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Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  5,417 ratings  ·  671 reviews
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - A clear-eyed account of learning how to lead in a chaotic world, by General Jim Mattis--the former Secretary of Defense and one of the most formidable strategic thinkers of our time--and Bing West, a former assistant secretary of defense and combat Marine.

"A four-star general's five-star memoir."--The Wall Street Journal

Call Sign Chaos is the
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by Random House (first published 2019)
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Chuck 1st, Mattis was never commandant although 3 men on his staff as I MEF commander (Dunford, Amos and Kelly) would become commandant. Dunford would not b…more1st, Mattis was never commandant although 3 men on his staff as I MEF commander (Dunford, Amos and Kelly) would become commandant. Dunford would not be commandant long as he was tapped to be the 1st Marine to lead the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

My Brother was with him with Task Force 58. (3A for the 15th MEU staff under another outstanding Marine, Gen Waldhouser. (sp?) Gen Mattis is regarded as Marine's Marine. A brilliant commander and his Marines would follow him through the Gates of Hell.


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General Mattis (Sep 08, 1950---) is now the Davies Family Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Intuition at Stanford University. This book is a memoir of Mattis’s forty-year career in the United States Marine Corp. He was a dedicated military man and never married. Mattis had a lifetime interest in history. Mattis holds himself to the highest standard of the Marine Corp and makes no comment about his former Commander-in-Chief.

Mattis includes war stories and discussions of tactical maneuvers. Matt
Laura Noggle
Mar 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2020
Dry at times, but the second half makes up for it.

Also — Mattis's hardline stance on the importance of reading was completely fantastic and I am obsessed with his related quotes:

“If you haven't read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren't broad enough to sustain you.”

“By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences
Fountain Of Chris
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book surpassed my expectations. Unlike so many books by people who have recently left the Trump White House, this is not a politicized expose. It is both a memoir and a book about leadership. Mattis devotes little space to his personal life, instead spending large chunks of the book on Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and the second Iraq War, all done as an exploration of leadership (what he did right, what he needed to improve, and what he recommends for others).

Very little of the book is about
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Imagine you are on a plane. An older, yet relatively trim, gentleman sits to your left by the window with a book in his lap.

On comes the safety briefing:

If cabin pressure is lost, masks will drop…Put your own masks on first, then help others around you…

The old man pipes up: “It’s a metaphor.”
“A metaphor?” you respond, not sure where this is going.
“Yes. To be a leader, we need to get our act together first, if we want to help others.”
“It’s just like that great American athletic company says,
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Mattis is a fascinating man. In an age of political tell-alls from former cabinet officials, it’s refreshing to have a more subdued memoir about Mattis’s military career, philosophy, and leadership strategy. My favorite quotes on leadership. ...more
Joseph Sciuto
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If one was hoping for a 'Tell-All-Book' by Jim Mattis about President Trump, I can tell you right off that this is not the book. Maybe, President Trump's name was mentioned 3 or 4 times and not in a negative way. One of General Mattis' heroes is General George Marshall (Sec. of Defense, Sec. of State, and one of the architect's behind the "Marshall Plan," The European Union," and NATO).

Marshall, like Mattis, spend a long time in the military, and one of the codes that military men abide by is no
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
For all practical purposes, this should have been published as two different books. The first of these covers Part I and most of Part II, where General Mattis addresses "direct" and "executive" levels of leadership. The second encompasses Part III, "strategic" leadership.

The latter is a fascinating journey, albeit without as much depth as might have been afforded, through Mattis' tenure as the CENTCOM Commander. This period included the so-called Arab Spring, the withdrawal of US forces from Ir
Zachery Tyson
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: leaders, biographies not a good book.
Jennifer Stringer
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Often I’ll add The NY Times best sellers to my library Overdrive account. Usually they take a while to finally get to me. As often as not, by the time I get them I decide to pass, especially if it’s part of a series I haven’t read or just sounds dull, and return them immediately. I almost did that with this book, but the first chapter was enough to hook me and keep my interest during my commute.

I guess from the beginning, I was surprised by how literate he was. I admit I had subconsciously acce
Jeff Wheeler
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoy a good biography, but this memoir by Jim Mattis was exceptional. When I read his suggested reading list for good leaders at the end of the book, I noticed many books in common that we share. He was very candid about his experience as a Marine commander during several wars but ended the book around his time become Sec Def. The book isn't about his time in the Cabinet, and I'm glad. It focused on the lessons he learned during his 40+ year career of service. He embodies the principle ...more
Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead by Jim Mattis and Bing West is an excellent book. I know when this book was first being publicized there was a lot of guessing if Mattis would include details about his (brief) time serving the Trump administration. I will answer that now: there isn’t. Trump is barely mentioned. Even though this book is categorized as a memoir, I don’t think it fits so neatly into that category. While Mattis does provide details about his life, this is more about his philosophy ...more
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had always liked that Mattis was elevated to SecDef. After reading this, I'm convinced we were blessed to have such a humble, straight-forward and educated man running this department for the people of the United States. The book is an easy read and easily one of the better reads on leadership. He emphasizes trust as a key foundation to leadership along with motivation and empathy. One thing that is essential from reading this is education. Constant learning is critical in being able adapt to ...more
Colin Milon
Apr 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, favorites
Civilian or servicemember, this is a must read. Gen. Mattis found himself leading in every conflict for the last three decades. He provides an unparalleled perspective into America's warfighting machine. Semper Fidelis.
Allison Riding
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: political
Kind of dry and definitely more interesting for someone in the service, but still very inspiring. What a remarkable life devoted to our country. Rah!
Donna Hines
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the most interesting and intellectual works I've read in quite some time in discussing the varied forms of leadership.
Jim Mattis discusses his experiences in depth with front line action that is in real time.
"The details you don't give in your orders are as important as the ones you do."
What I wonder is in the fact that our enemies could possibly get hold of how we operate and use it against us.
For example a critical goal was to prevent Saddam from torching the oil fields, yet we have a s
Carol Storm
Jan 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Some good insights on leadership and team building, but not much in the way of personal reflection or human interest.
Jasper Burns
While it is billed as a leadership book, Call Sign Chaos reads more like a narrative or memoir (from which one can glean many useful leadership lessons). I found Secretary Mattis's exposé on the wars of the past four decades to be fascinating. You follow his rise from the lowest ranks in the Marine Corps to General and Secretary of Defense. Along the way, you learn much about warfare, the stakes, the people, and the decisions made. Like with General McMaster's book Dereliction of Duty, one often ...more
Seth Gilliam
May 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book on leadership. Be brilliant in the basics. Give responsibility to subordinates, allowing them to shoulder the load. Have a bias for action. When a problem arises, observe, orient, decide, then act before your enemy. And when you step into new leadership roles, curate relevant books and be a voracious reader and student of history. As Mattis says, history shines a light on the dark uncertain paths that lie ahead, no matter how dim at times. My only detraction, I would’ve enjoyed le ...more
Andy Miller
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There are so many things to admire about this memoir by General Jim Mattis; at the top is that it shows his character, his loyalty to his fellow Marines and his loyalty to his country.
An example is at the beginning when Mattis was a Lieutenant training his troops in the jungle, it was reported to him that one marine had muttered that "He'd like to kill his fucking hard-ass Lieutenant." Mattis had that marine follow him to the base and at the end told him that you could have shot me in the back b
Aaron Bright
That’s one of THE most useful books I’ve ever read in my life, and I feel like it’s timing couldn’t have been better. Lots of times I finish a book and think “where have you been all my life,” but not this time. From 20 years of being an officer and a commander, I see clearly what he’s talking about - much clearer than I ever would have earlier in my career. Almost every sentence in these pages resonated with me on some level. GEN Mattis is a man among men who’s typically the smartest one in the ...more
Sep 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The gap between those who fight and those who don’t is far too wide. I appreciate so much General Mattis’ perspective on so many things.
Seth Benzell
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memior
Mattis portrays himself as well read and cooler-headed than his reputation as a 'mad dog' implies. He blames most of his failures on poor orders from above him -- either high level military, as in Tora Bora (where his marines were asked to sit out a critical assault, to allow Afghanis to take point), or political as in Iraq (he claims that he had inadequate direction on goals, and incompetent support from Bremmer and Bremmer's successors). He is relatively mild about Obama, Biden and Trump, alth ...more
Ray Campbell
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019
I'll give it to you straight, this is not a Trump exposé. Given the timing of the release of the autobiography, many have read into Mattis' lessons on leadership as an indictment of our current president, but it isn't. There are a few sentences in the first appendix that explain, in his resignation letter, that he felt the current administration had lost faith with the nation's allies. However, there isn't a word against Trump specifically.

As a biography of a leader in war, peace and preparednes
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very good book, just short of a "wow-feeling" so 4 stars. After McChrystal and, to a lesser extent, Powell this was only my third book on recent generals. I was impressed by how I'd read some of the same books as he did AND HOW HE PUT THEM IN REAL LIFE PRACTICE. In addition, I gained valuable inside perspective on how the Middle East derailed over the last decades and how America mishandled that evolution. Great leader, great book.
Ryan Boomershine
“If you haven't read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren't broad enough to sustain you.” JM

Solid, interesting practical leadership tome.

This was one of the last books I checked out from the library before the Coronapocalypse hit and the libraries closed. Hopefully temporarily. I would miss them terribly.
I found it a slog. There’s a thinly veiled snark at the president near the beginning I appreciated:

“Reading is an honor and a gift from a warrior or historian who — a decade or a thousand decades ago — set aside time to write. He distilled a lifetime of campaigning in order to have a ‘conversation’ with you. We have been fightin
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those I believe should be read by most people in business, as it has lots of great advice on how you lead people in order to achieve an objective. Sure, the examples here were military and war-based, but business is really just another term of warfare minus bombs. I enjoyed the personal tales of what worked and, most importantly, a candid observation of what the Mattis’ failures were and how he leveraged those experiences for the next time. I was reminded many times history repeat ...more
Tim Q
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just finished the unabridged Audible version and it was fantastic!

Chapter 13 should be required reading for any military officer or CEO taking over a large organization.
The story of the shut down of the Joint Forces Command was particularly interesting as I watched it from the outside and wondered what was driving the change.

Even the appendices were great - the "but sir" memo re downgraded awards made me want to cheer for his troops.

I've started to use several quotes at work - "We train you for
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Now that was a good read, there are so many lessons in this book. If you have any type of leadership role, you should read this. If you've been in the military, you should read this. Or if you've served in the Marine Corps, you should read this. #SemperFi
David Leapheart
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Where the hell do I reenlist?
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James Norman Mattis (born September 8, 1950) is an American veteran and former government official who served as the 26th United States Secretary of Defense from January 2017 through December 2018. A retired United States Marine Corps general, Mattis served in the Persian Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War.

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