So why this book? And how is it different from other books focused on leadership?  At a Veterans United meeting last year Rick West posed the question, “Why don’t we collectively write a leadership book?  I don’t think a book written by senior enlisted leaders from every military service has ever been written.  Even though we are now retired we should share our leadership experiences.”

The senior enlisted leadership role that has evolved in the armed services is unique to the military.  Service level Senior Enlisted Leaders came from what other organizations might call the “rank and file.” They are selected by the military’s most senior leadership to represent the workforce and provide a “field reality check” to senior leadership at the top of their respective services.  Representing over 190 years of proven leadership experience, this group of senior enlisted leaders served as the champions for a force of more than 2 million Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen.

The six authors of Breaching the Summit—are Ken Preston, former Sergeant Major of the Army; Mike Barrett, former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps; Rick West, former Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy; Jim Roy, former Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force; Denise Jelinski-Hall, former Senior Enlisted Advisor to the National Guard Bureau; and Skip Bowen, former Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard.

The focus of the book is to help aspiring leaders improve their leadership ability by using the skills, techniques, and experiences gained from military service, post-military corporate careers, and quite frankly hard work, commitment, integrity, and respect for others.

So that is how Breaching the Summit was started.

We’ve Made the Jump!

We are excited about this book!  After military retirement all of us have successfully made the transition to the civilian world but most of us have never tried anything like this.  Writing this book has been a tremendous experience.  It has caused each of us to reflect deeply on our military service and experiences and identify what leadership practices worked… and what did not.  It has been a humbling yet amazingly profound experience.

We would like you to join us on this journey by not only reading the book but reflecting on your own experiences and how the principles outlined in this volume might apply to you and your world of work.  Use “Breaching the Summit” as a journal and mark it up with your own thoughts and experiences….  And most importantly pass it on to those you lead.  This book shows that the leadership principles that we learned in the military are universal and will improve the performance of any individual or team…. military or not who have the honor and obligation of leading others.

Are Great Leaders Born or Made?

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted,or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Collectively our group is very proud to have had careers as enlisted Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen.  Enlisted personnel comprise over 81 percent of the armed forces of the United States.  Enlisted people are generally the “doers” of the force and we are all very happy to have played a role in the greatest military the world has ever seen.

Make no mistake however, in any organization good leadership is needed at every level.  When we joined the military our roles were initially as followers.  It was not long until we all led small groups which then evolved into larger and larger groups.  As “doers” our early focus was largely tactical but as we conducted actual operations,  gained experience and played a role in senior leadership our focus moved to a strategic leadership level.

In all cases we learned from our experience and used that experience to inform our leadership roles as we moved higher and higher in our respective organizations.

So… while some people may have innate personalities that make some leadership tasks easier the fact is that leadership is really learned through experience, from senior mentors and over time.  It is our hope that Breaching the Summit can provide some ideas that will help you in your leadership task.