Guidelines for the Leader and the Commander Cover

Guidelines for the Leader and the Commander

Bruce C. Clarke

StackPole Books, Lanham, Maryland, 2021, 136 pages

Book Review published on: October 1, 2021

The late Gen. Bruce C. Clarke was a veteran of the two world wars and the Korean War. Serving from private to general, rounding out his career as the U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Army Pacific commander, he is clearly an accomplished leader who institutionally impacted the Army. As a parting gift to military professionals he published Guidelines for the Leader and the Commander, originally in 1963. This classic pocket book reference assimilates noteworthy timeless advice from his forty years of experience. Although today’s readers will find distractions from dated terms, references, writing style and an awkward text, there are threads of wisdom. The book consists of twenty nearly standalone chapters broken into four parts: “Leadership and Command,” “Training,” “Operations and Administration,” and “a Final Word.” Each chapter is well organized and written with the precision of a practical guide, complete with supporting checklist.

In “Leadership and Command,” Clarke provides refined thoughts for command responsibilities that any leader preparing for a command will find useful. His twenty questions serve as a litmus check of likely requirements for success. He expounds into areas of expectations for junior officers, soldier morale, leadership development, prestige of the NCO Corps, and ethics. His address to the 1962-63 Command and General Staff College is a great read as he discusses leadership, commandership, generalship, and followership. He uses examples of changing expectations that officers experience in a typical progression through their careers.

Part 2, “Training,” illustrates many principles in use today. It is truly an à la carte section with something for everyone, but not everything translates into today’s environment or to all units. Focusing on the fundamentals, decentralized authority, individual versus unit training, and how to motivate soldiers are still relevant areas. Although we still need modern references for a “go” in today’s training management, leaders looking for sound anchors to reinforce staples in Army training culture will find support in this reference.

Parts 1 and 2 are the main effort of this pocket reference, with 80 percent of the content. Although much shorter, part 3, “Operations and Administration,” reinforces essential elements of orders, not wasting soldiers’ time, the importance of staying informed, and benefits of a proactive mindset. Worded much differently, one will see linkage to modern mission command references and an emphasis to match a unit’s priorities to higher commanders’ intent.

The book wraps up with part 4, “A Final Word,” and although brief, it is well written. Clarke’s concept of “Little Pulses” and projecting a command image is based on sound logic that many see implemented in successful organizations. His foresight of the benefit, side effects and framing of challenges for automatic data processing in chapter seventeen is impressive, especially if a reader applies his or her questions to modern mission command platforms or enterprise resource planning systems.

All in all, this is a solid secondary reference for stewards of leadership who are well read in current doctrine. With maturity to look past dated references or terminology a reader will find timeless advice from a battle-hardened military leader. This classic focuses a leader on essential fundamentals and timeless wisdom with a perspective that may otherwise get overlooked.

Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Joseph C. Zabaldano, U.S. Army, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas