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Book Review - THE WISDOM OF THE BULLFROG

THE WISDOM OF THE BULLFROG: Leadership made simple (but not easy). Admiral William H. McRaven. (2023, Kindle Edition)

As the longest-serving frogman and Navy SEAL on active duty, Admiral William H. McRaven was anointed “the Bullfrog”. In The Wisdom of the Bullfrog, McRaven recounts the many leadership lessons learned (some easy, some painful, but all of value) over almost four decades of service as a midshipman to four-star admiral to chancellor of the University of Texas System. In this short and highly engaging book, McRaven expounds on his worldview on the nature of leadership…that everything in leadership is simple, it’s just that the simplest things are difficult.

The Wisdom of the Bullfrog consists of 18 chapters, each beginning with a different saying in the form of a motto, parable, creed, or story that has guided McRaven throughout his career. The book chapters include a mix of Personal Qualities and Professional Actions on what it means to be a leader, why they are important, along with real-world stories and/or personal anecdotes that serve to illustrate the thematic points being made. At the end of each chapter, McRaven summarizes three succinct “It’s Simple” rules on the leadership lessons learned. A few personal favorites include:

  • Never lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do. The culture of your organization starts with you.

  • Only promise what you can deliver. The quickest way to lose trust is to overpromise and underdeliver.

  • Be aggressive. When you see a problem, do something about it. That’s what is expected of leaders.

  • Praise those who attempt to solve problems on their own, even if the results are not as expected.

  • Learn from your mistakes and be prepared to take the next big risk. Don’t let a single failure define you.

  • Hope is not a strategy…Be prepared. Murphy was an optimist.

  • Listen to the rank and file. They have solutions to most of the problems you struggle with.

  • Communicate. Communicate. Communicate…Never take a significant action without having a plan for informing the rank and file.

  • Sooner or later, you will be held to account for your actions. Always do the right thing.

  • Always have a swim buddy…and…Be a swim buddy to others. Someone out there needs you!

The principles that have guided Admiral McRaven over the course of his leadership journey are not new, but they serve as a useful reminder that although leadership is difficult, it’s not complicated. Successful leaders are honorable and trustworthy, confident yet humble, they have stamina, initiative, and aren’t afraid to take risks. While these qualities are the foundation of good leadership, effective leaders must also take sound actions to achieve their goals.


This is a beautifully written book that is an easy read, yet carries powerful messages and insights for leaders of all walks of life, whether in your work life, personal life, and/or family life. It is well worth your time.


Image source: Amazon

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