A debut book offers leadership lessons from a former officer in the Netherlands armed forces.
Hekker has spent much of his life serving in the Dutch military, and he uses what he’s learned from his experiences as a naval cadet, diving officer, and deployed soldier in Afghanistan to formulate an “easy to apply” theory of leadership, which he dubs LiDRS, Leadership Development, Research and Support. The first three-quarters of the book consists of personal stories of leadership both good and bad as well as brief explanations of how his examples “serve as building blocks for the ultimate leadership model.” The blocks include characteristics such as empathy, persuasiveness, and cultural awareness. The second section is shorter and more theoretical. Hekker outlines the key leadership features, explains how to identify strengths and weaknesses as a leader using his model (with the help of an associated online tool), clarifies the difference between leaders and managers, and offers thoughts on the future of leadership. For the most part, the accounts he shares are interesting and engaging, particularly the tales of directing tense diving missions, negotiating cultural differences when deployed in Afghanistan, and clashing with his commander as a young naval officer. (These recollections would make a captivating book on their own.) A few anecdotes are overly long, especially the tales of military college hazing rituals that open the book. Hekker has no difficultly producing examples of both inspiring and incompetent leadership, but he sometimes fails to clearly explain what lessons civilians can learn from his unique experiences, especially if they’re in a situation where hierarchies are less regimented and the stakes are not life or death. Also welcome would be more advice on how to overcome areas of weakness, such as improving communication skills or coping with stress. But Hekker’s ideas about what makes a superb leader—perseverance, an ability to manage stress, willingness to listen, and integrity, among other traits—are fundamentally sound, if not exactly groundbreaking.
A practical guide to the fundamentals of effective leadership as well as an intriguing peek into Dutch military life.