It’s hard to imagine there was ever a time, even for a fleeting moment, when Sgt. Major Keith L. Craig (R) did not appreciate the concept of practice. “When I was a young soldier, I didn’t respect or understand the reason for training.”

This coming from an organizational man whose 32-year Army service, professional football stint and corporate career with Disney were grounded in systems, structure and discipline aimed to ensure success and promote leadership.

Craig shares his philosophy of service, strategy and leadership in his recently released novel Serving to Lead (Best Seller Publishing LLC), in which he recounts his personal experiences from growing up poor in the South to becoming one of the Army’s highest-ranking non commissioned officers and then to being part of a record-breaking theatrical distribution team at Disney. Along the way, he provides his own blueprint for becoming a leader and dedicating a life to service, taking readers on a step-by-step approach from preparation to implementation.

“If it were up to others, I’d be dead,” writes Craig, noting he served in six combat tours under six presidents. While people see the decorations, “they do not see the man behind the missions, the man who woke in the middle of the night to the sounds of war, the man who had to identify bodies of soldiers he ate with.”

Serving to Lead, says Craig, “is for anyone who was told they weren’t good enough and didn’t have enough of what it takes to make it.”

Craig’s work is designed to mentor others who are seeking a lift and uncertain about how to reach their full potential. It is chock full of anecdotes and leadership lessons, learned from experience, from his own superiors, and through the inspiration of iconic leaders like George Patton, Bill Belichick and Steve Jobs.

As for his initial rejection about training, Craig came to realize pretty quickly that learning something new with multiple repetitions until it becomes second nature could eventually save lives — his included.

As the book attests, leadership is a process, and the author defines the various types of leadership and their places in the success formula. He also notes that leadership is not static, and is subject to adaptation as an institution. “As the face of the workforce changes, the face of leadership must change too.” He takes readers through the five key steps: defining your mission, making your plan, setting the tone, rehearsing the plan and pre-executing the plan.

Craig’s journey is inspirational and impressive, and serves as an example of what one can accomplish if he or she follows an intelligent, structured and productive course.

Craig’s daughter Nikissia writes that her father’s story “is one of surviving the South, poverty, war and the daily demands of life … There are scars and successes that combine to speak to his inner strength and commitment.”

“He had to master the leader within before he could successfully lead others.”

Craig says, “Leadership is not about perks and advantages of position; it’s about taking care of the group first and serving yourself last — mission, people and then self.”

Serving to Lead is available for purchase. To learn more about Sgt. Major Keith L. Craig, visit his BookTrib author profile page.

Keith Craig served 32 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a Sergeant Major. His time in service took him around the world where he served in six combat campaigns, conducted humanitarian and natural disaster operations, played professional football and oversaw the creation of senior enlisted training programs. He currently is an entertainment executive at Walt Disney Studios managing Central Division Theatrical Sales and Distribution for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures in 20 theatrical demographic market areas. Craig also is president of the Disney’s diversity resource group Salute.