Moderns Perched on the Shoulders of Ancients

(A guest post is by Chris R Stricklin, Chief of Staff at NATO Air Training Command – Afghanistan)




We, the Moderns, are like dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants, the Ancients, and thus we are able to see more and farther than the latter.

…not at all because of our caliber of our vision or the magnitude of our bodies but because we are propelled upward by the magnitude of the giants who came before us.

Interpretation of:

Bernard of Chartres

Twelfth-century French Neo-Platonist philosopher & scholar

“On the Shoulders of Giants” is a perfect metaphor for leadership. With it comes deep meaning and dreams of endless possibilities. It is truly an enduring leadership phrase with different connotations for every student of leadership. 

In business, as in life, one limited resource is the most valuable and definitively limited above all others…Time! How you allocate your time determines what is most important in your life. Whether a few stolen moments with your spouse, a quick game with your children or an hour of overtime at your office, our time allocation reveals what is truly a priority in our world. For that, I say thank you now. You have chosen to spend 15 minutes with this article. Although only 1% of your day, sharing this time together is an honor.



Now that we are all thinking about how frugal we should be with our time, let’s work together to make a more efficient use of our leadership development efforts. Think about the theme presented by Bernard of Chartres above. The fact it may be attributed to him, vice the common attribution to a 1676 Sir Isaac Newton writing, should tell you even Sir Isaac was a student of the giants who went before him…and clearly a student of Bernard of Chartres.

You are incontestably a devout student of leadership, or you would not allocate your vital time resource to Lead With Giants. Hopefully, by now you have discovered the same epiphany as I, that the resource of sharing experience, opinions and techniques across different career fields and genres is a priceless reservoir of talent.

In addition to our TweetChats and Blogs, there is an almost limitless supply of leadership books falling like snowflakes onto the shelves of bookstores. The problem, again, is time. Pulling the “Golden Nuggets” buried in the center of a 300-page book is tough. Let’s continue to evolve our team and do this together. Please join the Lead With Giants Team on the LinkedIn group and reveal your favorite leadership book. For me, I have 5 books always have in my office and would love to discuss why with you. Surely you have a couple of treasured resources which shaped your style as well. As a team, we can learn more than ever possible individually. Let’s team up and develop a new Leadership Reading List, preferably of lesser-known leadership resources than the Best Seller list. Let’s share with each other the Golden Gems, books hitting other genres but carrying amazing leadership lessons like Daniel Pinks’ DRIVE or Jim Camp’s NO. My only request is for selflessness in this endeavor… please do not push a product in which you have a vested interest or it will detract from honest feedback, interaction and learning points. Thanks for sharing your leadership experience. 

CALL TO ACTION: Please share your favorite books in your comment here and feel free to add them to our list here


Written by

Chris R. Stricklin is a combat-proven leader, mentor and coach integrating the fields of dynamic followership, negotiations, leadership, positive change, public relations, public speaking and complex organizational change. His unique experience as a U.S.A.F. Thunderbird coupled with Pentagon-level management of critical Air Force resources valued at $840B, multiple N.A.T.O. assignments, White House and DARPA fellowships, and command-experience in the United States Air Force allow his unique synthesis of speaking, following, leading, management, negotiations, continuous improvement and positive change.

26 Responses to "Moderns Perched on the Shoulders of Ancients"

  1. Dan Forbes says:

    Chris, I have many favorite Leadership books but one has had the most impact on me, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. I remember leading a group of men at my church through this book with our once a week meetings. That was over 30 years ago, and I still practice daily the lessons I learned.

    A brand new book that I just devoured is Dr. Kathryn Cramer’s “Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do.” Like the other book, it is filled with practical advice that a Leader can use every day.

    Thanks for starting this discussion. What’s your favorite book(s)?

  2. Kimunya says:

    “Boundaries” by Cloud & Townsend was a game-changer for me. It has been a guide for leadership, parenting, marriage, work and social interaction.

    “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John C. Maxwell has been another timeless book with solid leadership principles.

    “Finishing Strong” by Steve Farrar is what I am reading now. It has a powerful wake-up call in it for leaders, especially married men.

  3. Nelson Biagio jr. says:

    my favorite #leadership book is “Failure Is Not an Option”, by Gene Kranz.

  4. danvforbes says:

    Everyone: Be sure to add your suggestions to the Listly List:

  5. Barry Smith says:

    Already some great ones mentioned. I would add “The Trust Edge” by David Horsager and “Give and Take” by Adam Grant. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek WILL be one of the top reads for 2014 and LEAD Positive by Dr. Kathryn Cramer (just released) is looking really good.

  6. John Robinson says:

    A couple small books from Simple Truths that have great leadership messages are The Right to Lead by John Maxwell and Leading with Passion by John Murphy.

  7. Chief of Staff / Chief Operating Officer (COO) NATO Air Training Command – Afghanistan

    “The Dip:

    A blog that became a bestseller!

    Godin’s primary basis of the book is to counter Vince Lombardi’s famous quote “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” He openly states this is horrible advice because winners quit…they quit the right ventures at the right time!
    Through use of ‘the dip,’ ‘the cul-de-sac,’ and ‘the cliff,’ he explains how to know what to quit and when. These are crucial leadership principles for every aspect of our lives.

  8. DRIVE: The Surprising truth About What Motivates Us
    Daniel Pink
    In his own Twitter summary: Carrots & Sticks are so last Century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery and purpose.
    This Business Read is an epiphany of how to motivate your team. It counters most everything we have been taught and reveals some ground-breaking insight.

  9. NO: The Only Negotiating System You Need for Work and Home
    Jim Camp
    This amazing book reminds us every interaction is a negotiation.

  10. Dan Forbes says:

    Chris, your post received good feedback and book suggestions across LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus. I shared it in several LinkedIn groups and received book suggestions. Thanks for leading the way on this.

  11. Andy Neillie says:

    Chris –

    Here are the “top ten” leadership books I’m currently recommending to my clients and MBA students:
    • Axiom, Bill Hybels (particularly appropriate for people of faith; I read one Axiom a day, and, when I get to the end of the book, I start over again)
    • The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, Steven Sample (former President of Stanford, ver thought-provoking book)
    • EntreLeadership, Dave Ramsey (particularly appropriate for small business leaders and owners)
    • The Four Obsessions of An Extraordinary Execute (or the Advantage), Patrick Lencioni
    • Good to Great (or Great By Choice – both are excellent reads, and vital for business leaders), Jim Collins
    • Humilitas, John Dickson (an Australian author, who talks about the power of leaders-who-serve)
    • The Leadership Challenge, James Kouze and Barry Posner (the classic, now in it’s 5th or 6th edition)
    • The Power Principle, Blaine Lee (Not as well known as some of the others, but really talks about the power of influence rather than formal power)
    • Principle-Centered Leadership, Stephen Covey (I think this is his best book, even better than “7 Habits.” Unfortunately, like “7 Habits,” it is not the easiest read – even my MBA students find it a slow read
    • Tough Choices, Carly Fiorina (I changed my opinion of Carly and what happened at HP after reading this book)

    • danvforbes says:

      Thanks for sharing your list, Andy. I see some familiar books on it and yet, some new ideas.

  12. There are so many great books, however the real key to good leadership is for the leader to know their own strengths and how to apply them, to know their limits and when to seek out others that will balance out the team under them. In a way a real leader will seek books that help them specifically with what they need, so beyond reading a hundred books I would tell them to find assessments that give them a better base of understanding themselves first and what type of leader they might be best at.

    The two most applicable books I have read recently is the new one by Simon Sinek – Leaders Eat Last – it is a great call for what the overall focus of leadership needs to be in America.

    And any of the work coming out by David Rock from the Neuroinstitute on leading and managing with the brain in Mind — his new book on Quiet Leadership ( His work is so fundamental and so real about how to produce real results when we lead with an understanding of how the brain works.

    • danvforbes says:

      Thanks for sharing your comment on this post as well as the LinkedIn discussion, Pamela.

      Good insight, Pamela. Your idea of starting with an assessment makes good sense for intentional learning and developing a reading plan.

      I don’t think “Leaders Eat Last” has been added to the Listly List yet. So, I hope you will add it

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