The author, Jack Beach was a draftee and served as a medic with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. After separation, he earned a commission and retired as a Colonel. He then spent nearly 20 years as a professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at the Military Academy at West Point and has been recently running IBM’s leadership development program.
The book is divided into 4 sections. The first are autobiographical stories and the leadership learnings the author garnered from those events in his life. The second section consists of coaching interactions and conversations with some of IBM’s senior executives. The third is a short section encapsulating statements about leadership from IBM’s senior leader. The Epilogue contains his personal leadership philosophy.
The author discusses in two chapters instances where he had to give control over to the troops. One is called “Leaders of Rebels” and the other “Trusting the Untrustworthy.”
These came from his experience of suddenly and unexpectedly being made a Platoon Sergeant in Vietnam and the platoon was made up mostly of folks who had failed to perform in other units and some had been incarcerated as juveniles before joining the Army or being drafted. No one could control them–the question was could they control themselves? Additionally, the platoon was an ambulance platoon and a good deal of the work had to do with running the motor pool that kept the ambulances running. Since the author was a trained combat medic, he knew nothing about fixing jeeps.
Appendix I contains the IBM Leadership Framework and IBM Competencies launched in 2009 and 2010. These are sound concepts for advancing organizations toward a “leader-leader model” vs. “leader-follower model.” The entire intent at IBM was to instill a “broader concept of leadership,” so that rather than leadership being seen as a position or the obligation of a select few, all 438,000 IBMers will show up each day proactively identifying what needs to be done and taking responsibility to see that it is done. People in designated leadership positions are charged with creating the conditions in which this can happen.
The author lists several mechanisms such as the 5 Trust Vital Signs and 360-degrees of trust that can be applied.
At the end, the author states “Leaders develop leader, not followers.” Amen!