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USNA News Center
USNA News Center

Summer Leadership Book Club Launch

  POSTED ON: Thursday, September 24, 2020 3:01 AM by The Stockdale Center

This summer the Naval Academy's Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership launched a "Leadership Book Club," a program aimed at encouraging lifetime habits of reading texts on military leadership. The program arose during  a summer marked by the covid virus-induced cancellation of most summer cruises, and the attendant loss of in-person leadership education experiences. Drawing upon generous donations from the Robert and Mary Looker Foundation and the Nagle Family, the Stockdale Center purchased ebooks for Midshipmen, distributed them electronically, and constructed a syllabus and discussion schedule.  The Stockdale Center recruited over 60 facilitators from USNA faculty, staff, and coaches, who met one day a week to discuss major themes and pedagogy. General James Mattis' best selling text "Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead" served as the opening book, followed by Admiral James Stavridis' "Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character."  Stockdale Center staff then assigned the facilitators to Midshipmen discussion groups of less than 10 people, who met weekly via Zoom and Google Meets teleconferences to talk about how they might apply the books' lessons to a career in the armed services. Midshipmen, furthermore, reflected on their readings and discussions in a weekly "Leadership Journal." The journals offered insights into how much they benefited from the experience. One Midshipman's journal (lightly edited here) remarked on how much they learned about leadership and how they applied it to their sports team: 
After reading this week's chapters in Call Sign Chaos by General Mattis, I learned a lot of things that can be applied to both my life and my team. If I were to substitute every time General Mattis writes Marine or Sailor with my team, I can apply this book entirely to the success of our team. The biggest part that stuck out to me was the piece on "ownership": For a mission to be successful, everyone must buy in completely. Not 50%, not 90%, not even 99%. It must be 100% from everybody. A successful team is one that has camaraderie, cohesion, and a focus on the goal. Our sports team has a culture that is like no other I’ve ever been a part of. We are tighter than any group I’ve ever seen. When the Plebes come in after Plebe Summer, we need to show them this culture, so that they can learn to be a part of it. When I finished Plebe Summer last August, the upperclassmen welcomed me with their open arms, and I couldn’t be more appreciative. I hope these incoming Plebes feel the same way. General Mattis also talks about being as tough as your toughest Marine. Our players are tough. We are like no other. I’ve enjoyed this book so far, and I can’t wait to keep reading.  
The Stockdale Center aims to reprise the Leadership Book Club in the future, picking titles that enlighten and sharpen Midshipmen's leadership skills in a military context. 


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