Mastering the Art of Command is a detailed examination of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s leadership during World War II. It describes how he used his talents to help the Pacific Fleet recover from the trauma of Pearl Harbor, win crucial victories against the forces of Imperial Japan, and then seize the initiative in the Pacific. Once Nimitz’s forces held the initiative, they maintained it through an offensive campaign of unparalleled speed that overcame Japanese defenses and created the conditions for victory.
The book is a command and operational history. It explores how Nimitz used his leadership skills, command talents, and strategic acumen to achieve these decisive results. Hone recounts how Nimitz, as both Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) and Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Ocean Areas (CINCPOA), revised and adapted his organizational structure to capitalize on lessons and newly emerging information. Hone argues that Nimitz—because he served simultaneously as CINCPAC and CINCPOA—was able to couple tactical successes to strategic outcomes and more effectively plan and execute operations that brought victory at Midway, Guadalcanal, the Philippines, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and elsewhere.
As a study of leadership, Mastering the Art of Command uses modern management theories and builds on the approach of Hone’s award-winning Learning War. Hone explores the challenge of leadership in complex adaptive systems through Nimitz’s behavior and causes us to reassess the inevitability of Allied victory and the reasons for its ultimate accomplishment. A new narrative history of the Pacific war, this book demonstrates effective patterns for complexity-informed leadership by highlighting how Nimitz maintained coherence within his organization, established the conditions for his subordinates to succeed, and fostered collaborative sense-making to identify and pursue options more rapidly. Nimitz’s “strategic artistry” is a pattern worthy of study and emulation, for today’s military officers, civilian leaders, and managers in large organizations.
Reviews and Recognitions
“If the reader has any knowledge or feeling about this great, neglected Hero of America, read Trent’s Mastering the Art of Command.” —Don DeNevi, ARGunners
“Trent Hone is a fantastic researcher. Hone’s account of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s Pacific naval victory is incredibly detailed. It’s as if he was a fly on the wall where Nimitz was.” —Francis Tapon
“This is the best book I have ever read on leadership and command.” —Kent Staab
“In Learning War, Trent Hone described elements of success for the Navy as a complex learning system before and during World War II. In Mastering the Art of Command, he focuses on Admiral Nimitz himself and the leadership qualities he demonstrated to achieve the Navy’s learning potential and win the war in the Pacific. Together, these two books are a master class in leading complex learning systems and should be required reading for every aspiring leader.” —Adm. John Richardson, USN (Ret.), 31st Chief of Naval Operations
“This is a path-breaking dual ‘biography’ of enormous scope. At one level it meticulously and convincingly portrays how Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz rose to become the greatest American theater commander in World War II. But that narrative merges seamlessly with the story of how the U.S. Navy’s culture developed between the wars [described in his Learning War] met the monumental challenges of its Pacific campaigns under Nimitz’s sure-handed but understated leadership.” —Richard B. Frank, author of Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle
“Trent Hone perceptively analyzes how America’s finest admiral not only carefully honed his own approach to leadership, but also fostered it by example among everyone he led. Only an officer with Nimitz’s managerial brilliance would have been capable of creating the agile command organization that efficiently waged the U.S. Navy’s sprawling Pacific War. Engagingly and incisively written, this is a superb sequel to Hone’s innovative Learning War.” —Jonathan Parshall, co-author of Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway
“Prolific historian Trent Hone has produced another gem. He adroitly uses Admiral Chester Nimitz’s World War II command of the Pacific Fleet as a study in leadership. Nimitz combined wide professional knowledge, sound judgment, decisiveness, steely resolve, diplomacy, and loyalty to his chain of command to produce a hard-won victory.” —Paul Stillwell, author of Battleship Commander: The Life of Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee Jr.
“Trent Hone provides something rare with this latest study, a fully formed case study of organizational, strategic, and operational leadership in the chaos of war—the career of Adm. Chester Nimitz in the Pacific. The Nimitz portrayed by Hone is intelligent, gracious, and worth emulating.” —John T. Kuehn, author of Agents of Innovation: The General Board and the Design of the Fleet that Defeated the Japanese Navy and professor of Military History, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College