Eric Kapitulik and Jake MacDonald are former U.S. Marines who adapted their special forces training into a book called The Program: Lessons from Elite Military Units for Creating and Sustaining High Performance Leaders and Teams, as well as a live seminar. The program is intended to help organizations build stronger teams and improve leadership by explaining concepts through the lens of team-based physical disciplines as well as military training programs.




They also utilize analogies from the world of sports, corporations, and even schools. Kapitulik and MacDonald explain takeaways from their experiences running a military training program, climbing Mount Everest, and overcoming other challenges, often stepping well out of their comfort zone to accomplish their goals. 


Kapitulik and MacDonald believe that talent is common, but discipline and a framework to accomplish team missions are often lacking. Teams need to learn and adhere to core values of their own choosing, and the authors lay out the groundwork for doing so. They also provide information on what it means for colleagues to hold each other accountable. 


Although the book stresses the importance of physical and mental toughness, the program entails a significant amount of relationship building and concern for the well-being of others. The authors criticize management styles that create sharp divisions between team members and leadership. Hands-on mentoring and coaching are considered far more suitable for effective team building. There’s no shortage of examples to drive home the points in the book, from the University of Michigan’s basketball team’s infamous time-out disaster to battlefield medicine in a crisis situation.


The Program, especially in the beginning, may bog down a reader with jargon and definitions that can be hard to follow at first glance, and the level of detail with which these concepts are described seems more suited to a live audience than a printed work. Nevertheless, the book is a fascinating read that explains the thought process behind the authors’ philosophy. The advice in The Program could help others succeed in their missions, whether they’re in an elite military unit, the finance function of a company striving to increase business, or a sports team looking for an edge.

About the Authors