WHAT IT TAKES: Pass A Good Book On

Help others stretch and grow through reading

I was once asked by a new-promoted chief who was shadowing me, “Hey, you like to read, right? What’s a good book for me?” I perked up and immediately turned from my task at the moment and faced him. I was excited; someone wanted to talk about books! Unfortunately, after recommending a few books on leadership and personal development, my excitement was short-lived. He responded to my suggestions with, “No, I don’t mean that stuff, I’m looking for some fire books, like tactics.” My first thought was, Isn’t there more to the fire service than just strategy and tactics? Absolutely!5 books

There’s a  great story in the sports section of the Wall Street Journal today about Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew luck and his love for reading, and more important, his desire to “pass a good book on.”

Football, like firefighting, is very dirty and physical. Both professions wear protective equipment and perform as teams. But, football and firefighting also require exceptional mental skills that answer those so important questions: why, how, and what? The only way to achieve that level of teamwork is through learning together. And a great way to do that is by reading some good books, passing them around, and then talking about them.

Andrew Luck leads in more ways than just on the field. He consistently recommends his favorite reads to his team mates. And they’re not about football. Luck’s book suggestions range from fiction to the classics, depending on where he’s at and who he’s giving them to. By passing a good book on, and then talking about it, he’s influencing more than just the tactics of football, he’s growing other leaders and building a stronger team.

Firefighting books that focus on tactics, chemistry, construction, and administration should be required reading in the fire service. They are the nuts and bolts of our machine work. But also needed are those books that speak to values and character, that increase personal knowledge, and improve analytical and reasoning skills. They are the grease that makes the machine run long and smooth.

So, if you were to ask me, “What’s a good book for me?” here’re a few I would recommend. They will help you discover insights on team building, influencing others, applying intuition, managing things, establishing a culture, and just becoming a better person and a healthy organization.

  • Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  • The Warrior Ethos by Steven Pressfield
  • The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership by John Wooden
  • Profiles In Courage by John F. Kennedy
  • Young Men And Fire by Norman Maclean
  • Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
  • 5 Minds For The Future by Howard Gardner
  • Flawless Execution by James D. Murphy
  • Start With Why by Simon Sinek
  • Small Unit Leadership: A Commonsense Approach by Col. Dandridge M. Malone (Ret.)
  • The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield
  • In Extremis Leadership: Leading As If Your Life Depended On It by Thomas A. Kolditz
  • The Challenge Of Command by Roger H. Nye
  • The 21 Indispensable Qualities Of A Leader by John C. Maxwell
  • Warfighting by The U.S. Marine Corp
  • Comrades by Stephen E. Ambrose
  • The Warrior Mindset by Michael J. Asken, Ph.D. and Lt. Col. Dave Grossman
  • Team of Teams: New Rules For Engagement For A Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal
  • We Were Soldiers Once… And Young by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore
  • Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales
  • The Classic Touch: Lessons In Leadership From Homer To Hemingway by John K. Clemens and Douglas F. Mayer

Go here to Books I Recommend to find these books and more.

Go here to Read To Lead Podcast for current book reviews and recommendations.


Turn the Ship Around! [Book Review]

David Marquet

David Marquet

The significant problems that firefighters face on the fire ground today are not solved by one person; even, and especially, the leader at the top. How can company and chief officers learn to release the passion, energy, and intellect of their firefighters? How can they help them become thinking, adaptable members of a firefighting team? How do they turn followers into leaders?

David Marquet was the commander on the nuclear-powered, fast-attack submarine USS Santa Fe, and that’s where he designed and developed the “leader-leader” approach. Marquet uses great stories of self-discovery, tension, and self-doubt to describe the trials and errors that led to a resilient and effective team of leaders. The book presents a comprehensive paradigm shift on how we think about leadership, but one that is needed, especially in the fire service, to build strong, cohesive teams that can operate safely and effectively in an unforgiving environment.

Marquet’s basic premise is that “everyone is a leader, and that things work better when everyone chooses to lead.” His leader-leader model not only improves effectiveness and morale, but also makes for a healthier and stronger organization. The leader-leader structure is more resilient because they do not rely on one designated leader to always be right. It takes a team. And the best part of the leader-leader model is how it grows additional leaders throughout the organization naturally. It creates a real learning organization.

If you want to create leadership at every level, all the way to the front lines where the action is, then follow the principles that David Marquet has outlined in his book.

You can read more about David Marquet here.

Also, watch this video adaptation on David Marquet’s approach to leader-leader.

What I'm Reading Right Now – Streetlights and Shadows

Photo by Tim Olk

I am researching decision making to prepare for my next Firefighter-360 columns. I have read other books and several articles by Gary Klein about how people make decisions and cognitive task analysis. I find it interesting, and maybe the most important area for improvement in the fire service. We need to get better at “bringing thinking to action.”

Do we make decisions with our gut or should we analyze every option? It depends! Klein offers realistic ideas about real-life situations.

The book begins with this story:

A policeman saw a drunk searching for something under a streetlight. “What have you lost, my friend?” the policeman asked. “My keys,” said the drunk. The policeman then helped the drunk look  and finally asked him: “Where exactly did you drop them?” “Over there, ” responded the drunk, pointing toward a dark alley. The policeman then asked: “Why are you looking here?” The drunk immediately replied, “Because the light is so much brighter here.”

Steven Pressfield's "The Warrior Ethos"

Steven Pressfield is one of my favorites to follow. I like his historical novels (Gates of Fire and The Afghan Campaign ) and I like his inspiring works (Do The Work and The War of Art) that help us tackle our daily challenges. SP is a storyteller that addresses great questions, such as, “Who are we?” Where do we come from?” and  “Why do we act the way we do today?”

Pressfield has now produced another great work called “The Warrior Ethos” that helps us define and defend our own sense of purpose. Go here to read the full text of “The Warrior Ethos” in lightbox format.

Reading List #1

I am not a bookworm, but I do like to read. It helps open my mind to new things and clear my thoughts about things that matter to me. Reading also gets me outdoors and away from too much seriousness.

Here are three books I am reading right now:
The Secret Servant. Daniel Silva
Wild at Heart. John Eldredge
Blue Threats. Tony Kern