years … By definition, he’s the smartest person on the planet Earth. He knows everything, because he’s got a thousand years of knowledge that he’s taken back with him. But, nobody believes him. He’s got a leadership challenge. How do you convince that very distant world to come along with you? And you put yourself in those positions.
Then secondly, I think books, novels, that are historical fiction, give you an enormous sense of history, which is very helpful to leaders. It actually didn’t make the top 50, but a book that is often mentioned, a series of books, are The Flashman Series by George MacDonald Fraser, about a British Army officer in the 19th century, they’re highly entertaining, but they’re also extraordinarily gems of history. Flashman ends up at the Indian Sepaloid Mutiny, he ends up that The Charge of the Light Brigade, he’s at The Battle of Little Bighorn. These are meticulously researched. Great deal of history comes out of that. I’d say for those two reasons, novels add a unique value that go above and beyond a work of non fiction.
Brett McKay: I can attest to the historical fiction being a great way to learning history. Once it’s put in a narrative form, you’re more likely to remember it. That’s how I know about the Gettysburg … Battle of Gettysburg, is Killer Angels.
James Stavridis: Yeah. It’s a fabulous book. Another novel, that was very high on our list is called Once An Eagle, by Anton Myrer. And that’s a novel about Vietnam. And to understand Vietnam, and the psychology of the Army in Vietnam, that novel, Once An Eagle, is highly, highly recommended.
Brett McKay: Yeah, my father-in-law enjoys that book. He actually just lent me the copy of that. I saw it on the list, I’m like, “All right. It’s a sign. I need to read this book, now.”
James Stavridis: You’ll enjoy it.
Brett McKay: As you said earlier, biographies, memoirs make up a big portion of the list. What were some of the … You mentioned Ulysses S. Grant, his memoirs.
James Stavridis: The best. Yeah, that’s a memoir. And this is a tragic, personal story, so Grant has finished up his Presidency, which was rocked by corruption scandals toward the end. And then he contracts throat cancer, and he knows that his wife will be destitute because he’s been in public service his whole life. He’s never made any money, and despite the whiff of scandal, he never profited personally, at all. He was essentially penniless, but he was able to secure a contract. As he’s dying of throat cancer, he writes these memoirs, and they’re just gorgeously written. They take you through his life and career. They’re deeply, deeply personal, and I think shaded by the fact that he knows his own end is coming. It’s a beautiful read. And it also is full of lessons for how to lead, truly big organizations, or how to be the President of the Untied States.
Brett McKay: Was there another biography you saw get recommended over and over again? Or memoir?
James Stavridis: Yeah. I think we say many, many recommendations that came in for a book called Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which is less a memoir. It’s actually a work of history, looking at Lincoln’s cabinet, but its powerful story is that of creating teams, and building teams. And in doing so, Doris Kearns Goodwin tells the story of all the senior members of Lincoln’s cabinet. That was just a beautiful realized book about people in leadership.
Brett McKay: Are there any military strategy books on the list? That you think civilian leaders might get something out of if they read it?
James Stavridis: I think the classic there, is The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu was an ancient philosopher, warrior, who tells the story of how to be in challenging situations. It’s not a book about how to line up military formations the way say, Clausewitz’s On War is. The Art of War is really about being clever. The greatest battle you ever win is the one you never actually fight. It’s about deception. It’s about causing your enemy to be off balance. I think there are enormous lessons for people in really all walks of life from Sun Tzu, as a military writer.
On War, I would not recommend for the common reader. That’s a classic precision, how to put your war fighting staff together. Much less of the right things. In terms of a book that has a lot of military, but I think transcends that, is a book by Sir John Keegan called The Mask of Command, which examines different leaders under very stressful circumstances, who are going into battle.
And the lessons that Keegan draws out of that, I think are very applicable to everything from your family situation. You know, you’re a leader, Brett, in your family, so is your wife I’m sure. But, you have to also use those lessons across the world of business. Interestingly in Keegan’s book, he looks at the Duke of Wellington, who won at Waterloo. He looks at Ulysses S. Grant. He looks at, and this may surprise you, but he looks at Adolf Hitler. How was Hitler so successful? He calls him the False Hero. It’s a very, very competently done book that brings military strategy to the reader in a way that would apply for anybody.
Brett McKay: You mentioned, you were pleasantly surprised by the dearth of leadership, “leadership books.” but did some make the list that you think they deserved to be there?
James Stavridis: I do. One that I think is a very good book, and created a cult industry, is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. It’s a very practical book. In those leadership books, I like practical, and I think Covey talks about how you build trust. How you organize your day. How you reward others. It’s a very functional book, and that made it. I think just a very interesting crossover book is written by an old time Chief Staff of the Army. The leader of the US Army, a guy named Gordon Sullivan. And the book has a great title, it’s Hope is Not a Method: What Business Leaders Can Learn from America’s Army, and that one, I think, is a classic leadership book, but it’s very sensibly written, and really picks up the steam that we’ve talked about here today of what can civilians take away from military style leadership.
Brett McKay: Most of the leaders, as you said, the cohort were older because they’re Four Star Generals or Admirals.
James Stavridis: Right.
Brett McKay: So, they’re gonna be in what their 40’s and 50’s, 60’s?
James Stavridis: Probably in their 50’s as Four Star Officers. They’ll be in their early to mid 50’s typically.
Brett McKay: Did you ask any younger officers what they’re reading? And if so, how’s it differ from the older officers?
James Stavridis: We absolutely did. And one of the chapters in the book, is exactly that. It’s called What Are Young Leaders Reading. You know, as you expect, there are some pretty significant differences between what the more senior leaders read, and what younger leaders read. I’ll give you a couple of examples of books that made the young leaders list, that I think probably didn’t have a good chance at making the senior list. But then I’ll tell you some books that were on both lists.
Memoir, as opposed to Ulysses S. Grant, the memoir we heard a lot about was by Robert Gates. His book, Duty. He was, of course, former Secretary of Defense, Director of the CIA. In terms of history, we saw a book by Max Boot called Invisible Armies, which is about Special Forces, which again, is something that you would expect from junior officers. We saw The New Digital Age by Eric Schmidt, the head of Google. We saw Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. We saw The Road to Character by David Brooks. None of those were on the senior list because the senior folks are maybe a little bit less oriented toward that tech world, if you will.
On the junior officer list there were some truly quirky outliers. A book called Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I think, The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad was on the list.
Let me tell you three books that made both lists, and you mentioned, Brett, that you’d read one of them. It’s Killer Angels, was on both lists, The Battle of Gettysburg. The book I talked about a minute ago, Gates of Fire, was on both lists. Master and Commander, about that 19th century sea captain in the Napoleonic War, was on the list.
There were a handful of books that made both lists, but as you would expect, and you would hope, because you hope a new generation is coming along with new ideas. The younger leaders had different books, and that’s the beauty of The Leaders Bookshelf book, you get a look at both.
Brett McKay: Besides this list of books, recommended by military leaders, there’s lots of lists in the military. There’s like a culture. Like you said, there’s this culture of reading, and there’s also this culture of readings lists in the military. Why do you think lists are a powerful tool in directing, or improving your reading?
James Stavridis: First because they help you organize. Second, because it gives you a goal. You can say, “Maybe I’m not going to read every book on this list, but I’m going to read 10 of the books on this list, this year.” Thirdly, it’s a list that has been curated. It’s been selected by people who have read a lot. Fourthly, it’s probably been crowd sourced, just like our book is crowd sourced among senior Four Star officers. All of those lists are crowd sources out to groups of people, both junior and senior people. And fifth and finally, because of the ability to take a title and pop it into Google, you can read reviews of the book. You can read a summary of the book.
One of the things we include in The Leaders Bookshelf, is a short summary of the book, and then we try and extract those leadership lessons from each of the books. I think for all those reasons, lists make a lot of sense. And then, let’s face it, the military is nothing if not organized. We’re famous for our checklists. If you want to land an airplane in the military, you’re going to go right down a checklist. You’re going to taker a submarine and take it down to depth. You’re going to work off a checklist. If you’re going to launch a missile, you’re going to work off a checklist. Military people are used to working off lists. And I think, frankly, so are a lot of civilians. They’re organized, and it’s a good way to put structure in reading.
Brett McKay: Is there anyplace people can go to see some of these lists? Or they just need to Google …
James Stavridis: If you Google Department of Defense Reading Lists, you will see many of these pop up. And I would caution the general listener, that many of them are very specific to the command. In other words, if you look at the Chief Staff of the Army reading list, it’s going to be really Army heavy. Same with Navy. Same with Air Force. If you look at the reading list for the Commander of US Southern Command, which is everything South of the United States, I held that position before I was the Supreme Allied Commander over at NATO, and my reading list there had an awful lot of titles about Latin American, the Caribbean, South America. Just be mindful that those reading lists are going to be pretty specialized. That was part of why we wanted to do The Leaders Bookshelf, to generate something that was very broadly based, not tied to a particular service, or particular geographic area, or particular time frame. But, was something that could be very approachable fro the general leader.
Brett McKay: As you put together this book list, and you’re organizing your book, The Leaders Bookshelf, what were the big leadership lessons that you kept seeing over and over again in all the books that people recommended?
James Stavridis: Number one is, good leaders are good communicators. And you see that again and again in everyone from an Abraham Lincoln, to Ulysses S, Grant, to Napoleon, to Winston Churchill. Good leaders have to be able to communicate, and you can pick up a lot of tips on how to do that by reading the books in The Leaders Bookshelf. Secondly, good leaders build teams. We mentions Doris Kearns Goodwin in The Team of Rivals. Good leaders aren’t afraid to have very talented people who aren’t always in agreement working for them.
An old saying, Brett, is that A quality people, hire A quality people. B quality people hire C quality people. Why? Because they’re threatened by those very talented individuals. Truly great leaders build A teams. Here I look at the book Truman by David McCullough, a look at how President Truman built his team, as well as the book I mentioned early about Lincoln’s cabinet. And then thirdly, again and again, you see that leaders are innovators.
Leaders want to try new things. You see that in the fiction, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, that’s all about invention, and innovation. You see it in memoirs, Dwight Eisenhower’s Crusade in Europe. How he turned the strategic issues on their head in terms of decisions about where he would take things on. Ender’s Game, which is a science fiction novel, about cyber war. It’s all about innovation, invention, and ideas.
I’d say those three things kept coming back again and again. And then in every single book on the list, you hit the need for integrity. The need for character. Again, that’s why my current book project, which will be out in ’19, in about a year, is about character. The Voyage of Character is what I’m calling it. And I think every one of these 50 books talks about the need to be truthful. To have integrity. To be civil. The qualities of character that we ought to admire the most, and sadly or not, always in evidence in today’s leaders, I must say.
Brett McKay: We’ll have to have you come back on the show when your new book comes out. Admiral James, this has been a great conversation. Thank you so much for your time, it’s been a pleasure.
James Stavridis: Been my pleasure, Brett, and happy reading.
Brett McKay: Thank you. My guest today was Admiral James Stavridis. He is the author of the book, The Leaders Bookshelf. It’s available on amazon.com and bookstores everywhere. If you want to learn more about his book, and his work, and our show notes with links to all the books that he mentioned, head over to our show notes at aom.is/leadersbookshelf.
Well, that wraps up another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out The Art of Manliness website, at artofmanliness.com. If you enjoyed the podcast or gotten something out of it, I’d appreciate if you’d take one minute to give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher. It helps out a lot. If you’ve done that already, thank you so much. Please consider sharing this show with a friend or two. That’s how the show grows. Word of mouth. As always, thank you for you continued support. Until next time, this is Brett McKay, trying to stay manly.