Customer Reviews: Leading the Charge: Leadership Lessons from the Battlefield to the Boardroom
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on May 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is one of those rare books - easy to read, yet with a meaty message. And, boy, what a message!

Today, our news is headlined by the loss of homes and jobs, the careening shifts in the price of oil, the collapsing of iconic companies, the ever increasing threat of terrorism (are we still at Orange?), etc.

And, the world as a whole seems to be waiting with bated breath for a messiah to lead us through this dark patch of history.

The really cool part of this book, is that it exhorts you to be that messiah. And, believe me, after reading this book, I *wanted* to be that messiah!

The book is divided into two logical parts.
The first part (ch. 1-3) sets the stage for the book by describing the global "epidemic of diseased leadership". At times this part is depressing, as it provides a litany of failed policies (our Iraq strategy), corrupted morals (steroid use in baseball), ham handed execution (our response to Katrina), and dereliction of a sacred duty (the crisis at Walter Reed).

However, don't skim this too quickly. The best definition of leadership is in chapter 1: "[Leaders] make sure that that the [..] organizations they run are headed in a good direction, and they leave them better off than they found them."
There is another gem in ch. 3: "Leadership today must fuse individual character, ability to lead, and the performance of the organization." In other words, the best indicator of a leader's performance is the performance of her team.
In the second part he proposes the 11 core elements that leaders must have, in order to navigate the treacherous and ever changing shoals of today's world.

1. Self Knowledge
Everything begins with the articulation of a few foundational core values (such as integrity, commitment, honor, and honesty) that define you as an ethical individual. This not only gives you a yardstick for testing your decisions, but also gives you early warning when your values are at risk of being compromised.

2. Ethics
A leader is responsible for defining the ethical code for his organization. An ethical organization is rewarded with happy employees and admiring customers.

3. The Led
Here we discover that a true leader is one who cares about his people, considers them to be family, and "has a genuine interest in their well being". We also note that a leader's true effectiveness must be evaluated by his superiors as well as by those he leads.

4. Environment
A good leader must be intimately familiar with the business environment: his products, customers, competitors, suppliers, regulatory agencies, etc. Leaders should get out of their oak paneled corner offices and actually talk to these stakeholders.

5. The Enterprise
A leader cannot lead an organization that he doesn't understand - in terms of its structure, processes, and systems. This gives him a unique perspective when it comes time to assess how a change in one place, might have unforeseen consequences in a completely different part of the organization.

6. Speed
He suggests that leaders jealously guard their "creative time" - where they will do the bulk of their imaginative and strategic planning.

7. Knowledge
As he puts it, "a leader who is competent but not nice is better than a leader who is nice but not competent."

8. Communication
A leader provides the human face for his organization, and should come across as "caring, confident, sincere, and on top of things." While the General uses the Gipper as an example, I was actually thinking of the late Dave Thomas as I read this chapter. Dave epitomized the best aspects of all these characteristics, and he did it with wonderful grace and charm.

9. Decision
"Decision making is the soul of leadership."
This is the chapter for which no synopsis will do justice. There is no decision making quite like military decision making - and here he provides a wonderful blend of theoretical and practical advice.

When describing training scenarios that help you learn decision making, he makes a statement that I could frame: "If it looks like you're not making mistakes, not failing in any way, we begin to suspect that you're not really stretching and pushing the edge. Failure has to be part of the learning process". In today's world where we're so afraid of failure that our mantra is "everyone's a winner", it is refreshing to see failure dusted off and raised back up as an important component of our schools.

10. Crisis
Stuff Happens. How you react to "stuff" defines you as a leader. Think Giuliani. This chapter gives us a glimpse of what this veteran warrior thinks of Obama's leadership skills.

11. Vision
This is one of the most important chapters for a new leader to internalize. He provides wonderful examples that highlight the different levels of planning - tactical, operational, and strategic. Seeing these described from a military perspective gave me a much better appreciation of the differences between the three.

What I loved:
Each chapter is filled with real life experiences of the General, that make you feel privileged to be allowed these glimpses into an amazing life.

He repeatedly talks about the value of reflecting and analyzing past experiences. This is not something I usually do. When something goes well, I am apt to bask in the glory, and not question the reasons for my success; and when something goes poorly, I'm prone to banishing it to the dark recesses of my mind. His counsel? "Leadership experiences left unexamined are useless and wasted."

Another valuable piece of advice is to find a trusted mentor or friend who can help you through this analysis. The clarity of an outside perspective is invaluable especially in times of crisis when our vision is clouded with tears of frustration.

Finally, this advice works on both a personal and an organizational level: pick a few core skills - and nurture these, until you outshine everyone else in those areas. I.e., you want to be the iPod or the iPhone of those areas.

I was curious to see who he considers to be examples of good leaders - and some of the leaders he approves of are Odierno, Petraeus, and Obama. These names give us real world comparison points against which to measure ourselves, making his lessons more meaningful.

The chapters are filled with delightful quotations. My favorite? "The chain of command in any organization is like a tree full of monkeys. If you look down from the top, you see smiling faces. If you look up from the bottom, you get a much different perspective." I can't stop smiling :)

Another evocative image is of "a self-licking ice cream cone" - which he uses to describe a bureaucracy that functions like the Borg - growing by assimilating all available resources - whether or not they add any value to the organization's purpose.

If you were pressed for time and had to pick just three chapters to read from this book - I'd strongly recommend the chapters on Decisions, Vision, and Knowledge (in that order).

Happy Reading!
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Maybe it is because of my military and martial background that I really related to "Leading The Charge: Leadership Lessons From The Battlefield To The Boardroom" by General Tony Zinni and Tony Koltz. General Zinni's extensive leadership experience at the highest levels of the military, diplomatic, and business worlds comes through loud and clear in this interesting and educational guide to key aspects of leadership.

General Zinni starts out with a chapter on the crisis in leadership. He explores the changes in the world and asks what has happened to our leaders. He asks if this leadership crisis, that he states we are in, is just a leadership problem or is it deeper than that. He then goes into exploring these issues. Chapters include: The Failure to Adapt, The New Leader, Self-Knowledge, Ethics, The Led, Environment, The Enterprise, Speed, Knowledge, Communication, Decision, Crisis, and Vision. All of the chapters include relevant examples from actual experience, rather than just leadership theory.

I thoroughly enjoyed how General Zinni included theory and practicality throughout the text. For instance, in the Ethics chapter, he presents different classical approaches to ethics and how decisions made according to the standards of one will often conflict with the standards of another. He acknowledges that people being led today are more knowledgeable and more assertive than the led have been in the past, and they have more to say to leaders. Leading today is not the same as it once was, and this is a theme throughout the entire book.

General Zinni's observations on leadership, based on his years of experience, make this book interesting, entertaining, and most of all a practical guide to help the reader become a better leader. Zinni declares it is a challenging time for leaders, and I could not agree with him more. His suggestions on defining yourself and your code for leading will help leaders know who they are, and if they stick to the code as Zinni instructs, they will become better leaders.

I think everyone should continue to improve their leadership ability. Studying leadership, and then applying those lessons, is a way to become a better leader and make a difference. This text by General Zinni is a great book to study, and he provides many practical lessons, based on experience, to implement and apply to your own situation. His final message is that the world has been changing and we need leaders who see the opportunities. Read "Leading The Charge" and be one of them!

Reviewed by Alain Burrese, author of Hard-Won Wisdom From The School Of Hard Knocks (Revised and Expanded) and others.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The first 62 pages of this book contain about 150 questions such as (taken out of context, of course):

- Has good old American "can-do" become "can't do"?
- Is it just a leadership problem?
- What's the difference between the operations and practices this man employs now and when he took over his business from his father?
- Who comes out looking good?

These first pages were so tedious to read since way too many questions were interspersed with some of the author's observations and experiences. However, the text after page 62 is really thought provoking and insightful.

General Tony Zinni is a military man whose vast leadership experiences really make him an expert in understanding what successful leadership is all about. Some observations he's made and lives by are:

- If you ask for loyalty, you owe them integrity and honesty in return.
- You always have to take into account the whole entity before making changes to one part.
- The greatest respect is paid to those who are regarded as the most professionally compentent and knowledgeable.
- Technology can buy time and efficiency, but it must be masterfully managed to ensure we don't become slaves to it.
- The leader personifies the institution.
- Master time and technology - don't let them drive or control you.

He gives various examples of his career successes and the leadership lessons he learned from experience and from others. The text is easy to read and understand. However, treasures are found after Page 62.
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on November 17, 2015
This book survived all eight rounds of elimination by the panel of national experts assembled by the California Association of Tactical Officersto identify the top twelve books recommended for SWAT team leaders. The book is one of those rare “easy reads” that is also well-organized and simple to follow. It is one of the very few books I value enough to own in every format; hard copy, audible and ebook.
The author, General Tony Zinni, is a retired U.S. Marine Corps general who I had the personal privilege of working for in Somalia in the mid-1990s. It draws upon a lifetime of experience in leading people in harm’s way and that I can personally attest are demonstrative of his most fundamental values. Far from simply espousing his views on leadership, however, he uses examples to illustrate and reinforce nearly every point. He deals with the tough questions that other authors tend to gloss over or entirely ignore, such as; Who’s good and who’s bad? How does ethics affect decision making? How do you deal with people who fail? How should you deal with someone who has made a mistake of judgement vs. a mistake of virtue?
Using quotes from such diverse figures as Gen. Colin Powell, Mao Zedong and Che Guevara, principles emerge for isolating and understanding problems that confront leaders in complex and changing situations. The book is a practical guide for thinking leaders facing extraordinary challenges.
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VINE VOICEon May 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have to admit, I didn't have high hopes for this book when I ordered it. After the first couple pages, I started reading it with a bit of a mental block, thinking it was going to be some sort of pro-Obama, pro-Bush, or pro-something-else political agenda. As I read on, I found that I was wrong.

As a retired Marine general, and former commander of CENTCOM, Tony Zinni is amazingly unbiased in his opinions of our current political, financial, and corporate leaders. While much of what is written is opinion-based, it is very insightful and appeals to all sides of this misshapen environment we humans have created for ourselves. Even as a man from an older time, he has an incredibly open mind and a firm understanding that the leadership tactics of yesterday don't work anymore today, and certainly not tomorrow.

The book stands out from the crowd of hundreds of other leadership books by identifying that leaders can't be created using a set of firm rules. Sure, many great leaders share some common characteristics, but all people and situations are different and ever-changing. Instead of providing lists of characteristics for us to memorize, this book provides great insight into how we, as individuals, can discover the necessary means to become great leaders.

Leading The Charge provides great comparison of military and civilian leadership, without actually sounding like it's doing exactly that. Trust me, if it came across as "this is what the military taught me, so you should do it too," I would have been the first person to knock a couple more stars off its rating.

As it stands, I gave it 4 stars out of 5 because, despite it's interesting new look at refining old leadership ideas, they are mostly still ideas which most people are already aware of.
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VINE VOICEon May 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First the good things:
- Written in a way that is approachable, using fairly common language and it feels like a natural conversation, not a heavy text.
- Lots of insights into the marines of back in the day.
- Good perspective on leadership (despite being heavily based on his military background)
- Brings up questions that people are having (Where have our leaders been as the world crisis gets worse?) and attempts to address them.

Now the bad things:
- Repetitive, almost to the extreme. Also concurring with someone, the first 70 pages or so really take "broad repetitive questions and sayings" to the extreme. You'll find an excellent collection of 50 plus ways of saying or complaining about: "Where have our leaders been?"
- Long winded, even when not being repetitive, it seems like he goes on and on, or tries to explain a simple concept with too many examples. If you are capable of reading the book you got his point with the first example, no point in having 2 more, with a lot more details, which sole purpose is to explain what he just did and it was already clear...
- Pats himself in the back too much. Which is ok, but as he is writing about how great a leader he is/was he puts the blame in the new leaders (or lack thereof) even though the problems were already being set in motion during his era of leadership (80s-90s). He has done some good things, but wouldn't have hurt tooting own horn less, and admitting to more...

Neutral aspects:
- Military background (the marines and experiences in the army made this man what he is, and the book reflects this. It's leadership from that perspective. (As opposed to say, the perspective of an entrepreneur)

Personally, I enjoyed the book. But it could have been written in about 1/3 of the pages, with more concise language, written better, and that would make the book worth 4 or 5 stars.
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VINE VOICEon August 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It's hard to argue with the book's thesis that we have a vast gap in leadership. Various polls show that both political parties score their lowest confidence scores in history. We seem to lurch from crisis to crisis, and the floundering that we see causes confusion on whether the resolutions are good or bad, or if the actions taken have anything to do with the outcome.

But I don't really see any tangible theme here for what to do about this. Perhaps it's Zinni's military background, which is concentrated in command-and-control structures, but he just doesn't seem to offer anything constructive on finding or training leaders to deal with the highly distributed, complex world we live in. He's more about advice like "Lead from the front by being visible and in charge." (page 213)

There are some interesting observations, as some other reviewers have listed. But I think he's off in the weeds on the real problem. He never seems to explore the possibility that we actually need *less* leadership in some areas, and a lot more emphasis on people being responsible for their own areas. He doesn't really seem to get the "knowledge problem" as some economists have tagged it, where it's just impossible for a decision maker to know enough to tell others what to do. He sort of plays around the edges of that concept, but I think some deep thinking on his part on the structure of a complex, knowledge-based, interdependent society would clarify his thinking a lot.

He only briefly discusses vision in a short chapter at the end, and to me that's the missing element in many, many failures of leadership. It's the difference between, to take a current example, the success of Apple vs. some of their competitors.

All in all, I can't recommend this to anyone primarily interested in business leadership. His worldview, which is centered in military and political spheres, simply does not translate over as well as Zinni seems to think.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Now it could just be me but I have a hard time finding leadership type books (or management ones) that I could describe as enthralling, addicting, intense, or mesmerizing. I clearly need a re-check on expecations for sure. The best I can say about most is that parts of them might be interesting, or slightly mobilizing, or even a bit inspirational. The problem is that they are mostly all just variations on a theme.

At my work I've been taking 7 Habits classes and have found them to be pretty interesting and applicable across much of my life (not only work). So my frame of reference here is coming off of several days of some intense sessions that had me making some paradigm shifts and actually thinking about things like a personal mission statement. Does this book fit into that or where I'm going (life and career)? Yes and No.

I agree with the other reviewers with the first part of the book--I read some and then skimmed..because I knew I would put the book down forever if I tried to keep reading. It's a shame--because the rest of the book is pretty good. It is not ground breaking or innovative--like much of leadership some of it so common sensical that it makes you do one of those "hmmph" sounds and say "yeah I can see that".

There are some things I could fit into where I am going now--lot of planning talk in the book and using time wisely (and the value of it). His chapter on Vision is pretty good--and he pegs it well that it has to be clear and articulated (among other things). One of the problems I see in companies is that there is a plan but it's on paper--so lots of decisions were made, vision was utilized, but the plan's stuck in that yearly report stage. It just doesn't materialize and there isn't cohesive working towards it and accountability and support within to really make a big difference. He does talk about this but not as much as I would have hoped.

The other chapters that were good were Decision and Knowledge. The ethics pieces were interesting.

A strength of the book is the use of the author's examples as it does help in illustrating points (I found the piece that referenced Vietnam particuarly insightful). It's not that I found I could relate to them (because I'm neither military nor a male so don't have some of those experiences) but that the point was clear.

This is not a book I was able to sit down and read in one day or even a week--it took quite some time to delve into this. Every little distraction took me away from it--so I would probably rate it 3.5 stars but I rounded up since I did enjoy pieces of it and would consider a purchase for my office library. That is kind of the test for me. I think that someone of the boomer or traditionalist generation would enjoy this book. Me I'm Gen X---but kind of a cusper with Boomer so I did find useful concepts and ideas that could apply. As for my Gen Y and Millenials--forget it. I can guarantee none of them would get through this book past the first two chapters. Kind of ironic since Zinni talks about speed and technology and how his is changing the world and shaping our expectations yet this book just felt so 90's to me--I can't put my finger on whether that is the tone, organization, content, or what.

I'd love to read a Leadership book that just swept me away and got me so inspired that I rush into work on Monday morning gung ho and all systems go. After reading this book--I'm still waiting.
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VINE VOICEon May 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There are various definitions of leadership. Also, there are lot of models of leadership styles, traits, and behavior. When we look at leadership in today's work environment, we limit our thinking to mainly corporate world/office culture. This book by a (Ret.) General provides a different view of leadership. We all know that the leading style in forces is very different than what is applicable in offices.

In this book, the author does mention the old foundation of 11 principles and 14 traits. But then he provides his own 11 qualities for a new leader. These are:

1. Clear & confident understanding of himself.
2. Strong ethical sense.
3. Listen and understand The Led.
4. Understanding the operation environment.
5. Clearly understand his organization.
6. Fast paced to keep up with the dynamic times.
7. Curious, Broadly knowledgeable, and widely educated than leaders of past.
8. Excellent communicator.
9. Stronger decision-making skills.
10. Able to lead in times of crisis & change.
11. Think & act strategically.

The first few chapters describe the current state of crisis in efficient leadership and then takes us to these 11 principles. Rest of the book consists of one chapter each for these 11 qualities. Very structured & organized.

The writing style in this book is very good and easy to grasp. The examples taken are from daily-life, recent happenings (Miracle on Hudson etc.) and clearly communicate the author's point.

One thing I noticed is that none of the 11 qualities is new or unheard of, but when they are put together with increased rigor on each of them, they create a new leadership model.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
General Tony Zinni, once the leader of Central Command or CentCom for Middle Eastern issues, writes a very insightful book regarding leadership.

Zinni draws on his experience growing from his earliest days as a Marine recruit, officer candidate and beyond. He compares his training and the focus on leadership traits that were specified by the Marine Corps as requirements for leadership in the Marines. He then contrasts these in a chapter by chapter discussion of traits required to help develop leadership traits required for our day today.

Zinni talks about his experiences since the Vietnam War, Dessert Storm and the last Iraq War. He mentions that the US had a failure to adapt to the new world that was left after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The US seems to lack any of the verve and direction that it has had in past decades. This he has gleaned not only from first hand experience, but in dealing with leaders he has known throughout the world.

This is definately an easy read. Zinni, has a fresh perspective that should help us to adapt quickly to our current crisis whether it be economics, business or political. What is needed is leadership. Finding and training current and future leaders with a focus on a global environment.
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