Best Books for New Lieutenants

Every platoon leader, junior officer, and Army leader for that matter ought to have an annual reading list. Most Army officers will begin their careers as new lieutenants and platoon leaders. A platoon leader is an often overwhelming position for a new lieutenant, but thousands have done it previously. All generals were once new lieutenants and many have shared their wisdom through memoirs and other books that make excellent reading for new platoon leaders.

So you may be asking yourself what books should a new lieutenant read? Or maybe more specifically asking for a reading list for new platoon leaders? Below you will find our 2021 reading list for new lieutenants, although feel free to read them in any future year as well 😉

All of these books were hand selected because they are the best books for a new lieutenant in 2021. Whether it is your senior year and you are getting ready to graduate, or you are looking to pack an extra book or two for BOLC, this is the list for you!

 Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead

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Call Sign Chaos is the account of Jim Mattis’ storied career, from wide-ranging leadership roles in three wars to ultimately commanding a quarter of a million troops across the Middle East. Along the way, Mattis recounts his foundational experiences as a leader, extracting the lessons he has learned about the nature of warfighting and peacemaking, the importance of allies, and the strategic dilemmas – and short-sighted thinking – now facing our nation. He makes it clear why America must return to a strategic footing so as not to continue winning battles but fighting inconclusive wars. 

BLUF for New Lieutenants: Read this book to understand the past twenty years of military conflict and the importance of knowing why you are fighting and whom your allies are.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Start with Why shows that the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way – and it’s the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with why.

BLUF for New Lieutenants: Read this book to learn the importance of and how to provide purpose to your Soldiers.

Platoon Leader: A Memoir of Command in Combat

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A remarkable memoir of small-unit leadership and the coming of age of a young soldier in combat in Vietnam. 

“Using a lean style and a sense of pacing drawn from the tautest of novels, McDonough has produced a gripping account of his first command, a U.S. platoon taking part in the ‘strategic hamlet’ program…. Rather than present a potpourri of combat yarns…McDonough has focused a seasoned storyteller’s eye on the details, people, and incidents that best communicate a visceral feel of command under fire…. For the author’s honesty and literary craftsmanship, Platoon Leader seems destined to be read for a long time by second lieutenants trying to prepare for the future, veterans trying to remember the past, and civilians trying to understand what the profession of arms is all about.” 

BLUF for New Lieutenants: Read this book to understand the responsibility thrust upon the shoulders of combat platoon leaders.

Top of the Hill: Dabo Swinney and Clemson’s Rise to College Football Greatness Top of the Hill: Dabo Swinney and Clemson's Rise to ...

When Dabo Swinney officially took over Clemson football for the 2009 season, it was considered a good program that couldn’t quite recapture the greatness of the Danny Ford era. Dabo had spent his entire life as an underdog, but his defiant grit pushed him past personal hardships and professional adversity. His simple formula—faith, family, forgiveness, fortitude, and fun—pushed the Clemson football program past its potential and to the next level, taking the Tigers to 10 bowl games and four ACC championships, earning three College Football Playoff appearances, and most importantly, capturing the 2016 national championship. In Top of the Hill: Dabo Swinney and Clemson’s Rise to College Football Greatness, Greenville News sports columnist and Clemson insider Manie Robinson traces Dabo’s coaching ascension along Clemson football’s return to glory, going behind the scenes of one of the powerhouse programs in the country.

BLUF for New Lieutenants: Read this book to understand how to improve an organization’s culture and the importance of a transformative leader.

If you’re looking for a NCO professional reading list for 2021, check out this!

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