Book Review: No Yelling

This book review was originally posted to The Leadership Epidemic blog. Thanks to John McKenna for the review.

I have a confession to make. When Rob asked if I was interested in reviewing Wally Adamchik’s new book on leadership, I agreed with a quick e-mail and pressed on with my busy schedule.

I have another confession. Sometimes I judge a book by its cover. So, last week when a copy of No Yelling: The Nine Secrets of Marine Corps Leadership You Must Know to Win in Business arrived in the mail, my first thought was “No Yelling? Marine Corps leadership secrets and no yelling? Note to self, the next time, ask for the name of the book before you agree to write a review.”

I reviewed the table of contents: Integrity, Technical Competence, Self-Awareness … Commander’s intent, Culture and Values, but nothing about yelling, so far so good. I gave the introduction a quick read and scanned the first two chapters, no yelling here. I went online and looked at the Fire Starter website, still, nothing about yelling.

Somewhere in my search for some yelling, it came to me, this is a seminar book. You know, the ones that speakers sell at the back of the room, the ones that capture the seminar on paper so you can relive the experience.

As I skimmed my way through the rest of the book, I found myself building a picture in my mind, a picture of Wally, in a suit, wearing an OD green campaign hat, yelling, “Integrity! Trust! Consistency! Non-Negotiable! Let’s do an exercise! No you maggots, not that kind of exercise! That’s not leadership! Now all of you, drop down and give me 20! HooRa! Next chapter!”

Oh! Admit it! Sometimes, your imagination gets the best of you. Sometimes, just like me, you stereotype and judge a book by its cover.

So, if you judge this book by its cover, you could be forgiven if, “HooRa! Next Chapter!” was your first impression of a former Marine’s take on leadership. Also, like me, you would be wrong.

After realizing what I was doing and that I might be missing something, I went back and read each chapter, and spent some time contemplating the value of each of Wally’s Nine Marine Corps “Secrets” and thought how they might applied to my Non-Marine Corps life.

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Curiously, I finished with a different opinion.

Don’t get me wrong, Wally’s book is not perfect, in many ways it reads like a seminar book. Also, not being a big fan of military sea-stories, I found the numerous Marine examples a bit tiresome; sometimes I just skimmed the examples. A strong editor could do wonders with this material; simply tightening the examples would easily strengthen Wally’s message.

However, that being said, No Yelling does a good job of providing the reader with food-for-thought that will prove far more valuable then the techniques or methodologies others sell as leadership.

As the title suggests, Wally Adamchik takes nine building blocks, fundamental leadership competencies, and defines them in terms of his experience as a Marine Corps Officer and businessman. He further defines these competencies, these values, through the shared experiences of Marine leaders serving on active duty and working in the business arena.

Herein lies the value of No Yelling; Wally is trying to help you grow. He isn’t trying to sell you a set of leadership techniques that make you a better leader. He isn’t yelling at you trying to get you to buy into a simplistic, leadership methodology. Wally isn’t trying to build new conventional wisdom. Rather, he is asking you to take a moment to look inside, to think about these nine secrets and to and see if these values add to the foundation that supports you as a leader.

While looking inside is more difficult activity than copying a technique or methodology, it is far more rewarding in terms of building lasting leadership success and isn’t that what leadership books are supposed to do.

If you like sea-stories, No Yelling is a must-have item for your leadership library. If you don’t know what a sea-story is, you may find No Yelling a bit of a challenge but it is well worth the effort. Either way, check it out.