Book details
Stackpole Books
Page count:
9.34 in x 6.45 in

How to Think Like an Officer

Lessons in Learning and Leadership for Soldiers and Citizens

Reed Bonadonna

About this book

The U.S. military invests heavily in time and resources to train its officers to be leaders in the broadest sense – forming them not only in military art and science (strategy, tactics, command, etc.), but also in humanistic knowledge, character, and values, as well as how to apply this education on a lightning-fast battlefield or within an inertially slow bureaucracy. The military develops its leaders, at the service academies and in ROTC programs, through very specific but also broad and deep education – a way of thinking that also has wide application in the civilian world, not only in various professional fields that need leaders and thinkers, but also among military history enthusiasts who want to understand how officers have thought across time and among American citizens who want – and, really, need – to understand how our military leaders think, how they advise presidents, how they lead on the battlefield.

In a genre-busting book that spans Stackpole’s two longstanding military programs – reference and history – Reed Bonadonna describes how officers think, how they ought to think, how they develop their skills, and how they can improve these skills, as well as how average civilians and citizens can learn from the example of military officers and their program of education. Bonadonna draws from military history, from military arts and science, from literature and science and more, to show how officers develop their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. A military officer is often called upon to be not only fighter and leader, but also negotiator, organizer, planner and preparer, teacher, writer, scientist, and advisor, and needs broad learning.

This is a deeply learned and insightful book, one that cites Lincoln, Grant, Patton, Eisenhower, Marshall, and Churchill as easily as Sun Tzu and Clausewitz, not to mention Homer, Plato, Joseph Conrad, Henry James, Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, George Orwell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Joseph Heller, Phil Klay, and even Jane Austen. The book is descriptive as well as prescriptive and should find eager readers inside the military (where officers take seriously their professional education and their professional reading lists) as well as outside, where many look to the military, to military reading lists, and to military history, to glean lessons for life and work.

About this author

Reed Bonadonna is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute (with a degree in history), Clark University (with a master’s in English), and Boston University (with a Ph.D. in English literature), with continuing education in leadership completed at Harvard’s Kennedy School. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1979 to 1988 as an infantry officer, and his service included deployment for peacekeeping in Lebanon. During twenty years (1988-2008) in the Marine Reserve, he served as field historian in Iraq, instructor, career planner, and company commander. Since then, he has taught at Franklin Pierce College, the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, Norwich University, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (where he was director of ethics and character development), and John Jay College. He serves as a senior fellow for the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. His previous book is Soldiers and Civilization: How the Profession of Arms Thought and Fought the Modern World into Existence (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2017). He lives in Larchmont, New York.