Call Sign Chaos Learning To Lead by Jim Mattis and Bing West discusses how Mattis’s career in the Marine Corps prepared him for his appointment to Secretary of Defense under President Donald Trump.
As a Marine, Mattis has served in various positions from tactical to strategic leadership. Additionally, Mattis’s deep devotion to the United States spurred him to further civilian service after his service in the Marine Corps.
Call Sign Chaos shows the audience how devoted service to the country should take precedence over any political ideology, position, or promise of grandeur.
First, the review will show some general details of the book, a summary, what I liked, and what I disliked about the book.
Book Length: 220 Pages
Audiobook runtime: 12 hours 2 minutes (Audible)
Published by: Random House
Publication: September 03, 2019
Mattis divides the book into three parts: Direct Leadership, Executive Leadership, and Strategic Leadership. I would argue that his fourth section includes his lengthy appendices as well.
Part 1: Direct Leadership
An abbreviated story about how Mattis joined the Marines begins this section. Mattis dedicates the majority of it to his experience as a Battalion Commander during The Gulf War. Additionally, humility and reverence described his writing as he described his lessons learned while in command.
Additionally, Mattis drives home the importance of reading literature to broaden your mind for your career. At one point, Mattis mentioned how our experiences are not enough to sustain us. We need to glean from the lives of those who traversed similar terrain to learn from their perspectives.
Part 2: Executive Leadership
Here, Mattis discusses the complexity of Iraq and his role in Fallujah. Mattis’s central theme throughout this section was where he disagreed with civilian leadership but executed orders anyway.
He did this in Iraq frequently. Mattis justifies his positions in this section to elaborate on the risks versus rewards with decisions from the White House. Regardless of personal feelings, Mattis continued to follow his civilian leadership, and he carried out his orders to the best of his ability.
Part 3: Strategic Leadership
The final section is the shortest. Mattis provides his commentary about General Stanley McCrystal’s ousting of his command post in Iraq and the effects that followed. Mostly, Mattis discussed how he needed to emphasize empathy to execute their missions properly.
He talked about Afghanistan and his experience with his staff. Moreover, while in Central Command, Mattis highlights the challenges he faced. He provides extensive commentary on the state of the Middle East.
What I Liked
First, I enjoyed Mattis’s bluntness in his book. Call Sign Chaos was a unique book because I felt like Mattis spoke directly to his audience, critiques and all. His arguments were sound. He reasoned with the reader, and he walked the audience through his line of thinking. His themes were complex to understand, but he highlighted his predicaments and decisions well.
Second, his humility was refreshing in this book. Mattis approached this book with understanding and did a great job at portraying empathy to his audience. If I were to describe this book in one word, it would be ‘professional.’
There aren’t too many people like Mattis. His dedication to civilian leadership is astounding, considering his military experience. Further, the book also showed a more humble side of Mattis that the press doesn’t always cover.
Also, Mattis includes his letters to high-ranking officials to government officials, including his resignation letter to President Donald Trump. Mattis was primarily neutral on his stance for leaving but remarked how he and President Trump disagreed on many policies.
What I Didn’t Like
This book is long. Moreover, there are many historical commentaries woven into each chapter that distract from the book’s overall message. Although I appreciated Mattis’s knowledge about ancient Greece and other civilizations, I didn’t believe it added enough value to the book. Plus, to the average reader, it may make people lose interest. I know I did.
Government is a confusing organization. He uses many acronyms in the book that make most readers have to refer back to their meanings. Plus, Mattis was in charge of so many organizations that it was confusing to follow his positions and transitions.
Overall, I enjoyed Call Sign Chaos. It helped me understand the importance of literature and how we must lean on each other’s experiences to broaden our minds.
Further, the book had an exciting feel that made me want to bing-listen to it all at once. Despite the confusing parts, I felt like Mattis was sincere in his writing. Further, he presented his side of his story to his audience in an organized manner, and I can say with certainty that he did so with great skill.
I give this book a solid 7/10. Read this book if you’re interested in military leadership.
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Have you read this book? Let me know what you think in the comments below. Thanks for reading!