Military Book Reviews

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)

Lessons from the Navy

As an award-winning global leadership speaker Mark Brouker reveals the tactics transforming company cultures and generating change—from the boardroom to the battlefield. Using experience as a U.S. Navy Captain, Commanding Officer, university professor, and executive coach, his book focuses on the single aspect of leadership 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 the aspiring leader striving to improve. It’s for those who challenge their staff and colleagues to up their game. It’s for those seeking to win trust and dedication at all levels of the organization.

Whether new to leadership or a seasoned leader in the arena; whether leading a corporate team, a military team or a sports team; all readers will benefit from the leadership strategies this book espouses. Here you will learn how to make these strategies your own.

Lessons From the Navy is a well-written, professionally published work highlighting great thought topics and behaviors. I highly encourage every aspiring leader to grasp and implement when ready. It is an easy read for someone 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? Lessons From Work

We rarely begin by asking this question in an introductory meeting with 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. However, 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 value proposition early on and in the conclustion distracts from his message.

An astute reader will recognize that letting others get to know us, too, is important. I argue in a recent leadership article, letting people know us is more so. The busy and young professional, however, may miss the subtle prompts to do so throughout these chapters.

The most important lesson 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 interesting claim from an author with thirty years in the U.S. Navy and eight years interfacing with profit-making entities while building a leadership consulting business.

The author placed a feather in the hat to increase his own authority and generate additional revenue. That is smart business in this information age and knowledge economy. I am taking a similar approach, but with a slightly less direct marketing effort for my services in publishing my first book.

His message, like mine, is too important for distraction by revenue generation in the opening and closing in this book and is initially off-putting.

It’s Not About Your Lessons from the Navy

Concluding the book with his business website and focus on his company, and not the reader and aspiring leader, disappointed. That aside, he assumes the reader fully knows themselves and can use his knowledge to allow others to know them. He alludes to it through story many times.

But the message is so subtle that the junior leader will likely not heed the advice. Because they lack the experience to realize it. The busy senior leader could miss it, too. Especially if having not already learned who they truly are beneath their status in the organization. Or their subject area of expertise, their rank and/or weapons system, or staff experiences during their leadership journey.

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

I encourage learners of leadership unsure if they know themselves today to pause before reading Brouker’s book. If of mind that it’s “who we know” that matters in work and in life, that’s reason for pause, too.

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. I address the missing lesson.

Who KLT’s me? Lessons from the Navy Life

However, if content in knowing who you are at your very core; and what you are all about today; able to list with confidence colleagues of all affiliations from your past who know, like, and trust you; then this book is a great refresher for the strong leader. Brouker provides fond memories for servicemembers through Lessons From the Navy. It applies for all military service branches, and likely memories of leadership experiences in all walks of life. Just be sure you’re ready to distille the subtle message that’s required before trust is achievable, when you’re ready to read his book.

Book review and edit provided by Jarrod H. Smith


Jarrod H. Smith. Got Liberty? We’re bringing a fresh new perspective to service to the Nation. Jarrod brings 15 years of experience in Supply Chain and Logistics with the US Navy Submarine Force, Naval Aviation, and information technology systems and is applying skillsets as an Operational Planner to the most important weapons system: the Armed Forces Family. Fact of the matter is, we all “get out” one day. Intentional, informed planning, preparations, and workups from the earliest days in service are key, at every rank. Residing in the the greater Houston region with his wife and four kids, he’s preparing for Liberty beyond uniformed service in small town America. Their Liberty, and mine, is what he served for.

To Your Liberty, #HeckYeah

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