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.


Recommended Reading & Viewing



Burton Clark – Fire/EMS Safety & Health Week: Rules vs. DNA

From Ben Franklin to today, all firefighters have the same DNA made up of six genes: fast, close, wet, risk, injury and death (FCWRID). These genes have been passed down for generations from firefighters and the public. Our gene sequence has driven our behavior and rule development throughout our history (Clark, 2011).

Your firefighter DNA genes (fast, close, wet, risk, injury and death) will trump rules every time. Most of the time, one abnormal gene does not negatively affect the outcome, but when two or more mutate, turgidity can results.  Changing your DNA is hard, but you can change your behavior if you know what is driving it.


The Art of Manliness – Leadership Lessons from Dwight D. Eisnehower: How to Make an Important Decision

The complexity of planning and executing Operation Overlord — the largest amphibious assault in world history — was truly staggering.

How had Eisenhower found the nerve to make one of the heaviest, most consequential decisions in history? “I had to,” he later explained, “if I let anybody, any of my commanders, think that maybe things weren’t going to work out, that I was afraid, they’d be afraid to. I didn’t dare. I had to have the confidence. I had to make them believe that everything was going to work.”

Dan Rockwell, The Leadership Freak – Stop Barking up the Wrong Tree

Leaders who work to extend their influence are barking up the wrong tree.

Mike Myatt, N2Growth – The History of Leadership

…. an interactive historical timeline of the world’s greatest leaders dating as far back as 2000 BC.


Seth Godin – Doing the big work (at the little table)

Most of the day is spent in little work. The obligation is to carve out time for the big work.

High Performance Leadership – The Trouble with Critical Feedback

How do you respond to a situation that provides only critical feedback?


Terin Izil & Sunni Brown, TED-Ed – The Power of Simple Words

Long, fancy words designed to show off your intelligence and vocabulary are all very well, but they aren’t always the best words. In this short, playful video Terin Izil explains why simple, punchy language is often the clearest way to convey a message.


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