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January 9, 2001

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Duty First

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 9:40 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Duty First: West Point and the Making of American Leaders by Ed Ruggero, Harper Collins Publishers, 320 Pages, $27.50 Hardcover, January 2001
I have met some very interesting people in this career. I have had dinners with Ken Blanchard and listened to his many wonderful stories. I have had a few beers with Tom Peters and talked about how we can and will change the world. But I think the most interesting person I have ever met was ex-US Army Chief of Staff General Gordon R. Sullivan. Years ago, General Sullivan had written a book called: Hope is Not a Method. To promote the book, his publisher brought six other booksellers and me to the Gettysburg battlefield to learn about leadership using the three-day battle as a training exercise. General Sullivan explained that the downsizing of the US Army after the Gulf War was the largest reengineering project ever. As a guy who spent some years in the military, I found his thoughts about changing the Army after the Gulf war interesting, but I just didnt think it would be possible for the military to change centuries of top down management style. (What did you learn from your visit there and how does that pertain to this book youre about to talk about?). Accompanying the general was the historian for the Army stationed at West Point. (What does this historian have to do with this review? I think you are using it to segue into the West Point book, but Im not sure I get it. Can you elaborate on the connection between your experience with G. Sullivan, and why this new book is important?) Duty First is a book that follows the men and women of the class of 2002 during their first year at West Point Military Academy. I really enjoyed meeting the young men and women that populate this book, in addition to the books value as a business text. Ruggero shows how the USMA has changed its leadership training from screaming-upper-classman-demeaning-the-incoming-freshman approach to a more reasoned leadership learning program. USMA claims to be Americas premier leadership school and this book breaks down how they are going about changing the old to the new. These changes are not done without some grumbling from past classes, of course, and Ruggero does a good job for showing the kind of resistance military innovators face. If you are stuck in a large organization that seems impossible to change, this is the book for you to read. If you are interested in knowing some other good books about USMA, let me know and Ill send you a list.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.