Lessons from the Navy

Lessons from the Navy: How to Earn Trust, Lead Teams, and Achieve Organizational Excellence, by Mark E. Brouker, Captain, United States Navy, Retired (Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc., 2020, 221 pages)

Drawing from his experience as an award-winning global leadership speaker, US Navy Captain, Commanding Officer, university professor, and executive coach, Mark Brouker reveals the leadership tactics that have transformed company cultures and generated success—from the boardroom to the battlefield—by focusing on the single pillar of leadership that is most often overlooked: trust.

Through step-by-step guidance, easy-to-use leadership techniques, and the lessons of his military experience, he empowers readers to build trust with their subordinates—enabling them to boost morale, enhance productivity, and strive for success. Lessons from the Navy: How to Earn Trust, Lead Teams, and Achieve Organizational Excellence is for leaders who want to do better, who want their staff and colleagues to do better, and who want to win the trust and dedication of the people at all levels of their organization. Whether new to the leadership arena or a seasoned leader with years of experience in the arena, whether leading a corporate team, a military team or a sports team, all readers of this work will benefit from the leadership strategies it espouses. Here you will learn how to make these strategies your own.

Lessons From the Navy is a well-written, professionally published work highlighting some great thought topics and behaviors I highly encourage every aspiring leader to grasp and implement. It is a good, easy read for someone who is ready to consume the content, but there is an especially important realization and understanding to have before spending time in this book.

Who Are You?

We rarely begin with this question upon first meeting a stranger, a new colleague (e.g., subordinate or peer), or a boss. Much more common is “what do you do?” in work or employment. Constantly berated with, “take care of your people,” the advice comes in the organization’s context. The book focuses on the institution’s staff as employees. Broker’s task with this book is “showing care and compassion to earn trust”. He succeeds in that task through many Navy experiences, but the book falls short in equipping aspiring leaders and readers to earn their people’s trust through compassion and care. It does not appear that it was the primary reason for the book. The title, subtitle, and marketing of his business and individual value proposition both early in the writing and again late, crowds out his message to the audience.

An astute reader will recognize that letting others get to know us too is important and I argue in a leadership article I wrote more so. The busy and young professional, however, may miss the subtle prompts to do so throughout these chapters. It is not addressed explicitly, and that is the major lesson implicitly given, but explicitly neglected in his writing.

Lessons from the Navy

This book’s title implies that lessons from a bureaucratic, not-for-profit, all-consuming organization that is in place to break things, kill people, and impose the United States Governments’ will, are useful for capitalists, not-for-profits, and bureaucratic leaders alike. It is an arrogant claim from an author with thirty years in the US Navy and eight years interfacing with profit-making entities while building a leadership consulting business. As a hard copy book with a list price of $24.95, the book reads more like a sales copy than leadership guidance. That is my analysis of what this book is. The author also got a publishing feather in the hat to increase his own authority and generate additional revenue, which is a smart business in this information age and knowledge economy. I am doing something similar but taking a slightly less direct marketing approach for my services in publishing my first book. The message is too important to be distracted with self-interested revenue generation in the opening and the ending like in this book, however and is off-putting initially.

Concluding the last chapter with his business website and focus on his company, not the reader and aspiring leader, was a disappointment. That aside, he assumes the reader fully knows themselves and can use his knowledge to let others know them. He alluded to it in story many times but is so subtle that I will assume the junior leader will not heed the advice, simply because they lack the experience to realize it. The busy senior leader may miss it too, if having not already learned who they truly are beneath the status in the organization, their subject area of expertise, rank and/or weapons system, or staff expertise during their leadership journey.

Who knows me? Who likes me? Who trusts me?

I encourage students of leadership who are not sure if they know themselves today or are of the opinion that it is “who we know” that matters in work and in life, to pause before reading Brouker’s book. If the aspiring leader and reader cannot answer with certainty, “Who knows me? Who likes me? Who trusts me?” then, before diving into this work, head over to the DOD Reads leadership section and read my leadership article “Who Trusts You?”. I address the missing lesson. However, if you are content in knowing who you are at your very core and what you are all about today, being fully able to list with confidence colleagues of all affiliations from your past who know, like, and trust you, then this is a great refresher for the strong leader. Brouker provides fond memories for service members through Lessons From the Navy, military service, and likely memories of leadership experiences in all walks of life.

Book review provided by Jarrod H. Smith


CDR Jarrod H. Smith enjoys creative problem-solving. Imagination, knowledge, and experience led him to discover macroeconomics, supply chain, and renewable power/energy resiliency – all being passionate entrepreneurial pursuits. He encourages military families and their hero to intentionally plan for life beyond military service using an informed, strategic guide, starting NOW: https://www.jarrodhsmith.com Social Media: search #IKE and #HeckYeah

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