Adm. James Stavridis, The Leader’s Bookshelf – on why reading books matters!

The Leader's BookshelfI’ve just delved into a book that is new to me. You know how you occasionally find a book that others have known of for a long time, and for some reason (maybe your own failure to pay careful attention) the book has never quite come across your radar… Well, I’ve just discovered such a book: The Leader’s Bookshelf by Adm.James Stavridis USN (Ret.). From his Wikipedia page:

James George Stavridis (born February 15, 1955) is a retired United States Navy admiral and the current dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, a graduate school for international affairs. Stravidis serves as the chief international diplomacy and national security analyst for NBC News in New York. He is also chairman of the board of the U.S. Naval Institute  and a Senior Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

In other words, he is quite the accomplished leader.

And…this man is also quite a reader! He has boxed and re-boxed his growing multi-thousand-volume personal library through his many moves. (Yes, it does remind one of General James Mattis, the Warrior Monk. See this blog post: The Warrior Monk General and his Traveling Library of 6000 books).

He thinks that all leaders should read: books! A lot of books. From his book:

But I have come to believe that throughout all of those important developmental steps, perhaps the single best way a leader can learn and grow is through reading.

And, though he lists a few very good reasons why this should be a discipline a leader should follow, it seems that this is the most important of his reasons:

Reading is the gateway to true self-evaluation. Every book is a kind of “complex simulator” that provides the means for a leader to read a story and ask, “What would I have done in that situation?”

The only way to think about an answer to the “What would I have done in that situation?” question is to have read about a lot – a whole lot – of situations. (Reading about many, many challenging situations is required because no one leader will have personally found himself/herself in such a large number of such situations personally).

The rest of the book is filled with short chapters about highly recommended books that he compiled from a long list of military leaders. And, yes, I have read a few of the books recommended; but not enough of them.

But The Leader’s Bookshelf is worth reading just for the opening chapters. Do check it out. I promise you – it’s worth it!

I discovered this book in the Business Insider article Trump chief of staff John Kelly read ‘The General’ when he took the job.


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