Leadership in Dangerous Situations: A Handbook for the Armed Forces, Emergency Services, and First Responders is a handbook by several contributors that has been edited by Patrick J. Sweeney, Michael D. Matthews and Paul B. Lester. This work was first published in 2011.
You might be wondering why am I reviewing something that clearly has not been meant to be consumed by normal people. You might be questioning why are you reading this. Let me tell you the story behind my review…So, I accidentally found this book online (let us not discuss my online behavior) and decided to read it. Then I found it so deep and knowledgeable and just so good. Then I went on Goodreads and was enraged by the low ratings and negative reviews given to this book (not that were many krrhm). In fact, this is such a brilliant book. I was going for 4/5 stars but the hell this deserves the full five stars. I just wish I was working in one of these professions so I would be able to understand this book even better.
Imagine toughest professions in the world and making the most difficult situations. Imagine leading people in these professions. Imagine people writing about it.
Okay. So let’s start from the authors of this book. Editors sound like amazing people. Sweeney has a Ph.D and was a Colonel in U.S Army, Michael D. Matthews has also Ph.D and is a professor of engineering psychology, Paul B. Lester is Captain in U.S Army and then we have a bunch of contributors who are just as amazing. Michael Albanese, retired captain, commanding officer in Los Angeles Police Department, Special Weapons and Tactics, Mike Baker who was a Team Leader in Los Angeles Police Department for Special Weapons and Tactics and that was only the first two names and there’s 20 more contributors that to me scream wisdom and leadership. Do you want to read this yet? Answer is yes, of course you do.
Then the content. Okay yes. It’s a little ambitious read and it does come off a bit textbook like. Though that is what it says, that it is a handbook. And yes, the title of the book is Leadership in Dangerous Situations, however I don’t see any reason why not to apply this advice to leadership in normal situations because it’s basically the same, well, minus the crisis. In the end, leadership is leadership.
First section or part of this book deals with enhancing one’s psychological armor. The better physical condition, the better your mental condition. Makes sense right in leadership position? And not just for armed forces. First section is further divided into chapters that discuss what’s courage, how to understand and manage stress, resilience,understanding PTSD, obedience and personal responsibility, ethics in dangerous situations and meaning-making.Second part or section of the book deals with influencing when people are on harm’s way: how to build resilient teams, what is morale and how to build it, leading is extremis, the science of decision, crisis leadership and leading across cultures. In last part, we discuss Leveraging Organisation: creating culture of leading and performing, choosing the elite and leader development for dangerous contexts.
I feel like I broke all the rules by reading this. The book even had an own chapter called ‘Who Should Read This Book’ … and let me tell you how I most definitely was not included in those people. But I adored this book. What I loved about this book were all the tables and key take -away points in between the chapters. One of these tables explored on how to provide assistance to subordinates within days or weeks of them having experienced a threatening event and this information seemed very applicable to say normal office situation of distraught employee. And same goes for the whole book. Resilience, for one, is not just for tactical teams.
I guess as a negative side, a lot of what was in this book did go over my head. Like the final part and few chapters that focused on recruitment and assessment of the people in law enforcement, tactical teams and military special forces. In the end, I think it could be applied to normal hiring situations as well but it requires a bit of effort to filter through the information provided.
How-To Read Leadership in Dangerous Situations: A Handbook for the Armed Forces, Emergency Services, and First Responders
1. Abort the mission, don’t read this. Unless you’re in armed forces. Or unless you’re a little rebel like myself and like reading stuff that’s not quite meant for you but that is still, in some way, incredibly useful :)
2. This reminded me of Jocko Willink’s Extreme Ownership… so you might want to start there and then come back here.
3. Helluva long book and so packed with information, I recommend taking a while with it if you’re up for the challenge. You can buy it on Amazon (click)…Why am I even writing this section. But congrats you made it until the end of a super long review :) Hope you enjoyed.
Picture credits: Book cover, A wall inscribed with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King. (U.S. Air Force photo by L. Cunningham), got the pic from here, a platoon sergeant with the 173rd Airborne Brigade guides his paratroopers (U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. John Hall). Got it from this site.