The US Naval Institute Cover

The U.S. Naval Institute on Naval Command

Edited by Thomas J. Cutler

Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 2015, 194 pages

Book Review published on: January 6, 2017

With the vast number of books on leadership, readers could wonder what subject a new book could cover that others have not discussed. Thomas Cutler succeeds by looking at a related but entirely different topic—command. Cutler, the director of professional publishing at the U.S. Naval Institute, is the author of numerous articles and books, including several editions of the Blue Jackets Manual. In The U.S. Naval Institute on Naval Command, he tackles the complex but often neglected subject of command through an anthology of articles selected from different periods, each providing a unique perspective on command.

Naval Command is part of the U.S. Naval Institute’s series of “wheel books.” Wheel books are an old naval tradition of having books that provide “supplemental information, pragmatic advice, and cogent analysis on topics important to all naval professionals.” Cutler’s wheel book succeeds admirably in this regard by providing commanders an easy resource of perspectives on the challenges of command. The articles selected in Naval Command are from the Naval Institute’s vast archives and provide ideas, hard-learned advice, and practical suggestions for any individual whether serving as a commander or as a member of a staff.

Defining leadership as “leading individuals” and command as “leading leaders,” the stories and articles contained in Naval Command focus on the particular burdens and responsibilities of command at sea. Although Navy culture may be different, the lessons and advice provided are universal in their applicability, and readers from any service will immediately recognize the utility to their own situations.

The articles span many decades and offer insights that will be of interest to a wide audience. Whether shedding light on the balance between authority and responsibility, the different challenges facing wartime and peacetime commanders, or reflecting on the command decisions made during the pivotal battles of the Pacific war, each article’s author provides a wealth of advice and lessons learned to military personnel at any level. These lessons are timeless. For example, in Cdr. Robert E. Mumford’s article “Get Off My Back, Sir,” the author addresses the perceived encroachment of micromanagement in the Navy. Although written in 1977, his concerns and suggestions will resonate and be valuable to commanders today.

The author wanted this book to be useful, and he succeeds in this goal. Although each contributor has a unique writing style, the articles in the book are very readable. Since each chapter is a separate article, readers will find they can read and reflect on the advice in a short time each day. I highly recommend the book to all leaders, especially those going into command, for its thought-provoking lessons and practical advice.

Book Review written by: Robert J. Reilly, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas