Friday, February 03, 2006

Kelly Perdew In Charge: A Review of “Take Command – 10 Leadership Principles I Learned In The Military And Put To Work For Donald Trump”

The package arrived at my desk at the end of a long and hectic business day. As I fumbled and clawed to try to open the thing – a white box emblazoned with the orange and blue FedEx logo – I wondered what treasure awaited me. In the midst of a grueling workweek, I had forgotten that Kelly Perdew had promised to send me a copy of his new book so that I could read it and decide if it was worthy of being reviewed in my Blog. I finally managed to open the stubborn package and withdrew a book that was hot off the press: “Take Command - 10 Leadership Principles I Learned In The Military And Put To Work For Donald Trump” by Kelly Perdew, winner of the second season of “The Apprentice.” I love gifts – especially books. It felt like Christmas morning!

With his first book, Kelly joins a growing cadre of men and women who have publicly taken a stand to interpret and to share lessons they learned as military leaders and have endeavored to apply to the challenges of leading in the business world. Last year in this space, I shared excerpts from two excellent books by retired Navy Capt. Mike Abrashoff.

Mark Dahl, former TopGun aviator and instructor, has distilled his experiences into 8 Principles of TopGun Communications. (See Blog archive, January 3, 2005)

In the same vein, Kelly Perdew has organized his thoughts about command and leadership into 10 principles. Each tenet of leadership is given its own chapter for exposition and elucidation. Mr. Perdew has done a masterful job of bringing these simple - and often self-evident – principles to life by weaving together his own experiences in business and in the military along with examples of how each principle was demonstrated during the filming of “The Apprentice.” Most of us know Kelly Perdew because of his success in getting Donald Trump to proclaim at the climax of the show’s second season: “You’re hired!” For Perdew not to capitalize on that fame and notoriety would have been remiss. He manages to include that aspect of his life in the fabric of the book without coming across as self-congratulatory or fawning towards Trump.

Kelly exemplifies many of the book’s principles by the way in which he graciously shares credit with mentors and peers for his many successes. He also wisely incorporates the comments and stories of six other successful business leaders whose leadership styles were refined in the military. These six are Roger Staubach, James Kimsey of AOL, Rear Admiral (Ret.) Marsha “Marty” Evans of The American Red Cross, Bill Coleman of BAE Systems, West Point football legend Pete Dawkins, and Ross Perot. The inclusion of the wisdom of these elder statesmen adds an important element of texture and depth to this book.

Perdew’s 10 Leadership Principles:

Selfless Service

In addition to all of the elements I have mentioned above, the book is peppered with apt and helpful quotations from figures as disparate as Woodrow Wilson and Oprah Winfrey. These citations spice up the pages and reinforce the underlying messages. In this review I am not going to share extensive quotes. There are two reasons for this decision. The first is that I want to encourage you to read the book for yourself. I am not aware of anyone in the military or in the business sphere who would not benefit from reading Kelly’s perspective on the intersection of these two complementary worlds.

The second reason is that reading this book has inspired me to create a 10-part series that will run in this Blog over the next several months. I will take each of the Perdew's ten chapters and principles and dedicate an article to that principle. I will excerpt quotes from the relevant chapter of Kelly’s book, and I will share stories of individuals I know who exemplify these principles in the business world.

Let me share my motivation for undertaking the development of this series. It has to do with the way in which many civilians view military people, and, as a consequence, how many military people come to view themselves. Throughout his book, Kelly points out the many misconceptions that employers in the private sector have about military people:

“It’s a misconception that military people are robotic. If you want to see passion, check out the Army/Navy football game, one of the biggest sports rivalries there is. The esprit-de-corps, the feeling of belonging to something bigger than yourself, feeds passion. Yes, military training teaches you to control your emotions, but that’s so you won’t act like a fool under pressure. Rudyard Kipling describes the military ethos perfectly when he writes, ‘If you can keep you head when all those about you are losing theirs . . . you’ll be a man my son!’ The Army teaches you to be passionate and to master your passion.” (Page 56)

It will be my desire in offering this series, inpsired by "Take Command," to accomplish two forms of encouragement. I hope to encourage prospective employers in the business world, who may have been hesitant in the past to employ former military leaders, to develop a better-informed and more realistic picture of the strengths that these men and women bring to the task of helping to lead a business. I also want to encourage individuals who are making the transition from the military to the business world to be confident that there are opportunities to make a significant contribution in the private sector without needing to lay aside the important lessons and skills that their military training has provided.

Several years ago, over lunch in Boston, Robert “Benny” Goodman issued me a challenge. I was sharing with Benny, a 1980 graduate of West Point and a successful businessman, what I had been learning about the special value that military leaders bring to the business world. These were Benny’s words, which still ring in my ears today:

“You are the first non-military person I have ever met who understands and can articulate our special value proposition. That gives you both an opportunity and a responsibility. As you build your executive search practice, I want to challenge you to become our missionary to the business world!”

The upcoming series, inspired by Kelly Perdew’s fine book, will be part of that ongoing “missionary effort.”

In addition to writing this book, Kelly is spearheading several fascinating projects, each of which is described in detail on his Website:

A visit to this site will allow you to order the book through, and will also give you a panoramic tour of Kelly’s many projects and endeavors.

I encourage you to read "Take Command," a fine addition to the growing collection of worthwhile leadership books. It will be valuable to you as a stand-alone resource, and it will also allow you to better appreciate the upcoming series that will appear in this space.

FYI - I have also added Kelly Perdew's Website to The White Rhino List of Favorite Links: "P" = Perdew, Kelly - "The Apprentice"



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