Christmas Book List 2018
By The Army Leader
With Christmas approaching, The Army Leader has reached out to some respected army leaders, scholars, authors and role models to ask them for a recommendation for our Christmas book list. It includes suggestions from Lieutenant Generals Tye Urch and Richard Nugee, and WO1 Glenn Haughton, the new Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chiefs of Staff Committee. These aren’t all books about leadership – they are also about war, strategy and determination. They aren’t all new books, either. But they all offer some personal development for a modern leader
Looking for a gift for yourself or others? Or just looking to update your shelves and read something great this winter? Grab a winter warmer and check out some books that will improve you, educate you or just plain entertain you. Many are available as audio books, and readers can get four month’s membership to Audible at half price until 14 December 2018.
So here’s our recommended Christmas list of books for leaders.
Recommended by Lieutenant General Tyrone Urch, Commander Home Command, British Army
I love Shakleton’s Way; it was given to me by my wife just before embarking on a challenging operation tour in the 1980s, not just because it “reads like an adventure story” but because she recognised its value as a reference handbook for those difficult leadership moments that come to us all at some stage in our lives.
Each chapter resonates strongly and offers helpful contemporary advice by successful leaders, businessmen and entrepreneurs in society; there are even pithy executive summaries to refer back to in times of crisis. All draw on Shackleton’s powerful people-centred principles, strong moral code, and adherence to a set of values that will serve well when one is struggling ‘to do the right thing on a bad day when no one is watching’. CEOs, Generals, Lieutenants and Corporals alike will be able to relate and learn from excellent sections such as ‘Hiring an Outstanding Crew’, ‘Creating a Spirit of Camaraderie’, ‘Getting the Best from an Individual’ and ‘Leaving a Legacy’; this last chapter in particular has helped me enormously leaving all my command appointments.
The Shackleton motto is “By endurance we conquer”; this outstanding book will help you grapple with the leadership challenges you face and remind you that people are the Army, not in the Army. As another highly respected polar explorer, friend and leader said to me once, “Everyone has an Antarctica, what is yours?”
Tyrone Urch is the commander of the British Army’s Home Command
Recommended by WO1 Glenn Haughton, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chiefs of Staff Committee.
Whilst serving as the Sandhurst Academy Sergeant Major I had the pleasure of meeting James Kerr over dinner during the launch of the British Army Leadership Code. Based on our conversation I read his book, Legacy. Legacy explains 15 lessons of leadership, as practiced by what is probably the most successful sporting team of all time – the New Zealand All Blacks.
The book is easy to read and captured me right from the start. It gives the reader an insight in to the All Blacks’ camp and how they play, train and live, both on and off the pitch. For me, it highlighted the importance the All Blacks place on their values, standards and ethos. These provide an esprit de corps that other teams can only dream of. And it is this, combined with a sense of humility fuelled by their cultural and tribal heritage, that makes the All Blacks the team they are.
I would recommend this book to any leader – in fact, to any soldier. It is great to compare leadership in sport with leadership in the Army, and spot the similarities. For the All Blacks, everything is about the uniform, the sense of belonging and the pride in the jersey that they wear. They aspire to leave their jersey – and the team – in a better place than when they arrived. Just as we should.
Glenn Haughton is the UK’s first Senior Enlisted Advisor to the UK Chiefs of Staff Committee, and was formerly the British Army’s first Army Sergeant Major.
Recommended by WO2 Paul Barnes, British Army Visiting Fellow at the Royal United Service Institute
When asked to recommend a book I immediately thought of the winner of the British Army Military Book of the Year Competition 2018. Dr Aimee Fox’s book is an outstanding work, but instead I chose an altogether different book.
Since taking up my current post as Army Visiting Fellow at RUSI, I have been astounded by the levels of conceptual and doctrinal ignorance across all ranks, pan-Service. The book I have chosen seeks to overcome the gaps left by formal professional military education. It questions the assumptions upon which our Western military principles are built. My choice is Robert R. Leonhard’s The Principles of War for the Information Age. It is essential reading for practitioners, theorists, and futurologists.
Leonhard’s book, written in 1998 while the author was serving at the U.S. Army War College, examines the U.S. Army’s Principles of War and their applicability in the Information Age. His thesis is that much at the core of military thinking is anachronistic and requires considerable revision. Leonhard’s predictions of Information Age war were remarkably prescient, and although they are beginning to look a little tired after twenty years, they will certainly get the juices flowing, even in the midst of a Turkey-induced Christmas coma.
Recommended by Dr Aimée Fox, Lecturer in Defence Studies, Kings College London
Overshadowed by later ‘desert generals’, Archibald Wavell was held in high regard by his adversaries before and during the Second World War. In 1939, Wilhelm Keitel remarked that ‘[i]n the British Army today, there is only one good general [Wavell], but he is incomparably good’. It was said that Erwin Rommel had a personally annotated copy of the German translation of Wavell’s lectures, Generals and Generalship.
My battered, well-thumbed copy of Wavell’s lectures on generalship, first published in 1941, is a ‘go to’ book for me. It offers succinct insights into the challenges of command, yet underpinning such insights are reflections on leadership more broadly. Though only sixty-three pages in length (an ideal Christmas read!), it ranges across the whole sweep of military history to make important points on the relationship between people, commanders, and government.
Yet, why should junior leaders read a book on generalship written by a general? First, as Wavell himself notes, ‘many of you are likely to suffer, perhaps even to triumph, under generals; and all of you are likely to have opportunity to criticize generals’. Secondly, this book is fundamentally about the relationship between humans – whether between the leader and their troops, the leader and their staff, or the leader and their political masters. ‘Commanders’, wrote Wavell, ‘must have a background of solid common sense, and a knowledge of humanity, on whose peculiarities, and not those of machines, the whole practice of warfare is ultimately based’. Finally, it is really leadership, rather than generalship, that sits at the heart of this book: ‘Whenever we speak and think of great captains … let us add one more altar, “To the Unknown Leader”, that is, to the good company, platoon, or section leader who carries his men or holds his post, and often falls unknown. It is these who in the end do most to win wars’.
Dr Aimée Fox is the author of the British Army Military Book of the Year 2018 Learning to Fight: Military Innovation and Change in the British Army, 1914–1918
Recommended by Lieutenant General Richard Nugee, Chief of Defence Personnel, Ministry of Defence
My favourite book is Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. For me, this is a seminal, seminal book. I read a lot of anthropology when I was serving in Iraq and was based in Al Zubayr. When I was there I could look out of my window and see the cranes in the port that were built in the 1970s. And those cranes still worked. This led me to reflect on why Iraqis were different to Brits. Because if those cranes were in Glasgow, they wouldn’t be working – they would have rusted and so we would have had to innovate and repair them. And so I decided that the reason us Brits were so different to Iraqis was because the weather had forced us to be innovative.
This book, quite rightly, taught me that all that was utter bollocks. The book is about why democracy works, the advantages it gives, and our place as a democratic nation.
But I know that book won’t be to everyone’s taste, so I will recommend another as well. It is topical given that we have just had the 100th anniversary of the Armistice. The book is Forgotten Victory by Gary Sheffield.
I love this book because it blows away the myth that ‘we didn’t win the First World War; the Germans lost it, in spite of us’. It explains, very clearly, that the reason we won the First World War was simply that by 1918 we had become the most effective army, navy and air force in the world. Victory was helped by the fact the German army was exhausted and that US allies were arriving in greater numbers. But the clearest message is that a great deal of what we believe about the First World War, ‘Lions led by donkeys’ and so on, is simply untrue.
Richard Nugee is the Chief of Defence People for the Ministry of Defence
Recommended by Brigadier James Roddis, Commander Specialised Infantry Group, British Army
One of the best novels I have read this year was Matterhorn. It is an honest, although fictional, account of a year in Vietnam through the eyes of a young platoon commander – The author Karl Malantes was a platoon leader in the USMC in Vietnam. For junior leaders it is perfect – this is a book that talks in detail about the infantry combat craft and the moral courage necessary to command in combat. The author writes not only about combat but also the crushingly boring but often deadly monotony of routine. This is a book I wish I had read as a platoon commander and the author Karl Malantes deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Sidney Jary…this is 18 Platoon for the Vietnam war.
What really struck me about the book was how quickly the commanders learnt their craft and became tactically savvy. I feel we in the Army do not teach enough about the tactics of gritty infantry close combat – this book is a useful primer. And it makes compelling points on the value of the ‘shoot, move, communicate, medicate’ basics.
Matterhorn is absorbing, insightful and stark. What you come away with is the theme of ‘my mission – my men – myself’ and how the bond between the soldiers and the best officers shines through. This makes it a compelling read and an emerging classic.
Recommended by Dr Jack Watling, Land Warfare Research Fellow at the Royal United Service Institute
Stories of espionage and subterfuge are a dime-a-dozen, but for me Ronen Bergman’s Rise and Kill First stands out. It is less an account of complex and daring exploits than a meticulous history of Israeli leaders’ wresting with one decision: when is it appropriate to kill.
Books on leadership often amount to little more than manuals of glorified management. Bergman’s history of Israel’s targeted killings contains many impressive leaders, but he does not let them bask in the glow of technical achievements. He rigorously interrogates the merits – tactical, strategic, and moral – of their methods and ends. He exposes how tactical success can lay the groundwork for strategic failure; how methods developed for exceptional circumstances can become the norm; how the power to mobilize men can serve disastrous ends.
Bergman empathically shows how decisions made under pressure of time and with limited information can have vast unintended consequences, and how leadership is not just a quality in commanders, but can – and in some circumstances must – come from below. As we demand ever-greater precision in the conduct of operations by today’s warfighters, Begman’s account poses all the right questions for the military leaders of tomorrow.
Jack Watling is the Land Warfare Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute and former journalist
Recommended by The Army Leader Team
It only came out in the last couple of months, but for me this book has been the stand-out leadership book of the year. In my review of Leaders: Myth and Reality, I focused on three big questions about leadership. But the real value is in each of the 13 leadership biographies. These help us to understand what is was about the situation that made a particular style of leadership effective.
Why was it, for example, that people followed Walt Disney and Coco Channel? Is a compelling vision for the future enough regardless of personality? Why were geniuses such as Albert Einstein and Lenny Bernstein able to lead so effectively despite people not being able to understand them? What role does context play in defining heroism? Where does power really sit? Was Margaret Thatcher powerful, or was the power it in the network that supported her and the environment that made her network succeed?
Leaders: Myth and Reality forced me to reflect, question what leadership is, and might just change the way I lead. It is also deeply personal. The stories throughout, from those of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to Harriet Tubman, took me on a thought-provoking journey covering some of the most admirable, and most abhorrent, leaders the world has seen. I’ve found the lessons invaluable.
We hope the recommendations are useful. Most of these books are also available as audio books, and readers can get a free one month trial of Audible by following this link. Enjoy!Subscribe To The Army Leader
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