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An Interview with John Antal, author of “7 Leadership Lessons of D-Day”

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Kansas and grew up in the Mid-West USA. I moved to Texas after I retired from the Army and can’t imagine living anywhere else.  Texas is my home.

 Could you tell us a bit about any history of military service in your family? In what ways was the military part of your life from an early age?

My father served during the Korean was in the US Marine Corps and my Mother served in the FBI and then in the US Air Force. When their service ended they were married and attended college on the GI Bill. I was born while they were in college. Their sense of duty and service inspired me. My earliest goal was to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point and become an officer in the US Army. I worked hard to meet the requirements and was selected to attend West Point in 1973. I graduated from West Point in 1977 and became a 2d Lieutenant in the US Army Armor branch. The greatest accomplishment in my life is to have led American Soldiers. I am Airborne and Ranger qualified, earned the Expert Infantryman Badge, and served as an Armor and Cavalry officer on deployments around the world. After 30 years of service in the US Army as a combat arms officer, senior staff officer, and commander I transitioned to a civilian occupation where I worked for Microsoft and then an independent video game company. I have had the great opportunity to write books and create several best selling video games about WWII.

 What kinds of books did you read growing up? Which had the greatest impact on you?

My Mother read many books to me when I was growing up and this generated my love of reading. I was a voracious reader of history, military history and biography. I also enjoyed poetry and science fiction. The two books that impacted me the most in my younger years are 1) The Illiad, of Homer and 2) Once an Eagle, by Anton Myer.

 When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer? What is it about writing that appealed to you?

Leadership is about communication and I worked to improve my communication skills at an early age. I started writing magazine articles at West Point and I continue to write for magazines to this day. Writing magazine articles became my path to learning how to write books and it wasn’t until the early 1990s that I wrote my first book for publication. Since then, I have authored over a dozen books and novels on military history and leadership. I have contributed chapters to several military history anthologies. I was also the Managing Editor of The Armchair General Magazine from 2005-2005, which gave me invaluable lessons in writing interactive fiction, editing and writing compact and succinct magazine articles.

As a leader who is on a journey to learn every day, becoming a Soldier was my goal. Writing is one way to communicate my passion to teach leadership and the art of influence. A Soldier, historian, author, video game executive, leadership coach and storyteller, I have published over a dozen books and hundreds of magazine articles on historical and leadership subjects. I also have appeared on the History Channel in several military history documentaries, including the series “Patton 360.”

 When and how did you become interested in Military history?

I learned early in life that it is important to study your profession. I started reading military history almost as soon as I could read.

 Who are your favorite authors, fiction and non-fiction, and why?

These are my top 7 Books:
The Illiad of Homer – There is no better book on human interaction, competition, war and leadership than the Illiad.
Once an Eagle, by Anton Myer – This book explains what it is like to be a Soldier and an effective leader better than any other novel I have read.
21 Irrefutable laws of Leadership, by John Maxwell – Superb leadership primer.
Leadership Secrets of Atilla the Hun, by Wes Roberts – A brilliant treatise on leadership for anyone in any walk of life.
The Art of War, by Sun Tzu – One of the most influential books on war and leadership in history.
Barracks Room Ballads, by Rudyard Kipling – A book of poetry by a great Soldier’s Poet, who explains soldiering, danger, strife and leadership.
We Were Soldiers Once and Young, by H. Moore and J. Galloway –A superb book on war and leadership.

 Have you read anything lately that you’d like to recommend to our readers?

My latest read is How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, Seven Steps to Genius Every Day, by Michael J. Gelb. A fascinating book about how to be more creative and a better leader.

How do you relax? Do you have any hobbies or interests?

I enjoy hiking, story-telling, reading, dancing with my wife, and traveling with her to historic places.

What do you like most about your book? Why should we read it?

We all rise to the level of our leadership. If your leadership level is low, your life is hard because you can’t inspire others to work with you. If your leadership level is high, you can impel people to work together to achieve more. Leadership can be learned. If you have not raised your leadership awareness lately, you can benefit from reading 7 Leadership Lessons of D-Day and my earlier book in this series,  7 Leadership Lessons of the American Revolution (Casemate 2013). For more information, see:

Anything else we should know about you and your books?

For me, leadership is the art of influence and a sacred trust. It is the ability to impel people to work together to accomplish a mission. My life’s purpose is to inspire service and develop leaders, and I hope my books help to achieve a small part of that aim. My 7 Leadership Lessons books can help you raise your leadership awareness regardless of your occupation. Taking time to raise your personal leadership level is time well spent.

John Antal is a soldier, military historian, and leadership expert. He served 30 years in the US Army as a combat arms officer, senior staff officer, and commander. He has commanded units from platoon level through regiment and served on corps and multinational staffs. In his post-Army career he has become a video game producer, military consultant and author of thirteen books and hundreds of articles on military and leadership subjects.

7 Leadership Lessons of D-Day

9781612005294 The odds were against the Allies on June 6, 1944. The task ahead of the paratroopers who jumped over Normandy and the soldiers who waded ashore onto the beaches, all under fire, was colossal. In such circumstances, good leadership can be the defining factor in victory or defeat. This book is about the extraordinary leadership of seven men who led American soldiers on D-Day and the days that followed. Some of them, like Eisenhower, Theodore Roosevelt Jr., and Lieutenant Dick Winters, are well known, while others are barely a footnote in the history books.

All of them made a dramatic difference during Operation Overlord. All understood that they had a mission to accomplish and that if they failed to lead, that mission would fail and more men would die. When things did not go as planned, they took action, adapted and overcame – they were leaders. Leadership was the only ingredient that would get them through the storm of death surrounding them and their men.

This book is not a full history of D-Day, nor does it cover the heroic leadership shown by men in the armies of the Allies or members of the French Resistance who also participated in the Normandy assault and battles for the lodgment areas. It is, however, a primer on how you can lead today, no matter what your occupation or role in life, by learning from the leadership of these seven.

A critical task for every leader is to understand what leadership is. Socrates once said that you cannot understand something unless you can first define it in your own words. This book provides the reader with a means to define leadership by telling seven dramatic, immersive and memorable stories that the reader will never forget.

the cause of Liberty.

Leadership is always in demand, especially in today’s troubled times. Leadership is something you can learn through study, reflection and practice. A good step on the road to improving your leadership is to read this book and inculcate the lessons learned from the Founding Fathers. Their struggles are our struggles and their challenges are our challenges. Learn how they secured our Liberty so you can transform today into a better tomorrow.

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