With the approaching cold weather, many of us take to reading to pass the time. It is a little-known fact that the Joint Chiefs of Staff has a professional reading list. It’s for all military personnel and especially relevant for leadership to read.
The recommended reading list has undergone quite a change since I first looked at it in 1986. The 1986 reading list was geared toward fighting, tactics and strategy. It included books like The Art of War, Land Battle 2000, On War, and Buffalo Soldiers. I read these and many others in my early military career, and they influenced me. If you want good reading, I’d recommend any of them.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu. The Art of War has remained one of the most influential written works for over 2,500 years. Sun Tzu was a general, military strategist and philosopher. Many military and corporate leaders regard it as a blueprint for success and useful tool for conflict resolution. Sun Tzu truly has something for everyone to apply to everyday life. It has been translated to many languages and interpreted by many famous historical figures.
How To Make War by James Dunnigan. This book nicely sums some up several aspects of warfare and leadership. This 1982 book draws a line between on the quickly changing tactics, strategies, weapons and logistics from World War II to modern times.
On War by Carl Von Clausewitz. Clausewitz was a Prussian general and military theorist. On War was unfinished and published by his wife after his death. His unfinished works were written after the Napoleonic wars. His works and theories are still highly regarded. He left us many phrases such as “the fog of war.”
Buffalo Soldiers by William Leckie. It’s a narrative of the Black cavalry in the West. The 10th Cavalry Regiment was one of the first segregated units after the Civil War. The 10th Regiment is still active today. The contribution they made to a westward- and southward-expanding United States despite racism and other obstacles cannot be measured.
Only two of these books remain on the modern list, The Art of War and On War. The fact that these are also some of the oldest books on the list means the principles of warfare have not changed.
Today the U.S. Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List includes six categories: Strategic Environment, Regional Studies, History and Military History, Leadership, Army Profession, and Fiction. It has changed immensely, much as our military has over the years. No longer are we a mass of Infantry, Armor and Air jointly striking at a same-sized force on the European plains. It reflects the smaller-scale, precise-strike military with a socially conscious leadership.