Dear Mr. President,
Having spent decades in the military serving for a series of terrific leaders, I would offer the simple thought that reading books can make people better leaders. In my time around Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Secretaries of Defense Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, and chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell and Adm. Mike Mullen, I often saw them reading; each was always happy to discuss books. Over the course of my career, I exchanged book recommendations frequently with two of your cabinet secretaries, Gen. James Mattis and Gen. John Kelly — close friends, contemporaries, and dedicated readers. And your good friend and special advisor Stephen Bannon, whom I know from waterfront days in the Navy many years ago, is a voracious reader as well.
May I suggest that, like Bush and Obama, you dive into a few good books? There is certainly no shortage of good works on offer about leadership per se, but I would argue that novels and historical fiction, with an occasional personal history or biography thrown in, can hone those skills the best. This is because by reading about other great leaders — both fictional and historic — we can in effect create a leadership “simulator” that allows us to think through the big decisions we have to make, draw analogies with earlier times, and learn from mistakes and successes in big leadership jobs.Recognizing there are many books and little time, I would offer five suggestions that might appeal.