Professional Development Army Style …

Flag US Army Chief of Staff.svgThis is no ordinary reading list …


“A sustained personal commitment to critical study of a wide range of readings constitutes an essential professional responsibility for members of the Army profession.”

From the foreword of the U.S. Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List

Published by the U. S. Army Chief of Staff and designed to help create educated and thoughtful military leaders, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List serves as a great example of an intentional learning activity. 

If your basic knowledge of the art and science of military affairs is shaped primarily by films or television, you have some catching up to do.  If you are serious about developing your leadership muscle, you would do well to consider both the use of a professional development reading list and this list in particular.  This list includes three major categories outlined below, along with my comments.

This is a deep dive into one of the primary vocations on our planet.

Armies at War: Battles and Campaigns

The Point:  Humans have engaged in armed conflict throughout our history … war is not going to go away, so we best get very good at understanding it.


How the wars, conflicts, and other major missions of our armed services have been fought over the past few centuries, even before the United States was established.  The reading here is heavy on academic treatments of what I was taught to think of as “the management of violence”

History has useful lessons and thought-providing events, if we take the time to reflect on and learn from them.   While the details and the context will change with every new challenge, some things remain constant.   For example, throughout military history, major conflicts have involved both military struggle and political machinations.  Ignore that and you win the battles, but lose the war.

This section includes pure history, biographies and personal memoirs, and analysis of battles recent and far in the past.  Professionals and the organizations which use them do well when they know the history, because that is what they base their changing tactics on when the context is new and bewildering.

Civilian Application:    If you know the past, you are NOT forced to repeat it, but you can use that knowledge to inform your future moves.


The Army Profession

The Point:  The backbone of any military is the well-educated professional soldier, non-commissioned and commissioned.


Like any professionals, military folks need to understand not just how to do their jobs, but why they do what they do and why it matters.  While history is full of instances where citizen soldiers have engaged in heroic struggle and carried the day, the reality of military operations, especially in the present, is that a few dedicated professionals with long experience make or break great armies and win battles.

Along with readings that consider the art of soldiery, this section includes some different choices:  Once An Eagle by Anton Myrer is a historical novel (fiction) which nevertheless provides engaging and useful insight into the development of a professional soldier.  This section also includes a very non-military choice which should already be familiar to us:  Leading Change by John Kotter, a mainstay of any aspiring leader’s reading list.

Civilian Application:   Know what you do forward and backward, from diverse perspectives.  This is not about being a specialist, but a well-educated and reflective generalist within a defined arena.


Strategy and the Strategic Environment

The Point:  Doing is not everything … you have to know why you are doing what you do.


Distinctly recent readings dominate this section.  Moving beyond the use of traditional violence and weapons, we find consideration here of cyberspace, emerging nations and regions,  robotics, and ideology as part of the modern military landscape.   The continuing evaluation of conflict moves from defined clashes between large groups to multiple venues and struggle at levels we barely understand, using weapons that many of us only know as entertainment or work tools.

This is nothing short of a primer on where the modern world is and where we possibly are going … leadership learning on a global scale.

Civilian Application:   If you want a better understanding of our modern environment, just start reading. 


After reviewing the U.S. Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List , I feel more comfortable that our military leaders have some help in understanding the complex and shifting nature of modern geopolitics, which is essential to anyone attempting to lead today, whether military, corporate, or just around town.   This is both a military professional and a civilian professional development reading list.  

If you want to lead, you have to first learn …

Thanks to Execupundit for doing what he so often does, bringing thought-provoking and useful information to our attention.

Revising my summer reading list in the Heartland ….