Habits of Highly Effective Maritime Strategists

  • Format:
  • Pages:
  • Published:
    September 15, 2021
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  • Product Dimensions:
    8 × 5 × 1 in
  • Product Weight:
    8 oz
Softcover $26.95
Member Price $21.56 Save 20%
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Habits of Highly Effective Maritime Strategists is a deliberately compact work aimed at both current and aspiring strategists, especially those who concern themselves with strategy at sea, and at those who work for or alongside them. The volume is meant to help strategic leaders know and educate themselves, two of the most important enterprises in the field of leadership. 

James R. Holmes reaches back to the classics of philosophy—especially to the works of Aristotle, the founder of the Lyceum—to posit that strategy is a habit. Rather, he writes, it involves cultivating a family of habits. To excel at strategy, one should learn what excellent strategists do and practice that ritual each day. Repetition helps the strategist find virtue, which Aristotle defined as the “golden mean” between the extremes of some trait, while shunning vice, the excess or deficiency of that trait. Over time, it becomes second nature to take the long view of national political and strategic ends; marshal diplomatic, economic, and military resources; and devise ways to put those resources to work for strategic gain. 

The classics of strategy feature prominently in this work. The canon sets forth concepts worth mastering. For instance, Carl von Clausewitz exhorts strategists to amass superior forces at the decisive place and time while abjuring secondary commitments that scatter resources about the map and risk leaving each force too weak to accomplish its goal. In a similar vein Alfred Thayer Mahan devises a formula for sizing fleets to overpower foes in important waters or coastal zones. Sun Tzu espouses the “indirect approach” to strategy, and B. H. Liddell Hart and J. C. Wylie join the classical Chinese general in his advocacy. In the ideal case strategists not just learn but internalize these concepts. Harnessing them in the real world becomes effortless.

About the Author

Editorial Reviews

“So, you want to be a maritime strategist when you grow up. How best to reach your noble goal? Start by reading James Holmes' superb little volume entitled Habits of Highly Effective Maritime Strategists. Weaving history and stories about those who became successful strategists with a keen understanding of the science and art of naval warfare, this insightful book lists the habits one must adopt to succeed. Get to it!” —Robert O. Work, former Deputy Secretary of Defense
“The great strategist President Eisenhower once said that 'Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.' Now we have one of our premier maritime strategists echoing that same theme. Strategies themselves are fluid and must adapt to accommodate the changing circumstances. But sound strategic practices and experiences are everything because they help leaders recognize the need to continuously challenge their assumptions and assess progress against their aims. Professor Holmes has given us a lot to think about in shaping sound strategic habits. Be careful...if you develop and follow these habits, you might find that you've become a strategist yourself!” —Adm. John Richardson, USN (Ret.)
“I’ve been reading everything Dr. Jim Holmes writes since devouring Red Star Over the Pacific, which provided us a much-needed wake-up call about China’s rising military challenge in the Pacific. Now with his Habits of Highly Effective Strategists, Dr. Holmes again answers the mail at a critical time. Our national leadership seeks, with increasing urgency, strategic thinkers and leaders who can quickly make sense of our dynamic strategic environment and develop executable plans and policies for success. Dr. Holmes’ emphasis on cultivating maritime strategic thinkers makes this book particularly relevant, timely, and useful.” —BGen William J. Bowers, USMC, former President, U.S. Marine Corps University
“James Holmes has written a brilliant synthesis of the habits of heart, mind, and deed necessary from classical antiquity to the modern era to excel at strategy. It is a thoughtful and thought-provoking book that brings fresh perspective to the development of strategists. This important book is filled with insights and judgments that will help the reader ponder his or her pathway as a strategist. It is essential reading.” —Bruce B. Stubbs, SES Director Navy Strategy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV N7)
“The wisdom of this book is in its belief in the need to begin a journey of reading and reflection; in its lack of schematic theory and dogma; in its intuitive understanding that professional military experience is intellectual as well as practical; and in its recognition that the human habits, in other words the culture, of a military service are more powerful and enduring than any military plan, corporate scheme or regulatory framework. The book is handily pocket-sized and certainly recommended.” —Australian Naval Institute
“The thrust of Holmes’ book is elegant in its simplicity: aspirants and practitioners of military strategy alike should learn from the habits of history’s great strategists and understand how to emulate their behaviors in the present.” —The Strategy Bridge