Book Review: ‘First Man In’ by Ant Middleton

About the Book: First Man In by Ant Middleton

There are self-help guides about leadership aplenty. There are countless memoirs of soldiers sharing their experiences – even those from elite forces. But it’s rarer to find a book like ‘First Man In’ by Ant Middleton (best known as the head instructor on the Channel 4 television series SAS: Who Dares Wins), which blends life experience with actionable insights on how to be a better leader.
This book follows Ant Middleton’s journey as a soldier and as an individual. It delves into his early life, his personal relationships, his jumps between careers and goals. Moreover, it explores his experiences as – quite literally – the first man into the fray. From his newly gained fame in television to his many positions in the British Military, this book – refreshingly – provides a clear look at Middleton as a person. Importantly, however, it never strays too far from the actionable insights this book promises.

Condensed and Easy to Reference ‘What We’ve Learned’ Sections

At the end of each chapter, there is a summary that outlines the lessons described in each portion of the book. It’s structured in a way that’s easy to reference for later use. Furthermore, it rephrases the points in more concise, actionable ways.
Reading Ant Middleton’s real-life experiences, which feature these lessons in action, shows you a ground-level perspective. However, you could easily read these summarised tips all on their own. They’re thoughtful, punchy, and abridge big concepts into steps you can take right now. Some even show different ways you could apply them in certain environments as a manager in a civvie position, rather than just as an elite soldier.

The book review here aims to highlight the key attributes of a leader

Book Cover for First Man by Ant Middleton, depicting Ant on the front cover.

Useful for More Than Just Leadership Positions

Most refreshing, some points discuss being a leader even when you’re not in a leadership position. Not everyone will be the first man in. But, there’s a great value to being an authority even in a supporting role. This book describes how to have a leadership mentality and how to be a stronger team player. Moreover, how to use these strengths even when you’re not in command.
From how to establish yourself in a group, how to set yourself apart, to ways you can strengthen a team even from a supporting position, Ant Middleton’s ‘First Man In’ provides an all-encompassing look at being a leader. This makes the insights easy to apply no matter where you are in your existing or aspiring hierarchy.

Personal Development as Well as Leadership Development

Spread across the entire book is a strong focus on not just leadership techniques, but how to be a leader. As the first chapter says, it’s not something that just happens; it’s something you become. The example stories and the summary tips emphasise personal development, with a strong focus on being the best version of yourself. And ‘versions’ there must be since the author emphasises that trying to emulate just one persona will stunt your progress.
This doesn’t come across as preachy or ‘inspirational’ to the point of being inauthentic. A strong point is made in the early chapters, and the methods of accomplishing this are spread organically throughout the rest of the book. The focus is always about becoming a leader, not just how you can act like one.

No Questions Left Unanswered

Knowing when to give up or when to push on, harnessing your demons or quieting them, being a team player or not compromising – these are complex problems, and the book focuses on teaching you the differences. You’re never left to guess how you can tell between the two or know which is right for your situation. In ‘First Man In’, Ant Middleton shows with clear life examples, as well as direct advice, how to pick the right tactics for the right situations. As a bonus, he shows ways to adapt and recover should you get it wrong.

30:10:5 Rule Infographic

Read for 30, Write for 10, Teach for 5


All in all, this book is a great read for those interested in powerful insight on leadership – what it is, how to harness it, and how to become it. Whether you’re at the bottom or top of the ladder, it’s a strong tool to help improve your approach.

For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Leadership Skills and our Leadership Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Leadership Skills Tips and articles.

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