Lessons Learned: USAF General “Pete” Piotrowski

[May 11, 2019] If there ever was a common link between senior leaders in the U.S. military and those who chose leadership on a different path, we can find it in their lessons learned. U.S. Air Force General “Pete” Piotrowski is the embodiment of many of such lessons; tested, confirmed to work, and written down for us all to see.

General Piotrowski’s book, Basic Airman to General: The Secret War & Other Conflicts (2014) was loaned to me by a man whom I respect greatly and appreciate that he would trust me with his personal copy. This is a long book at over 700 pages, so I chose to summarize some of his more salient lessons in an article rather than cut it short in my Reading List series (most recent review here on “Manliness” by Harvey C. Mansfield).

There are over a dozen of those lessons learned that I found of greatest interest. Here they are, in no particular order, largely in his own words, but shortened for the sake of brevity:

  1. If you’re lucky enough to get a job, work hard and always do your best. Volunteer for the tough jobs and always be cheerful!
  2. When opportunity knocks, don’t hesitate! Don’t look for luck. It is hard work that carries the day and wins the prize!
  3. Life is a continuum of learning – recognize this early in life rather than later!
  4. Know the business of your business – earn the respect of your subordinates.
  5. Go where the action is and find out firsthand what is going on.
  6. Volunteer for the tough and unpopular assignments.
  7. Challenges are to be met, not avoided.
  8. Challenge after challenge in the crucible of life, and combat will temper our steel.
  9. Have the courage to stand your ground on the important issues and do what is right.
  10. Work is normally a team effort, be a team player.
  11. A well-lead organization can produce miracles.
  12. When you observe behaviors that demotivate people, avoid doing these things.
  13. Your view of issues may change when your responsibilities change! Keep this in mind when tilting with windmills!
  14. Conduct a personal assessment of yourself to identify what you know you don’t know about your new position. Be brutally franks with yourself then work hard to quickly fill the voids!
  15. Seek advice from experts in areas where your experience and knowledge are lacking!
  16. Leaders have the responsibility to look after their personnel 24/7, not just on a pleasant summer day when it’s convenient!

The list of lessons learned continues in greater detailed and are all explained through example after example. This is what a leader does; makes it clear what he or she means. Get out and talk to people. Get out of your comfort zone and you will become a better leader.

By the way, this is a great book. I highly recommend it.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “Lessons Learned: USAF General “Pete” Piotrowski

  1. Lynn Pitts

    Such lists are easy to read and comprehend. I like it that way. Good article today, so thanks Gen Satterfield.

    1. Bryan Lee

      I printed it and taped it to my refrig. I’ll be getting the book too.

  2. Mr. T.J. Asper

    Another great article that will be perfect for my High School students. These lessons learned are spot on.

  3. Max Foster

    Number 5 is where many leaders fail. “Go where the action is and find out firsthand what is going on.” They aren’t willing for some reason to go see for themselves what is happening and thus make decisions on biased info. Too bad that so many leaders fail for this reason.

  4. Eric Coda

    Hard work. I know that scares a lot of younger people but it is expected in other generations. Hard work means you are responsible for your job from day one, you earned your job, and you are ready when you get it. Today’s college students rail against privilege but they are the privileged ones. Maybe they should go out and join the US Marines. I’m sure their tune would change.

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      The college snowflakes would pee their pants. 🙂

      1. JT Patterson

        Nearly spit my coffee out my nose reading your comment. Thanks, Willie. Always great to read your comments.

  5. Roger Yellowmule

    A relaxing weekend, easy read, and a good cup of coffee. What a better way to start the day.

  6. The Kid 1945

    This list of lessons learned falls into your leadership website perfectly. Thanks for helping reinforce those basic qualities of leadership.

  7. Albert Ayer

    I enjoyed reading “Pete” Piotrowski’s list. I’ll be picking up his book too to read.

    1. Maureen S. Sullivan

      I ordered my copy already. I make it part of my day to do at least 15 minutes of reading. Folks are amazed at how much reading I get done because I never miss doing it.

    2. Gil Johnson

      Same here, ordered my book (used) on Amazon.

      1. Tracey Brockman

        I just don’t order a book off hand but go to my local library and first pick up a copy. Saves money. But in this case, with Gen. Satterfield’s recommendation, I will buy the book outright. I read a number of reviews on-line at both Amazon and Goodreads. Very positive impression overall about the content of the book.

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