/ Published September 02, 2010
Pillars of Strength: Reflections of Life in Blue by CMSgt Donald Hatcher, USAF, Retired. Tate Publishing, 2007, 220 pp.
Life and Leadership Lessons Learned through 30 Years of Enlisted Air Force Service is the subtitle to Chief Donald Hatcher’s book: Pillars of Strength: Reflections of Life in Blue and is an outstanding single phrase synopsis of this powerhouse leadership book.
The book is divided into three main sections: “Foundations”; “The Good, the Bad, and the In-Between”; and “The Sum of All Parts.” Roughly following a chronological framework, it is further subdivided into 36 easily understood individual stories/leadership lessons. They begin with the chief’s early influences and conclude when he was an Air Force chief master sergeant. Because the chapters span the author’s entire military career, they apply to all leadership levels. The book concludes with overarching leadership lessons pulled from all the chapters.
Each chapter begins with three short epigraphs that establish the framework for the chapter’s topic. What follow are brief stories from the chief’s 30-year career. The stories are enticing and easy to read, concise, and can be read in less than 10 minutes each. This allows readers to get the message rapidly as well as read the book in spare moments. The experiences deal with both the chief and various leaders with whom he has served. The experiences are examples of both good and bad leadership. While sometimes humorous, each experience has a definite leadership lesson. Each includes such concepts as taking care of your people, giving and earning respect, and maintaining standards.
Each chapter closes with “Perspectives,” the discussion of three leadership words or concepts and a bottom-line summary. The “Perspectives” section brings focus to the moral of the story and pushes positive leadership concepts to the forefront. The bottom-line summary wraps the three concept words into a neat package that is easily understood and applied.
For junior officers and junior enlisted members, the stories provide solid examples of things to do and things not to do. As the author points out, “Unfortunately as leaders we also learn about leadership through bad examples. The goal is to learn from both the good and bad examples: repeat the good and avoid the bad.”
Quite often while reading Pillars of Strength, senior officer and enlisted leaders may find that they have had similar experiences and may almost feel a “been there and experienced that” experience. In these cases, the author’s viewpoint may either solidify a reader’s leadership approach, or it may provide insight into a potentially viable alternative.
The book closes with a list of 24 “Do’s and Don’ts.” For example: #19 “Do . . . Seek the Right Answer. Don’t . . . Settle for Simply ‘Correct’.” Continuing to hit the mark on teaching leadership, the author gives a short explanation for each do and don’t item. All 24 deserve any leader’s consideration.
Chief Hatcher has crafted a leadership book that has outstanding value at all levels of the leadership spectrum— junior enlisted through senior officer. This occurs rarely. Chief Hatcher has much to share and sincerely aims to help people at all levels to become better leaders. While the experiences are focused on military leadership, they have applicability across of the civilian community. Therefore, this book is a highly valuable read for people across the leadership spectrum—from follower to senior leader—and it should hold a position of respect on any bookshelf.
Lt Col Dan Simonsen, USAF, Retired
Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training College
"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."