TIME Military

Draft the Rich

Green on Blue
Green on Blue

Elliot Ackerman served five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and is the recipient of the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. His novel of the Afghan War, Green on Blue, was published in February by Scribner.

To avoid a toxic social rift and to bolster our armed forces, the military should conscript upper-class Americans

On an August morning in 2011, I sat in a procession of cars at Arlington National Cemetery with my friend, whom we’ll call Joe, a veteran special operator with more combat deployments than I can count on both hands. We’d gathered that day to bury another friend, Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jonathan ‘Giff’ Gifford, who’d been killed the week before in Afghanistan. While Joe and I waited for Giff’s coffin to be loaded onto a caisson taking it to Section 60, the resting place for the war dead from Iraq and Afghanistan, we stared out from behind our sunglasses across the Potomac, toward Washington DC, where morning commuters clogged the Memorial Bridge.

“How much longer do you think we’ll be coming to funerals here?” asked Joe, not expecting an answer. Then he looked at the traffic. “Not a single one of them knows Giff died last week. People need to feel this. I tell you, man, I’m for a draft.”

This caught me by surprise. Joe was the consummate professional, a mentor of mine who’d dedicated his life to soldiering. We’d both started as Marine infantry officers, but Joe had gone onto serve in some of the most elite special operations units. “You can’t be serious,” I said. “Can you imagine how bad we would’ve performed with a platoon full of conscripts?”

Joe pushed his sunglasses up his head, looking back at me as serious as I’d ever seen him. “I’m not sure we need to be as good at this as we are.”

Each war the United States has fought has had its own construct: the national mobilization of the Second World War; the 1.7 million draftees of the Vietnam War; and, over the last 14 years, the post-9/11 Wars have been fought with an all-volunteer force at a cost approaching $6 trillion, primarily financed through deficit spending, with no significant taxes levied on the populace. This construct has come with a price: in its wake we’ve been left with the most significant civil-military divide in our history.

In the past, waging war has been torturous for Americans, and rightfully so. The Civil War, World War I, World War II, and Vietnam were all grueling experiences, endeavors felt both economically and socially, as hundreds of thousands of lives were interrupted, or cut short, in order to fight. Even the “good wars”—like the Civil War and World War II—became difficult to sustain politically at such a cost of blood and treasure.

Today’s wars, fought in the name of a largely disengaged citizenry, place our nation in a position of moral hazard. This dynamic was recently brought home to me when a friend and former Marine officer lamented how he’s been asked with surprising frequency if he had killed anyone in Iraq. Having been asked the same question a half-dozen times, his response resonated with me: “If I did, you paid me to do it.”

So how do we structure things so that wars waged on behalf of all Americans aren’t experienced by the slimmest segment of the population? We could reinstate the draft, but this is overly simplistic. Vietnam taught us that unless the country is engaged in total war, a national draft is a failed model. With student deferments and various loopholes most often exclusively leveraged by the well-off, or influential, the brunt of that conflict fell to America’s poorest, most marginalized citizens, creating a toxic social rift. Also, the effectiveness of our all-volunteer force should not be compromised. So what construct exists where America maintains an effective fighting force while our citizenry becomes more conscious of its wars, steering us clear of future fourteen-year conflicts?

What I propose is a partial draft—five percent of the 1.4 million service members on active duty, approximately 70,000 troops, to be conscripted for a half enlistment of two years through a lottery system pooled exclusively from sons and daughters of households falling within the highest tax bracket. Keeping the percentage of conscripts low will maintain the efficacy of the all-volunteer force, and limiting the draft to the children of the wealthiest and most influential Americans will stymie a tolerance for perpetual war on the part of critical decision makers. I would propose that draftees be assigned exclusively within the fields of combat arms: infantry, tanks, artillery, engineers, career paths which by and large have been opened up recently to women, and would ensure that no undue influence could be leveraged to secure work in areas far from actual fighting. Lower and middle class Americans will continue to join the military for educational opportunities, but with well-to-do citizens serving in greater numbers we would create an all-volunteer force which more accurately represents America.

I don’t expect this modest proposal to come about any time soon. But I keep returning to that August day when only the slimmest slice of America was aware of Giff’s funeral. Gathering around his coffin, the Chaplain offered a few remarks, and although I stood near by, I couldn’t hear his prayers. As anyone who has buried a friend in Section 60 knows, the shuttles arriving from New York and Boston fly their final approaches right over the graves, their engines drowning out all other noise. Perhaps if this proposal were in place that day, things would’ve been different. Perhaps the head of the FAA or some senior executive at one of the airlines would’ve had a son or daughter also serving and so, hearing of Giff’s death, he or she could have thought of a way to change the flight patterns. Inconvenient as it would’ve been, it would have allowed us, just for that moment, to together say our prayers in peace.

Elliot Ackerman served five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and is the recipient of the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. His novel of the Afghan War, Green on Blue, was published in February by Scribner.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME movies

Octavia Spencer to Play God in Movie Version of The Shack

Octavia Spencer arrives at the World Premiere of Disney's "Cinderella" at the El Capitan Theatre on March 1, 2015 in Hollywood.
Gregg DeGuire—Getty Images Octavia Spencer arrives at the World Premiere of Disney's "Cinderella" at the El Capitan Theatre on March 1, 2015 in Hollywood.

The film is an adaptation of the bestselling 2007 novel by William P. Young

Octavia Spencer is finalizing negotiations to play God in an upcoming film adaptation of The Shack.

The bestselling 2007 novel from William P. Young has sold more than 18 million copies around in the world and has been translated into 39 languages, Variety reports. The book revolves around the disappearance of one man’s daughter during a family vacation; four years after authorities conclude she was murdered in a shack, her father receives a note from God instructing him to revisit the scene of the crime.

Spencer, who won an Oscar for The Help, can next be seen opposite Shailene Woodley in the second installment of the Divergent series, Insurgent, hitting theaters March 20.

[Variety]

TIME Books

J.K. Rowling Is Now Just Completely Trolling Fans

The Harry Potter author made a very cruel joke on Twitter

It has been eight years since the final book in the Harry Potter series was published, but fans still completely freak out every time J.K. Rowling releases new stories about their favorite characters from Hogwarts.

The novelist is aware of the strange power she wields on the Internet, and took to Twitter Thursday to have some fun with her fanbase.

Dumbledore’s Army was not amused.

Sorry, muggles, guess you’ll just have to try to get excited for Insurgent.

TIME Books

The Descendants Writer Kaui Hart Hemmings: I Could Work With Shailene Woodley for the Rest of My Life

Penguin Young Readers

Kaui Hart Hemmings, bestselling author of The Descendants, will make her first foray into young adult literature this fall

Kaui Hart Hemmings is well known for her bestselling novel The Descendants, which was adapted into an Oscar-winning film in 2011. While George Clooney shined as the lead and narrator, it was Shailene Woodley who rose to fame from her role as Alex, an angst-filled teenager whose performance — including a memorable scene where she cried underwater — earned her a Golden Globe nomination. But Hemmings, who has always loved writing from the teenage perspective, is publishing her next novel Juniors under the young adult genre in September.

TIME talked to Hemmings about her new foray with teen literature, working with Woodley and recent comments about YA from Jonathan Franzen.

TIME: Why did you decide to write YA?

Kaui Hart Hemmings: I wrote a book of stories called House of Thieves and the bulk of it was told from teenagers’ [points of view.] Even now I consider it YA, even though it wasn’t sold that way. I just wanted to get back into that world of the teenage mind — everything is so immediate and there’s so much living in the present. I didn’t sit down and say, “I’m going to write it as a young adult.” I just wrote what felt true.

Did seeing Shailene Woodley’s character in The Descendants inspire you in any way?

It really did. It was so lovely to see on screen, because you can switch it to that character’s point of view. I couldn’t think of an actress who could have done it any better. She wasn’t a star back then, and it’s exciting that that’s where it started.

Could you see her playing the main character in this new book?

I could totally see her playing Lea, especially because Lea has some Hawaiian blood. And Shai is like a Hawaiian to me — she’s like a local. I think a little bit of Hawaii left with her, so I could definitely see her playing this character if she’s not too young. But someone like her who has that ability to act naturally, so you don’t feel like they’re acting at all. I wish Shailene would be in the movie version. I could work with her for the rest of my life — she’s incredible.

What will Juniors be about?

It’s about Lea, a junior in high school who is transferring from her San Francisco school to a huge private school on Oahu. She’s not only moving to a new school or a new place — she’s also moving because her mom got a part in a show sort of similar to Hawaii Five-0. So in addition to moving schools, circumstances have made it so that she and her mother are going to be moving into a cottage of very wealthy residents. The rest of the book sort of delves into female friendships, and [Lea] trying to find her identity in this new place.

What are some recent YA books you’ve liked that have inspired you?

I loved Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer. I loved We Were Liars — that was wonderfully done. I thought Meg Abbot’s The Fever was wonderful.

Do you think adults will also like Juniors?

I think adults will definitely like it, because the children are also seeing the adults — they’re watching their behaviors, they’re trying to figure out ways not to be them and figuring out what life has in store for them. That will be something [adults] recognize — the differences between the friendships they had when they were young and the way friendships are or can be now.

Jonathan Franzen recently made some controversial comments about YA. What do you think of how it’s been looked down upon as a genre?

Jonathan Franzen seems like the grumpiest guy and he doesn’t seem to like much of anything, so I really don’t care what he has to say. It’s useless to criticize things that people love and something that speaks to them. What’s great about teen fiction is that it’s all mixed up — there’s highbrow and lowbrow!

Juniors hits shelves and e-readers September 22, 2015, published under Putnam.

TIME Books

J.K. Rowling Tweeted the Gryffindor Puppy of Your Dreams

Author celebrated World Book Day in the most adorable way possible: with a tweet of a little puppy who loves Gryffindor

J.K. Rowling celebrated World Book Day in the most adorable way possible: with a tweet of a little puppy who loves Gryffindor.

Cue the freaking out by devoted Harry Potter fans who want to adopt this pup and take it to Hogwarts with them.

Most people celebrating World Book Day will be humans. But Rowling clearly wanted to bring a bit of the magic to other species as well. Because, you know, it’s the Internet.

TIME Books

Phil Klay on His Iraq War Book Redeployment: ‘I Had to Get This Right’

Phil Klay attends the National Book Awards on Nov. 19, 2014 in New York City.
Robin Marchant—Getty Images Phil Klay attends the National Book Awards on Nov. 19, 2014 in New York City.

"We need more public debate about war policy in general," the National Book Award-winning author says

Phil Klay served with the U.S. Marines in Iraq’s Anbar province during the troop surge in 2007 and 2008. The book of short stories about the Iraq War that he went on to write, Redeployment, won the 2014 National Book Award for fiction. Writing in the New York Times, Dexter Filkins called Redeployment “the best thing written so far on what the war did to people’s souls.”

TIME caught up with Phil at a coffee shop in Brooklyn on Feb. 24, the day the paperback edition of Redeployment was published.

TIME: What was the hardest thing about turning the war into art?

Phil Klay: I didn’t think of it as turning the war into art. I started with things that I was troubled by or confused by or interested in, and then I wrote stories to try to puzzle my way through it. But the question is not how to represent war, because it’s an abstract thing that’s felt differently for all the characters.

The narrator of your story “War Stories” says, “There’s no such thing as an antiwar film.” Would you describe Redeployment as an antiwar book?

I don’t think of the book as an antiwar book. I’m writing about particular experiences in a particular war. And I don’t like didactic art generally, only because it’s false, because reality is not didactic. I mean, Redeployment is not a happy book—it’s a book about the Iraq War. But hopefully it’s not an unrelenting, grim, “war is hell” sort of thing. You need to capture the variations in the human experience.

What do you make of the ISIS debacle?

It’s utterly horrible. Utterly horrible, and what that means is a tremendous amount of suffering for the people in that region, who have already had far more than their share of tremendous amounts of suffering. So I watch it with horror and a good measure of grief and rage.

Whose fault is ISIS?

We’ve had Iraq policy under Presidents from two different administrations for well over a decade at this point. A lot of different periods of very different types of policy being enacted, sometimes very good, sometimes very, very bad. I think it’s comforting to be able to blame one individual politician. But as citizens we all have responsibility toward the way that our nation uses military force on our behalf.

One thing I’ve always liked about the military is there’s a certain amount of pragmatism. When I was going over to Iraq, people would often want to debate, Should we have gone in? I was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 2005. It was already a moot point by the time I was commissioned. The question was not, Should we have gone in? but What do we do now?

In a sense, writing Redeployment was your own personally chosen redeployment. Do you think of it as that sort of thing, where there’s a mission?

Well, it’s interesting you say that. I always wrote stories. But when I came back from Iraq and I started working on this book, the writing felt substantially different. Before, I was just working on my craft and trying to write a good story. But the writing of Redeployment felt vital to me in a different way. I almost had this kind of terror.

The stakes were a lot higher.

The stakes were higher. I had to get this right. What I was trying to imagine my way into, enough that I could communicate it to other people, felt deeply, personally important. And more generally I think a more nuanced discussion of war is politically important. Also, I had an easy deployment relative to a lot of people. I was a staff officer. So I wanted to do justice to the people I was talking about. I wrote with this imaginary image of all the vets running up to kick my ass if I screwed it up.

That would keep you at your writing desk late at night. Why the first-person point of view for the whole book?

A couple of reasons. I didn’t want the reader looking at these characters from the outside. I wanted them inside those skulls, experiencing the things they were experiencing and seeing the decisions they were making and then living with. There’s also this tradition in war writing of the veteran going to war and then coming back and testifying to the truth of war, right? But I didn’t want one voice coming back and testifying to the truth of war. I wanted 12, and 12 that wouldn’t necessarily agree with each other. I wanted that friction, and also I wanted it to open a space for the reader to engage not just empathetically but also critically with the things the characters are saying and the claims they’re making about their war.

If Donald Rumsfeld walked into this coffee shop right now wearing a sign that read “A penny for your thoughts,” what would you say to him?

I doubt there’s anything you could say to Donald Rumsfeld that would puncture the armor of his narcissism. I mean, this is a guy who’s essentially a high-functioning bureaucratic hack who we decided to make Secretary of Defense and we kept there until 2006—which is mind-blowing—well after it was very obvious that he was incompetent. So you know, there’s my frustration with Rumsfeld, but he’s sort of a small-minded hack. It’s the fact that we as a country kept him there until 2006.

It wasn’t put up for a direct vote, that question.

No. But we need more public debate about war policy in general. It’s a professional military. You sign up and agree to allow your countrymen to use your life as they see fit for the next four years. And I think we all should have a greater role in ensuring that we use those lives wisely.

Tobias Wolff has written that in Vietnam he saw something “that wasn’t allowed for in the national myth”—meaning the American national myth—“our capacity for collective despair.” I wondered if you felt you saw that in Iraq.

No, I didn’t see it in Iraq. Remember, I was in Iraq during the surge. I was in Iraq at a time when Anbar province, which had been the most violent place in the country, underwent a startling turnaround and violence radically declined. I will say this: Units that left early in 2007 had a markedly different feeling about their deployment than units that left late 2007, early 2008. But for my deployment, we came back feeling very good about what we’d done. Why wouldn’t we? First month I was there, there was a suicide truck bombing outside our main gate. We’re bringing in injured civilians—they swamped the trauma tables. The surgeons were doing surgery on the floor, there were so many injured people. By the end it was relatively quiet in Anbar province.

Which takes more discipline, being a U.S. Marine or being a writer?

I mean, you need to be faster and stronger if you’re a Marine. But I think some of the qualities useful for a novelist would be very useful for a commander. Introspection, the capacity for self-doubt and yet the ability to forge ahead with a particular vision. Understanding of other human beings is pretty vital to leadership.

What is the most ridiculous aspect of life in the Marine Corps?

[laughs] Oh my God. Well, it used to be silkies, but I think they got rid of those—the skimpiest running shorts known to man. Um… I don’t know, there are plenty. Just the sheer amount of Pop-Tarts in Iraq.

You’re writing a novel. How’s that going?

Slowly.

Can we get a sneak preview?

It’s so early. I have no idea.

I was hoping for the scoop!

Working title is Fifty Shades of Camouflage. Just kidding.

Douglas Watson is a copy editor at TIME and the author of the novel A Moody Fellow Finds Love and Then Dies

TIME Books

Aziz Ansari on His New Book and How Texting Is Ruining Our Relationships

Aziz Ansari Book
Penguin

The comedian reveals the cover and new details about his upcoming book, Modern Romance

The series finale of Parks and Recreation aired just a week ago, but comedian Aziz Ansari is already busy with new projects. His second Netflix stand-up comedy special, Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden, premieres Friday, and his upcoming book Modern Romance, an academic study of modern romance peppered with his brand of humor, hits shelves June 16.

While every other comedian — from Tina Fey to Amy Poehler — is writing a memoir, Ansari decided he’d team up with a sociologist to conduct studies on love in the age of technology for his first title. The comedian revealed his book cover exclusively to TIME and chatted about his research, his stand-up and the end of Parks and Rec.

TIME: A lot of people were surprised when you announced that as a comedian you were writing a book that takes a more academic look at modern romance. Why did you decide to write a book about love?

Ansari: I had been starting to do this stand-up about dating and realized that the current romantic landscape is way different. All these very modern problems — like, sitting and deciding what to write in a text — that’s a very new conundrum.

Then I randomly met a couple people who were in academic fields that did work that vaguely applied to this stuff. Like, this woman Sherry Turkle who had done all this research about texting and found that you say things over text you would never say to someone’s face. So the medium of communication we’re using is kind of making us sh—ttier people. And then I thought if you take that and put it toward romantic interactions, that’s why people are so f—ing rude.

That ended up helping me write this bit I was working on for my stand-up. But I thought it would be kind of interesting to take my point of view and a conversation with someone from an academic field and put that together. If I could do that as a book, I would be able to go deeper into this area than I can in my stand-up.

So this won’t be a celebrity memoir.

Right. It ended up being a sociology book that has my sense of humor, but it also has some academic heft to it. I wrote it with this sociologist, Eric Klinenberg, and he helped me design this huge research project that we did. We interviewed hundreds of people all across the world — we went to Tokyo and Paris and Wichita to really get a wide scope. We also interviewed all sorts of academics. The resulting book is really unique. I can’t think of any book I would really compare it to.

How have texting, dating apps and other technology changed the way we think about love?

I want to be clear: The book is not, “It’s crazy! We have phones now!” The changes are far beyond the technology. I interviewed all these older people and talked to them about relationships. People back in the day would just marry people who lived close to them. There was this study done in Philadelphia in 1932 that found that ⅓ of couples that got married live within a 5 block radius of each other. ⅙ lived in the same block. And ⅛ lived in the same building!

This was true in all different cities. Think about it: You didn’t go to college. You weren’t going out and meeting people from different parts of the country and parts of the world. You were just kind of hanging out in your neighborhood. And now they don’t even do those studies anymore. It wouldn’t even make sense. Like, my girlfriend is from Texas. I’m from South Carolina. Nobody is marrying someone who lived in their building. That’s crazy.

And marriage, not that long ago, was an economic institution where two families would come together to bring their wealth together. The whole idea of finding a soul mate only became a thing in the past 100 years. So the whole redefinition of what marriage is — nobody’s really written this comprehensive book about this kind of thing. I think it’s really funny and very interesting.

Did you find that people treated love the same way outside of the U.S.?

We went to Tokyo and France and Buenos Aires to interview people. Japan is in the middle of this weird crisis right now where people aren’t dating or getting married, and the government has had to step in. Then Buenos Aires was the opposite of Japan. In Japan, there’s this problem of the herbivore man — these guys that aren’t interested in sex or dating — and Buenos Aires was the other end where they’re notoriously sexual aggressive and have had issues with that stuff. I think it gives the book more scope.

Did you reach any surprising conclusions?

You just realize everyone is dealing with the same nonsense. Everyone is on this boat together, and it would probably be good if we were a little nicer on that boat.

In both your last stand-up special, Buried Alive, and your upcoming special, Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden, you ask people in the audience about their love lives — sometimes reading text message exchanges. How do you know that’s going to be funny when this complete stranger is handing over their phone?

I did that probably 100 times when I was on tour, and every time it was good because it’s real, and we’ve all been there. We all can relate to this embarrassing situation we find ourselves in. Even if you’re older and weren’t texting when you were dating, you’ve had some version of going up to someone and having this awkward situation.

We did something similar in the book. We had people give us their phones and would look at real text messages and online dating correspondences, and then we would ask them, “What were you thinking when you got this or sent this?” That was so fascinating.

A lot of people probably know your stand-up from your viral R. Kelly or Kanye West bits. But in your last tour, you did fewer jokes about celebrities and more personal and political material. And soon you’ll have this sociology book. Do you feel like you’re redefining your comedy?

My first special came out when I was in my early 20s. I’m 32 years old now, so I’ve just grown up as a person. I have more life experience, I’m going through different things. The guy who’s 23 couldn’t have written this book or written the jokes in my new standup special. He just hadn’t lived that life yet. Any artist I’m into — music or comedy — they’re constantly evolving and changing what they do.

Recently you talked on David Letterman about how the dictionary definition of “feminist” is someone who believes in the social, economic and political equality of the genders — which is an idea most people agree with. And yet so many people won’t call themselves “feminists.” Why do you think that is?

I think people have lost sight of what the word actually means. When you look at the definition, it’s a very hard tenet to disagree with. It became this charged word that has been altered by the way it’s used in the media. But the actual definition is a cause that I think everyone should get behind and most people would get behind.

It got picked up by a lot of blogs. Do you do bits like that with the goal of inciting conversation and change?

I talk to other comedians about this. When you do those talk shows as a comedian, you’re in a very interesting position. Comedians can kind of talk about anything, as long as they make it funny. If I was just an actor and wanted to talk about that, it would be a little bit more difficult. So I want to talk about whatever is interesting to me. Then if it spreads around, that’s great.

I talked to a friend of mine who was like, “I was leaving one of your stand-up shows, and people were talking about things you discussed like immigration and feminism and the food industry.” That’s really cool. If you leave a show and it’s making you think about things, I love to hear that.

Parks and Recreation wrapped up last week. How do you feel about it ending?

We all grew to really love each other — the cast and the crew and everyone. It was just such a good group of people. I know people say that about a lot of shows, but I feel like if you talk to people who guest starred on the show, they would say there was something special about that group.

If you get people who are nice and care about each other and have fun doing their jobs, the work will be great. I’ve been on other sets where people aren’t as cool or don’t get along or are mean to people and yell at people. That stuff never works. I want to carry that lesson with me—just respecting people—to my future projects.

Would you consider doing another TV show?

Maybe, we’ll see.

TIME leadership

3 Books Every Leader Should Read to Be Successful

Frank Gehry has selected personal favorites for his 'Curated Bookshelf' at Louis Vuitton's London flagship. The shelf is located in the first-floor librarie.
Jessica Klingelfuss

Teachings from the best in the business world

As an employee, you function mostly as a solitary unit. You do your part, produce your “output,” and the work is done. But as a manager (or more precisely, a leader—managers manage tasks, leaders lead people), everything changes. Your success is no longer about your own output, it’s about other people’s — the most important work you do is often what enables other people to do their jobs. But finding your way can be difficult. So in honor of National Book Month, here are three books that every leader should read to succeed.

High Output Management by Andy Grove

Key points: Grove’s book, reflecting on his time as Intel CEO in the 1970s, remains relevant today because of the basic principles it outlines: As a leader, you are an enabler of others. Your team’s performance, not your own output, is what you are judged on. Grove also shares five key things that should inform and govern your time: decision making, information gathering, information sharing, nudging and role modeling. If you are spending significant time doing things outside of those five key areas, it might be worth rethinking your schedule.

Best quote: “The art of management lies in the capacity to select from the many activities of seemingly comparable significance the one or two or three that provide leverage well beyond the others and concentrate on them.”

Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround by Lou Gerstner

Key points: Compared to High Output Management, which can read a little like a textbook, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? is practically a thriller. Gerstner’s well-known memoir about the turnaround of IBM is a vibrant book on leadership during a challenging time. It’s about transformation. Gerstner touches on the importance of speed and a clearly communicated set of principles—especially across a company as large as IBM was at the time. Gerstner also talks about the issues big companies run into with mid-level talent: “People do what you inspect, not what you expect.”

Best quote: “I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.”

The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World’s Most Disruptive Company by John Rossman

Key points: This is by far the easiest read of the three in this post, but it’s also the most effective at providing prescriptive and actionable leadership advice. Rossman, a former Amazon executive, decodes a lot of the behind the scenes at Amazon and points to what is most important at a company that complex: decision making and ownership. The owner of a project or product doesn’t have to be the most senior person at the organization. In fact, it can be a very junior person. But this person is the sole person responsible for the project’s outcome.

Best quote: “Amazon.com employees quickly learn that the phrase ‘That’s not my job’ is an express ticket to an exit interview.”

Have your own favorite leadership books? I’d love to hear them—tweet at me @cschweitz.

Read next: 4 Biggest Myths About Being a Great Leader

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