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Recommended reading for new advisors to senior leaders

U.S. Army War College

The following recommended reading list has been generated by the Senior Leader Seminar and Executive Leader Course faculty based on their research, course development and execution experience, student recommendations and other sources. The intent of this list is simple: to provide a self-study resource for advisors to senior leaders, supplementing existing recommended reading lists. This list cannot be all-inclusive due to the rapid annual generation of new leadership articles and books. It may also duplicate other reading lists because of the recognized value of many classic leadership documents.

Critical Army and Joint Doctrine:

    1. ADP 1, “The Army,” September 2012 (new version pending)
    2. ADRP 6-22, “Army Leadership,” August 2012
    3. ADRP 1, “The Army Profession,” June 2013
    4. Department of Defense, “The Armed Forces Officer, GPO,” January 2006
    5. National Defense University, “The Noncommissioned Officer and Petty Officer; Backbone of the Armed Forces,” Washington, D.C.: NDU Press, 2014

Comment: If we are truly professionals, we must fully understand our service and its doctrine on leadership, the profession, and the role of the Officer and Noncommissioned Officer Corps. These works provide a starting point for understanding these critical topics. ADP 1 explains the Army’s purpose, vision and values, as well as its role in the joint force and a broad view of the current path forward. ADRP 6-22 lays out the central tenets of the Army leadership model. ADRP 1 details the importance and requirements of the Army profession. The Armed Forces Officer explains the origin and unique roles and responsibilities of the Officer Corps within the Department of Defense. The companion NDU document provides a joint view of the roles and responsibilities of noncommissioned and petty officers.

Leadership Theory:

Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last, New York: Penguin, 2014.

Comment: Considered a classic, along with its predecessor, Start With Why, Sinek discusses how visionary, empathetic and committed leaders can create strong teams that succeed in today’s challenging business and national security environments. Using multiple examples, including contemporary military situations, Sinek demonstrates how effective leaders who place their employees and organizations first can create successful resolutions to complex crises. An easy, but useful read, Sinek’s work is a solid introduction to professional leadership thought.

Robert K. Greenleaf, The Servant as Leader, (download: https://greenleaf.org/products-page/the-servant-as-leader/).

Comment: Greenleaf’s seminal philosophical essay on servant leadership inspired a sub-genre of leadership studies and books. Greenleaf’s theory, which is fundamentally consistent with Army leadership doctrine and the Army profession concept, is that the most effective leaders start as servants, or followers, then rise to become leaders because they want to serve, not because they want to become leaders. The true servant-leader ensures that other people’s needs are addressed first, whereas the leader-first person is motivated by personal ambition to be in charge or to acquire more possessions. In addition, the servant-leader utilizes persuasive power to motivate, rather than using coercive or manipulative power. The greatest value of Greenleaf’s essay is that it can inspire the diligent reader to look internally and assess his or her motivations and methods of leadership.

Bill George, Discover Your True North, Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley, 2015

Comment: An updated and expanded version of his 2007 True North, George’s book examines the leadership evolution experienced by a large number of executives who capably lead business and government institutions. Although they have worked in a wide variety of fields, he identifies common factors that enable leader success, including identification of guiding personal principles and the requirement for authenticity in leadership style. George’s use of short case studies enhances this work, making it easily digestible to a wide range of readers and readily applicable in many different types of organizations. His discussion of the final stage of leadership – when “your true north meets the world” – is especially valuable to senior military leaders, who are now in this critical stage of leadership development and implementation.

Organizational Theory:

Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, New York: Penguin, 2007.

Comment: Brafman and Beckstrom argue that the pace of change and the social and electronic interconnectedness of the modern world demand new decentralized organizational structures and decision-making processes. These ideas are a direct challenge to traditional bureaucratically organized business and government entities, which inherently lack the agility to quickly adapt to the changing environment. Using historical examples and current case studies, the authors demonstrate the need for immediate intellectual and organizational change, proposing 10 game-changing rules that need to be considered in order for organizations to remain competitive.

Stanley McChrystal, Team of Teams; New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, New York: Penguin, 2015

Comment: Although many potential military readers may be disinclined to read this book, there is great value in Team of Teams’ discussion of the role of networked matrix teams in resolving complex situations. Based on his experiences in the Global War on Terrorism, (Ret.) Gen. McChrystal explains his personal intellectual evolution and the corresponding changes within his organization as they wrestled how to analyze, manage, plan, and execute global actions to defeat similarly evolving terrorist organizations. In many ways, this book explains how a military organization successfully morphed itself into the type of organization championed by Brafman and Beckstrom.

Advisor Practice:

Michael Useem, Leading Up; How to Lead Your Boss so You Both Win, New York: Crown, 2001.

Comment: Another business leadership classic, Useem challenges traditional hierarchal leadership models, arguing that there is an important role for subordinate leaders who “lead up,” providing critical advice and leadership to the benefit of the organization. Often requiring significant shifts in organizational culture, this leadership technique may be challenging to insecure senior leaders, but was necessary for success in the multiple case studies offered by Useem.

John J. Gabarro and John P. Kotter, Managing Your Boss, Harvard Business Review, January 2005 (download: https://hbr.org/2005/01/managing-your-boss/ar/1)

Comment: A reprint of a 1980 article that inspired major changes in business management and leadership theory, Gabarro and Kotter similarly challenge traditional management models, stressing the importance of creating and maintaining effective two-way relationships with your boss. Though many military readers might find this intuitively obvious, “managing your boss” to achieve the best results for your organization is simple in theory but complex in execution as it requires significant effort to establish and maintain effective working relationships, especially at the most senior levels. In addition, this concept requires a high-level of self-awareness for all leaders to understand each other’s style, triggers, preferences, strengths and weaknesses.

David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford, The Trusted Advisor, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002.

Comment: Though this work focuses on the role of an advisor in the business sales environment, its discussion of the pivotal role of trust in business client-advisor relationships is applicable to a much wider audience of potential leaders and advisors. The authors provide detailed guidance on how to earn trust, give advice and build relationships, along with subsequent discussions on the challenges of maintaining trust, changing clients and other related issues. It is a book that has direct applicability to new advisors to senior leaders.

James E. Lukaszewski, Why Should the Boss Listen to You? The Seven Disciplines of the Trusted Strategic Advisor, San Francisco: Wiley, 2008

Comment: Lukaszewski’s book directly addresses techniques that can lead to greater success for strategic advisors in any type of organization. Proposing seven disciplines, ranging from being trustworthy to thinking strategically to teaching your boss how to accept your advice, this work is a practical resource for both new and experienced senior advisors. Lukaszewski’s work is well-worth the time to read and digest its discussion and recommendations.

Leadership Challenges:

Dean C. Ludwig and Clinton O. Longenecker, The Bathsheba Syndrome: The ethical failure of successful leaders, Journal of Business Ethics (April 1993) Vol. 12, Issue 4, pp 265-273. (download: http://ksuweb.kennesaw.edu/~uzimmerm/Notes/Ludwig+Longenecker,%20The%20Bathsheba%20Syndrome.pdf )

Comment: Unfortunately, all of us may have to deal with ethical failures either personal or our bosses’. Ludwig and Longenecker address why these failures happen with senior leaders, using the biblical parable of King David and Bathsheba to illustrate the causes and repercussions of unethical senior leader behavior. They propose methods to avoid these situations and suggest ways to respond when they occur despite the use of avoidance/prevention methods. Their recommendation to use “guardrails” during potentially disastrous personal behavior situations has great value for senior leaders and their most senior advisors.

Kurt Sanger and Dan Stallard, The Nathan Solution to the Bathsheba Syndrome, Marine Corps Gazette, April 2014 (download: http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/mca-members/doc/ 1515632573.html?FMT=TG)

Comment: Sanger, a U.S. Marines Corps lawyer, and Stallard, a U.S. Navy chaplain, take Ludwig and Longenecker’s ideas and apply them to the contemporary environment, where negative actions by senior leaders continue to receive great attention from the public and, ultimately, severely damage unit capabilities and their ability to lead effectively. Citing the important role played by Nathan, a trusted advisor who admonished King David for his improper behavior, they highlight the valuable advice and other assistance provided by today’s military lawyers and chaplains. They also stress the continued importance of quality unit training and education on ethical behavior.

Leonard Wong and Stephen J. Gerras, Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession, U.S. Army War College SSI Feb 2015 (download: www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB1250.pdf)

Comment: Dr. Wong and Dr. Gerras of the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute directly address the institutional pressure within the U.S. Army to be untruthful when reporting because of the overwhelming number of directed training requirements. The authors explain causes of this important ethical issue, providing recommendations to help bring requirements and compliance checks under control and further encourage honest reporting and truthful leadership.

Conclusion: Professional study is a never-ending responsibility for all senior leaders and advisors. The intent of this list is to provide a starting point for self-study. Though hundreds of books and articles are published annually on leadership and related topics, only a few are truly worthy of study by busy military leaders and advisors.

SAMC provides leadership, growth opportunities for NCOs

By Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sheetz

As the Joint Base Langley-Eustis Sergeant Audie Murphy Club president, I have the distinct honor of serving with motivated and dedicated leaders from various Army military occupational specialties. These noncommissioned officers are some of the finest leaders within their career fields, and they consistently strive to better themselves, the installation and the surrounding community.

As stated in U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Regulation 600-14, “the TRADOC Sergeant Audie Murphy Club is an elite organization of NCOs who have demonstrated performance and inherent leadership qualities and abilities characterized by those of Sergeant Audie Murphy.”

When one first views this statement, the word “elite” stands out above all. All NCOs should want to achieve their goals, strive for excellence, be distinguished leaders of Soldiers, help their community, and attempt to stand out within their peer group, among many other things.

The SAMC is an all-volunteer organization of NCOs that continuously assists the installation and local communities through participation in volunteer activities and various installation-level events. The SAMC relies on those members who earn the prestigious Sergeant Audie Murphy Award to support club participation and assist in a wide array of opportunities that may not normally be available to all NCOs.

Members of the Fort Irwin (California) Audie Murphy Club carry the national colors for a parade during the 50th Vietnam Commemoration event at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin. The SAMC assists installations and local communities through participation in volunteer activities and installation events. (Army Photo by Cpl. Michelle U. Blesam)
Members of the Fort Irwin (California) Audie Murphy Club carry the national colors for a parade during the 50th Vietnam Commemoration event at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin. The SAMC assists installations and local communities through participation in volunteer activities and installation events. (Army Photo by Cpl. Michelle U. Blesam)

Those who wish to earn the SAMA can expect to spend a significant amount of time studying regulations, with current SAMC members who take pride in inculcating knowledge into aspiring candidates. Additionally, candidates will participate in several physical and mental challenges, such as physical fitness performance testing and an installation level board.

Why would an NCO want to do all this for a medallion?

It’s not about the medallion or the title. SAMC efforts do not go unnoticed, by an NCO’s chain of command or by the members of the Centralized Selection Board. During fiscal year 2016, the sergeant first class promotion board field after-action report stated that “NCOs were viewed favorably if they were inducted into prestigious professional clubs such as Sergeant Audie Murphy.” The report also recommended that “Soldiers seeking to set themselves apart from their peers should seek membership in distinguished organizations, such as the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.”

This does not mean an NCO should only use the club as a way to get promoted, but rather as a way to interact with leaders of all MOSs and ranks, learn critical regulations to better their military knowledge, and have the ability to give back to the community that supports Soldiers each and every day. Remember, the SAMA is an outstanding achievement, but being a SAMC member is where the hard work begins. It is what an NCO learns on the path to induction, it is the leadership development he or she obtains on that path, and it is the opportunities that present themselves along the way. Once you have been on the SAMC path for a while, NCOs are able to give back to not only their communities but also to a larger group of NCOs who help keep the professional development legacy going.

Any leader who is qualified and ready to take the necessary steps toward induction should contact his or her post’s SAMC president, or a chapter member within their installation. These members will assist with the induction process in accordance with TRADOC Regulation 600-14 and their SAMC-established by-laws. Additionally, they may provide study topics for each level SAMC board, study group times and locations, and assist in preparing for the induction process.

New academy will train NCOs for Security Force Assistance Brigades

NCO Journal report

A new Military Advisor Training Academy at Fort Benning, Georgia, will train both noncommissioned and commissioned officers assigned to a new type of unit: the Security Force Assistance Brigade.

The first six-week course at the academy is scheduled to begin in October as the first Soldiers for the new unit report to Fort Benning. Eventually, six SFABs will stand up.

These new brigades will have no junior enlisted Soldiers. They will be staffed with 500 senior NCOs and officers who will have the expertise to help train foreign militaries.

The effects that the SFABs will bring to the Army will actually be three-fold, said Col. Brian Ellis, maneuver division chief in the directorate of force management at the Pentagon who led planning for the new brigades.

“First, the Army will more effectively advise and assist foreign security forces,” he said.

“The second is to preserve the readiness of our brigade combat teams by reducing the need to break apart those formations to conduct security assistance missions.”

This will preserve BCT readiness for full-spectrum operations.


The third role of the SFAB is to help the Army more quickly regenerate brigade combat teams when needed. If the Army needs another BCT, for example, junior Soldiers would fall in on an existing SFAB, which is already full of senior NCOs and officers. Having a pre-built command structure in place will significantly speed up the process of generating new brigades, Ellis said.

Cutline: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brandon Blanton, center, a trainer with A Company, 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Strike, assists Iraqi army ranger students during a room-clearing drill last year at Camp Taji, Iraq. The new Security Force Assistance Brigades will assume these types of missions in the future. (Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)
Cutline: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brandon Blanton, center, a trainer with A Company, 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Strike, assists Iraqi army ranger students during a room-clearing drill last year at Camp Taji, Iraq. The new Security Force Assistance Brigades will assume these types of missions in the future. (Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)

An SFAB serves as a “standing chain of command for rapidly expanding the Army,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for operations and training.

In the meantime, the SFABs will be the Army’s first permanent units whose core mission is to conduct security cooperation activities, he said, allowing quick response to combatant commander requirements.

SFABs will be designed on the model of infantry and armored brigade combat teams, Ellis said, with a framework staff of NCOs in the grade of staff sergeant and above, and officers who are captains and above. Each brigade will have a cavalry squadron and two maneuver battalions, either infantry or armor.

Each company will have three teams of four trainers and a company headquarters. And even the headquarters will serve as a training team, Ellis said.

Soldiers will report by battalions to the Military Advisor Training Academy. The first battalion will begin training at the academy in October.

The academy itself will have a cadre of approximately 70 instructors, including some special forces soldiers, Ellis said.

After the initial six-week course, SFAB officers and NCOs will receive follow-up training in foreign languages, cultural studies and foreign weapons, Ellis said. He explained that it will take about a year to train a unit up to full operating capability so that an SFAB can deploy to assist a combatant commander.

The first SFAB unit will be permanently stationed at Fort Benning. The second one, which is planned to stand up in the fall of 2018, will be a National Guard brigade, Ellis said. The third SFAB will be in the regular Army, and it is planned to begin training in the fall of 2018, though permanent stationing and resourcing decisions haven’t been made yet past the first brigade.

Currently, the Army has three BCTs deployed for advise and assist missions, Ellis said. It may be a few years before the new SFABs will be able to handle all of that demand.

In the meantime, the 3-353rd Armor Battalion at Fort Polk, Louisiana, will continue training BCTs to handle security force assistance missions.

Ellis said the Army’s six SFABs should eventually be able to handle the bulk of SFA missions, in support of security cooperation, stability operations, and counterinsurgency operations.

Senior enlisted leaders take on Army’s latest fitness test at Fort Carson

NCO Journal report

Fort Carson’s senior enlisted leaders are well accustomed to early-morning workouts, but just after 6 a.m. one day earlier this month, a few gathered at the Colorado post’s Waller Physical Fitness Center to try something new.

This year, the U.S. Army introduced a new fitness test for fresh recruits and Soldiers seeking to change career fields — the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, or OPAT.

“We wanted to gain some knowledge about this new test,” Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Crosby, the 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson command sergeant major, said after completing the rigorous exam. “This was a leader development (exercise) for our command sergeants major, select NCOs and career counselors. There was a lot of learning that took place this morning, and I wanted to start with the CSMs just so they could understand what our recruits and current Soldiers who reclassify will have to go through.”

Ten senior enlisted leaders donned PT uniforms and prepared themselves for the test. Sgt. 1st Class Rene Ramos, 4th Infantry Division retention officer, put them through the OPAT’s paces, starting with the standing long jump, then moving to the seated power throw, deadlift and aerobic interval run.

Before each event, Ramos and staff relayed the exact standard that future test-takers must meet. They also explained directions, instructed on proper form and warned participants of possible pitfalls.

Sgt. 1st Class Graham K. Mullins, center leader of the Citadel Recruiting Center for the Denver Recruiting Battalion, demonstrates proper form and technique for some of Fort Carson’s top enlisted leaders during a familiarization training event Feb. 15. (Army photo by Scott Prater)
Sgt. 1st Class Graham K. Mullins, center leader of the Citadel Recruiting Center for the Denver Recruiting Battalion, demonstrates proper form and technique for some of Fort Carson’s top enlisted leaders during a familiarization training event Feb. 15. (Army photo by Scott Prater)

Ultimately, the veteran Soldiers made the test seem easy, but most said it was harder than it looked. Participants started with the long jump, then moved on to the power throw, where they sat against a wall and heaved a weighted ball as far as they could throw. Next up came the deadlift. Then everyone ended his test with a 20-meter shuttle run.

The four physical fitness tests together measure a future Soldier’s muscular strength, cardiorespiratory endurance, and lower body and upper body explosive power.

  • The “Standing Long Jump” is designed to assess lower- body power. Recruits stand behind a take-off line with their feet parallel and shoulder-width apart. They will jump as far as possible with a two-foot take-off and landing. Results of the test are measured in centimeters.
  • The “Seated Power Throw” is designed to assess upper-body power. Recruits sit on the floor with their lower back against a yoga block and upper back against a wall. They hold a 4.4 pound (2 kg) medicine ball with both hands, bring the medicine ball to their chest and then push or throw the medicine ball upward and outward at an approximate 45 degree angle. The throw is scored from the wall to the nearest 10 centimeters from where the ball first contacts the ground.
  • The “Strength Deadlift” is designed to assess lower-body strength. Recruits stand inside a hex-bar and perform practice lifts to assure good technique. Then they begin a sequence of lifts starting with 120 pounds and working up to 220 pounds. Recruits are scored by the largest amount of weight they can properly deadlift.
  • The “Interval Aerobic Run,” always performed last, is designed to assess aerobic capacity. The test is similar to what is commonly referred to as the “Beep Test.” The evaluation involves running “shuttles” or laps between two designated points that are spaced 20 meters apart. The running pace is synchronized with “beeps,” produced by a loud speaker, at specific intervals. As the test progresses, the time between beeps gets shorter, requiring recruits to run faster to complete the shuttle. Recruits are scored by the level they reach and the number of shuttles they complete.

“I believe this is a game-changer, especially for the young civilian who is showing an interest in the U.S. Army,” Crosby said of the Army’s newest fitness assessing exam. “They now have to pass the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery and the physical, but they must also select a military occupational specialty and meet the standards on the OPAT to qualify for the MOS they selected.”

Some MOSs in the Army require greater strength and stamina than others, and the OPAT, combined with the current requirements for enlistment, will help the Army assess individuals to determine to which occupations they are best suited, both physically and mentally.

Command Sgt. Maj. Demetrius Brown, command sergeant major of the 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, performs a deadlift during a training event to familiarize senior enlisted leaders with the new OPAT. The event took place Feb. 15 at Waller Physical Fitness Center at Fort Carson, Colorado. (Army photo by Scott Prater)
Command Sgt. Maj. Demetrius Brown, command sergeant major of the 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, performs a deadlift during a training event to familiarize senior enlisted leaders with the new OPAT. The event took place Feb. 15 at Waller Physical Fitness Center at Fort Carson, Colorado. (Army photo by Scott Prater)

“This is absolutely an adequate test,” Crosby said. “I think it serves two purposes — one, it’s going to increase readiness of the Army, and two, it’s going to reduce injuries for our Soldiers as they join.”

It’s important for senior enlisted leaders to become familiar with the new test because the Army plans to add upward of 6,000 active-duty Soldiers and 1,500 Army Reservists to its ranks by September.

Recruiters on the Front Range will be responsible for administering the new test, and they’ll be busy in the coming year. U.S. Army Recruiting Command will see the largest in-year mission increase in the command’s history, bringing the original mission of 62,500 Soldiers to 68,500. The Army has also added $200 million in incentive bonuses, fully opened enlistment to those who have previously served and increased the number of two-year enlistment opportunities to assist with the planned increase.