Reading and Leading with LUF’s Chief Mentor Jim Roussell, USMC (Ret) & Chicago PD (Ret)


Since our formal inception more than a decade ago, the Leadership Under Fire Team has championed professional reading. We have fervently advocated for increased professional reading in the American Fire Service and similar high risk industries that do not enjoy the robust professional development curricula that the US military provides. The LUF team believes that a careful examination of history’s most accomplished mission oriented leaders reveals that their success was strongly correlated to a scholarly appreciation of literature and professional reading. We have been humbled to watch many in the LUF network devour books that on the surface have nothing to do with the fire service, and yet everything to do with the fire ground.

The past several years has challenged each of us as well as our families, institutions, communities, and nation in a myriad of ways: military conflict in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, a global pandemic, civil and political unrest at home. The proliferation of digital communications platforms and the emergence of disruptive technology have only exacerbated the intellectual, emotional, and moral demands on those of us leading in mission oriented and lethal vocations. Leaders with four years of service and leaders with four decades of service alike have found today’s operational environment to be disorienting and uncomfortable. The unfortunate news is that there is no evidence that the pace and acceleration of technological and social change and instability is likely to slow anytime soon. The favorable news is that the predicament we find ourselves in might not be as novel as we think. If we look at history through a wider lens, professional reading has never been as critical as it is now.

Rigorous reading affords each of us valuable insight that provides principled leaders encouragement, and even a roadmap for navigating institutional and social technical changes. In 2022, LUF launched our inaugural book club. The online book club has been a conduit to meaningful discourse, reflection, and critical thought. It was only fitting that LU F’s Senior Mentor Jim Roussell served as the initial LUF book club leader given his infectious commitment to professional reading over the course of his remarkable career in the United States Marine Corps and Chicago Police Department. In this podcast episode, Jim unpacks Marcus Aurelius’s meditations and provides valuable insight into how leaders use professional reading to cultivate leadership, critical thinking, and complex problem solving skills.