Book Review: “A Higher Standard”
“A Higher Standard” by General Ann Dunwoody, US Army, Ret. with Tomago Collins
Foreword by Sheryl Sandberg
$25.99 / $32.50 Canada
You’d like to think of your business as a well-oiled machine.
Your team members march together to get their work done. They execute tasks efficiently and every product your clients get is made with military-like precision.
You’d like to think of your business like that, but there’s room for improvement – and it starts with you. In the new book “A Higher Standard” by General Ann Dunwoody, US Army, Ret. (with Tomago Collins), you’ll learn leadership tips from on the battlefield, and off.
When Second Lieutenant Ann Dunwoody reported for duty at Fort Sill in June, 1976, she’d decided that her stint in the military would be a two-year thing on the way to a career in teaching or coaching. As a “sports omnivore,” she was physically fit for the job and, because she was an Army brat, she understood what her immediate future would be like. First, the Army, she thought. Then she’d continue with the rest of her life.
Thirty two years later, after she’d enjoyed success in the long military career she didn’t initially foresee, President George W. Bush recommended Dunwoody as the country’s first female four-star general.
In the beginning as a 2LT, Dunwoody learned lessons of leadership: from her first platoon sergeant, she learned the benefits of inclusion and that one should “never walk by a mistake.” If something – anything – is wrong in a product or method, leaving it only sets “a new, lower standard.”
A high standard, she says, is “the difference between the leaders who excel and the leaders who fail.” The Army teaches soldiers to “meet the standard… but that’s simply a starting point.” To get the best from people, “train them to succeed.”
Know your weaknesses, and be willing to ask for help. Pay attention to who advocates for you, who detracts from you, and who runs behind your back. Use diversity to your advantage, but encourage “female-only sessions.” And finally, although it’s sometimes difficult, learn to “recognize when it is time to step aside.”
If you picked up “A Higher Standard” and paged through it quickly, you could certainly be forgiven for thinking that it’s a biography – and you’d be close. Author and retired General Ann Dunwoody (with Tomago Collins) shares her life and her accomplishments with readers but if you look closer, you’ll find a wealth of advice perfectly fit for business.
That’s a unique method with which to impart leadership lessons, and I rather liked it: Dunwoody’s story is empowering and entertaining, and instructive to civilians unfamiliar with Army life, on one hand; on the other, we become privy to the challenges of military leadership, which puts into perspective much of her subtle advice. I also appreciated her balance, in which issues and problems are not glossed-over.
There’s enough biography here to satisfy readers of the genre, and anyone aspiring for leadership will find that as well, in quiet abundance. If those are important things to you, or if you’re curious about the life of a history-maker, then put “A Higher Standard” at your service.