I just finished reading "Joker One: A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership and Brotherhood" by Donovan Campbell. It's excellent.
Campbell was a Marine Lieutenant in his first combat deployment as an infantry leader in Ramadi, Iraq in the spring and summer of 2004. The insurgency was beginning to pick up steam at this time. Campbell and his men patrol the squalid city seething with insurgents and try to do what good they can. He realizes, though, that rather than of heroics the best he can do is achieve his missions and bring his men back alive. But even that objective proves elusive -- his Company ends up taking a casualty rate higher than any Marine or Army unit since Vietnam.
The book chronicles not only the Marines' fight against Ramadi insurgents in captivating detail (I could smell the smoke, sweat and grit) but also Campbell's journey from fresh lieutenant to combat leader. There are powerful and timeless leadership lessons in here. Among my favorite passages, below.
On the importance of doing small, difficult things
right again and again:
I could not have been more wrong. Being a good leader and being a hero, I was beginning realize, were not at all the same thing. For the young lieutenant, much more difficult than thirty second acts of courage, and ultimately much more telling, are the small, quiet, almost unnoticeable acts of service that he must perform day in and day out if he wants to appropriately ensure the welfare of his men."
On the importance of never asking your men to do something you yourself won't do:
And, ultimately, on how the most important emotion of a leader is love:
This is not a political book. Campbell does not express his opinions about the wisdom of invading Iraq. He writes simply as a soldier on a mission who does the best he can to achieve the objective and take care of his men. The action often is riveting, and the leadership lessons timeless.
Click here to visit the "Joker-One" official website.