Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead

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Personal reflection

The biggest takeaway for me from this book was a huge respect for Mattis specifically and the army in general. I am a civilian from a civilian family, not knowing anyone who experienced the front lines. It is easy to come across articles critical of the army, this is the first book I have read from the other perspective. I came away with a big thankfulness for men and women being willing to risk their lives so I don’t have to.

Mattis quotes a passage from Rudyard Kipling about a peace-seeking man (the lama) and an old solider:

‘It is not a good fancy,’ said the lama. ‘What profit to kill men?'

'Very little - as I know [the old soldier replied,]; but if evil men were not now and then slain it would not be a good world for weaponless dreamers.‘

Champion people based on attitude

Champion people Mattis notes that skills can be trained and attained. Attitude cannot. Therefore, the Marine philosophy is to recruit for attitude. When choosing who to promote, he was taught to value initiative and aggressiveness.

Communicate your intent clearly

Delegate decision-making as much as possible Mattis made sure for the “Commander’s intent” to be known clearly. Do this in order to … Rather than putting down strict instructions, communicating the intent frees people up to seize opportunities, adapt and improvise.

Delegate decision-making as much as possible

You must unleash initiative rather than suffocate it.

Make your intent clear. Then give people as much space as possible to carry that out. Otherwise, in extreme situations, you face paralyzing chaos. In mundane situation you are just inefficient.

When your subordinates act according to your intent, support them. To expect success every time is wishful thinking but people acting should be supported.

When things go wrong, a leader must stand by those who made the decision under extreme pressure and with incomplete information.