Serve to Lead - historical curio or time for a rewrite...?

I recently offered to lend a limp civvy colleague a copy of Serve to Lead because she was spouting a load of crap about leadership and man management. I said that there were plenty of different perspectives and one of these was a military one. Hence the offer to loan the book.

On closer inspection it's a historical curio. Whilst I am unaware if the book has been updated and I am therefore looking at a dated copy, I suspect that RMAS still farms out the version I have, with nothing more recent than 1957 in it?

If this is the case, then it is hardly up to date with the British Military Experience is it? I appreciate that it should be a doctrine-free document but we're approaching a point where WW2 is closer in history to, say, the First Boer War than present day. Surely a rewrite is in order to do justice to the substantial and highly useful war and peacefighting that we have done in recent decades?

There's a lot of stuff in the book that reads as rather bluff hyperbole by modern standards. Whilst I don't object to it I suspect that the reader of:

'There are many forms of leadership, Political parties have their leaders; every big organisation in industry or commerce, all have their leaders; and at the other end of the scale so do dance bands, and so do gangs of thieves and smugglers.'

...may now find themselves laughing at the writer (CIGS 1953) rather than with him.

When I was at RMAS and only allowed two books in the first 5 weeks I was a captive audience to S2L (and 18 Platoon) Surely a rewrite is in order for a book RMAS should be proud of?

There's another deception in S2L - it hints that some speakers of gravity and import come to talk to RMAS. Not in my day - we got a Kate Adie video and some bewildering Yank General called Kermit or something.

I think your suggestion is a hoofing idea...but what exists that could replace it? I reckon there'd be objections from those who believe that 1953 was sometime yesterday, in relative terms.

Or do you foresee a bespoke publication?

I know, how about Jacko's oeuvre? :)
Proximo said:

I think your suggestion is a hoofing idea...but what exists that could replace it? I reckon there'd be objections from those who believe that 1953 was sometime yesterday, in relative terms.

Or do you foresee a bespoke publication?

I know, how about Jacko's oeuvre? :)
Not suggesting a replacement but perhaps a rewrite. How useful and inspiring are Marshal Ney and Euripides these days?
The copy of Serve To Lead that I was issued at the Factory in 2004 is an updated version, although I'm away from home at the moment and I can't remember what year it was re-printed, but 2000 springs to mind.

Indeed, in the copy I have, it's actually mentioned in the preface that the re-write was issued because some of the views on leadership in the previous version are (apparently) a little dated, some have been proved wrong and there's some new thinking which it was felt should be captured.

I don't know what was taken out, but there are some great examples of leadership from the Falklands, Gulf War 1, Bosnia, and of course, Gen Jackson's altercation with Gen Clarke in Kosovo.

I'd quite like to read a copy of the original Serve To Lead, just for comparison, and look forward to any future versions with examples from TELIC and HERRICK captured. Does anyone know where it’s available to buy?
Agreed - it's only recently been updated. Would have to check the exact date...

I have both versions, there are changes, however i have not taken the time to work out what has been removed, if anything. I do think that the recent version is relevent, mind you the original was good too.
I've got it as a pdf. It doesn't have a restricted marking so if you want a copy, pm me.
Got a new copy here. The most recent example of leadership is from Kosovo is 2001.
VM, the sentence you use as an example is actually pretty much robust to the tests of time. As a management consultant, I often come across "leadership" consultants who try to squeeze a company or government department into a template based on a loose understanding of military leadership, transposed to a civilian context. Naturally they do it without applying "weighting" to the qualities, ignore the situations (which is tantamount to sticking two finger up to Adair and saying "bog off, I've got your Venn diagram and I don't fecking care!") and the people.

Leaders come to the fore in any organisation or situation. However they are not all Alexanders, Henry Fords, Black Beard the Pirate or Florence Nightingale. Leadership is a)relative and b)situational. First amongst equals is one scenario, just as is super-hierarchies, technocracy or one size does not fit all.

Personally I feel that "Serve to Lead" is absolutely correct for the Army. It offers ideas and examples for other spheres - providing the adopters are capable of adapting and orientating the concepts to their own world.
On a side note, i'd just like to add that Henry Ford was a nazi. He recieved something called the Bronze Eagle (or similar), the highest honour the Third Reich installed upon anyone!

Just thought i'd throw that in there, sorry Cuddles!
Well if there were a manual for diverting threads called "Post to Confuse" we would probably need only you for an example. Goering was a Nazi too but that does not prevent him from being a leader, exhibiting the diseases of leadership and human frailties too FFS.
"Etiquette and customs" (no sniggering at the back) of the RAF was always a good read at Cranwell. It too suffered from being drafted in the reign of Queen Victoria.
Maybe its time for a triservice update to set standards across the board - That said given our Political masters lack of morals, it could be shared with our MPs, so all public servants will know it is about service and not lining ones own pockets.
I suspect Etiquette and Customs was written during the 1930s as more and more grammar school entrants and Halton boys were commissioned!
I didn't mean to throw the thread of course! I was astounded when i found that fact out myself, and thus wanted to share it! Apologies...please continue!


I think I still have my copy of 'Serve to Lead' somewhere... and it remains pristine and entirely unopened. I drew all my lessons in leadership from Sven Hassel. The NCOs in those penal battalions knew a thing or two about motivating the chaps.
I learned a lot about leadership and being a junior officer from reading Henry Williamson's "Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight" - particularly "Love and the Loveless" which covered the Passchendaele campaign. I was so pleased to discover I wasn't the only person who wanted a commission to have "doubts" about my vocation. It also helped that when I got to RMAS there were a lot of highly confident bluffing cnuts, some not fit to lead a hand at bridge!

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