2016 Commandant’s Reading List

Written by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft

I am pleased to offer my 2016 reading list. Each new year is an opportunity to reflect on past accomplishments and lay out the trackline for future endeavors. As you consider your goals for 2016, expand your professional and leadership horizons with one or more of the following offerings:

 

raging sea Into a Raging Sea: When I introduced my leadership philosophy a year ago, the first principle I shared was know your purpose. Into a Raging Sea is a personal memoir by a Coast Guardsmen who truly knew his purpose and then some. This Coast Guardsman is Bernard Webber, coxswain of motor lifeboat CG-36500, from Station Chatham, Massachusetts. His and his station’s story will be featured on the big screen when The Finest Hours premieres later this month. Until then, you can hear directly from Webber himself in raw, candid text about his role in the Pendleton rescue and what life was like at Station Chatham in the 1950s.

 

Unbroken: Another shining example of knowing your purpose is in story of Louie Zamperini in Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken. Zamperini and his Army Air Forces aircrew were on a search mission over the Pacific, one like many of our Coast Guard crews execute each and every day, when their plane went down in 1943. After close to fifty days lost at sea, he was captured and became a prisoner or war. Through Hillenbrand’s writing, we see Zamperini’s ability to channel his purpose, personal honor and integrity despite the degradations he suffered.

 

Between the World and Me: A more recent example of finding purpose and our ties to the communities in which we live and serve is through Ta-Nehisi Coates’ memoir Between the World and Me. Written as a letter to his son, Coates reflects on our Nation’s racial history and explores the lives of African Americans today. As I read, I kept going back to the themes of identity, trust and respect – this last one being an idea so foundational to the Coast Guard it is one of our Core Values. Altogether, Coates’ personal perspectives struck a chord and his testament was eye opening and thought provoking.

 

The Truth About Employee Engagement: For those who have ever heard me speak at an all hands, you’ve likely heard me mention the book The Three Signs of a Miserable Job by Patrick Lencioni. Lencioni re-released the book this year under a new title that gets to the heart of why job misery is so detrimental to an organization – it damages employee engagement. After addressing the three signs – anonymity, irrelevance and immeasurement – Lencioni shares what happens when you engage your employees, including increased productivity, greater retention and a competitive advantage. All three are needed in today’s Coast Guard. As we hone in on our Duty to People, taking another look at engaging our workforce at all levels is a necessary refresh.

 

Fire on the Water: A key element of knowing our purpose is understanding how we fit into the broader global context. Robert Haddick’s Fire on the Water offers an enlightening view on China’s resurgence and how the U.S. should adjust its diplomatic, military and economic policies to promote long-term stability. Just one example of the dynamic challenges that come with a rapidly changing and highly globalized world, U.S.-China relations underpin regional security and prosperity and will impact global order for decades to come. Understanding this strategic context is important for every Coast Guard member’s tool kit.

 

Team of Teams: One of my leadership principles is trust and empower your people, and retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal certainly touches on the importance of trust to build teams organization-wide. He also explores relationships within these teams and networks using the line “it takes a network to defeat a network;” a phrase Coast Guard leaders have utilized to discuss our Western Hemisphere Strategy and our fight against Transnational Organized Crime networks. In the end, solutions and the way forward come from all levels of the organization and we must actively seek out these solutions and empower members of our team to come forward.

 

Highliners: We see teamwork and trust manifest daily at Coast Guard units around the world and that includes earning the trust of those we serve. This novel, sent to me by the crew aboard Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell, puts a spotlight on a unique community we serve to the Far North – Alaskan fisherman. Through the story of one young man, or “greenhorn,” we catch a glimpse of what life is like for commercial fishermen who brave Alaska’s unforgiving elements to make a living. Boutwell’s crew wrote it is, “a must-read for anyone involved in 17th Coast Guard District fisheries at any level, and a should-read for anyone who interacts with the fishing industry nationwide,” and I couldn’t agree more.

 

What is Code?: While this isn’t necessarily a book, the Bloomberg Businessweek article, “What is Code?” comes close to it at 38,000 words! The article peaked my interest earlier this summer when I read the commentary from the magazine’s editor who noted the disconnect between those who have sharpened their technological skills but know increasingly less about what makes that technology work. As he wrote: “Software has been around since the 1940s. Which means that people have been faking their way through meetings about software, and the code that builds it, for generations. Now that software lives in our pockets, runs our cars and homes and dominates our waking lives, ignorance is no longer acceptable.” I am continuously humbled by the talents of our workforce, and that is especially true with our cyber professionals.

 

World Order: In framing my leadership principle of take decisive action, I wrote, “Situations evolve and we must adapt swiftly; as a leader your decision-making will be tested.” That is true for leaders at all levels of our Service and certainly true for our complex, interconnected world. Former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger provides a backdrop for taking decisive action in today’s world by writing about century-long trends in foreign policy. Looking at the world order over time is a useful thought exercise as we confront today’s global challenges.

 

Ghost Fleet: Speaking of our increasingly complex world, members of my staff shared this book with me in the late summer while I was on my way to the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum to the very region in which this book takes place. While Ghost Fleet is a fictional account of a future world war, it weaves in real-life defense assets and current technology. While the Coast Guard’s primary operating area remains the Western Hemisphere, we are active in every region of the world. This fast-paced read presents a compelling twist on the geostrategic challenges our military faces today.

 

You pick: You now have my ten, and I’m looking for you to select one more. I enjoyed hearing from all members of the Coast Guard Family last year and am eager to see how you choose to contribute again this year. Feel free to send your selection – and don’t feel limited to just books. Send me your choice for a book, article, video or movie in the comments section, and I will select one to at the end of this month as we start 2016.

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21 Responses

  1. Nicole Auth says:

    Commandant, this TED talk by Sheryl Sandberg is excellent! I submit it for consideration:

    Happy New Year!

  2. Nicole Auth says:

    Commandant –
    My pick is a TED talk by Sheryl Sandberg:

    Happy new year!

  3. Stephen Ashley says:

    I read this last year, a great book. It is co-authored by one of our own. Character In Action.

  4. Alex Hudspeth says:

    My choice is “Arctic Dreams”, by Barry Lopez. In an exhaustive survey of the actic regions of the Western Hemisphere, Lopez compares and contrasts the motives and impact of explorers, industrialists, indigenous peoples and governments throughout the North’s history. Fascinating.

  5. Robert C Rice says:

    I’m an Auxiliarist, who has had the privilege of supporting CGC DAUNTLESS.

    Several years ago, the crew discovered a science fiction book by the same name. Dauntless is the first book in a science fiction series written by a retired Naval officer, and Annapolis graduate. Although the setting is space in a far distant future, the book is really about leadership. The hero is our kind of guy – honor, respect and devotion to duty. He has to single-handedly command and reinvigorate a fleet where all have lost those values.

    The science part of the book is interesting, and the author writes convincingly about naval battles, even naval battles in space. But the problems of leadership are the larger and more complex themes.

  6. Jeffrey Poston says:

    Admiral, I suggest “Lincoln on Leadership” (Donald T. Phillips). Written in 1996, I found it an excellent treatise on how the way Lincoln handled the conduct of the Civil War, from generals to Congress. Strongly recommended, even if it doesn’t make the final pick

  7. Christopher Weiser says:

    Commandant I would like to recommend “The Courageous Follower: Standing Up to and for Our Leaders” This book gives guidance and practical advice that will be of enormous benefit to followers, and to leaders. Some of the great things I got out of this book are:
    – When and how to challenge a supervisor’s decision
    – How to provide support to that supervisor even if you do not agree with their decision
    – Tips on how to develop ones courage. If a person does not have the courageous to speak-up on “little” things such as trying something new, talking to litter-bugs, co-workers who leave a mess for others, etc) that they will speak-up on big items such as sexual assault, harassment, hazing, a DUI situation, etc.

    Plus, We all have been, and continue to be, followers in this organization in one manner or another.

  8. Chuck Walsh says:

    “Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALS Lead and Win”, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.
    The book describes how leadership was crucial in succeeding in the Battle of Ramadi, and how they developed and led a leadership training program for other Navy SEAL teams. After leaving the Navy, they formed a consulting company to teach these principles to businesses and organizations. It describes leadership as being the most single important factor in determining whether a team succeeds or fails. It discusses the four laws of combat and how organizations can apply those concepts in the business world.

  9. Michael Spollen says:

    Admiral Zukunft, to the several excellent suggestions made below, I respectfully submit for your consideration “Bearing Drift” by Peter Eident. “Bearing Drift” transforms two Coast Guard tragedies into lessons on how accident chains form and can have deadly consequences, particularly during night operations.

  10. k7acz says:

    Launch the Ready by Fred Tanner, ADCM, USCG, Ret
    My good friend, Many missions together, Now over the bar, RIP

    Fred Tanner was born just over a year before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, but that world-changing event foreshadowed his life’s journey. In this memoir, Tanner narrates the story of serving thirty-four years in the U.S. military, primarily in the U.S. Coast Guard.

    Launch the Ready! recalls the events and friendships that have made him the person he is today-from growing up in an orphanage with other boys and girls to enlisting in the U.S. Army and then the U.S. Coast Guard. He reflects on how his experiences in the orphanage contributed to his character and affected his military service. He narrates a host of events that illustrate the personal risks he and his fellow guardsmen took to protect the dignity of the Coast Guard and safeguard the country and the lives of its citizens.

    Filled with photographs and details of other military personnel, this memoir not only reflects the richness of Tanner’s life, but also illustrates the sacrifices and hardships men and women make for their country every day.

    Submitted by:
    Alan Zack, CWO(AVI) USCG, Ret

  11. k7acz says:

    Launch the Ready!

    by Fred Tanner, ADCM, USCG, Ret
    My good friend, Now over the bar, RIP

    Fred Tanner was born just over a year before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, but that world-changing event foreshadowed his life’s journey. In this memoir, Tanner narrates the story of serving thirty-four years in the U.S. military, primarily in the U.S. Coast Guard.

    Launch the Ready! recalls the events and friendships that have made him the person he is today-from growing up in an orphanage with other boys and girls to enlisting in the U.S. Army and then the U.S. Coast Guard. He reflects on how his experiences in the orphanage contributed to his character and affected his military service. He narrates a host of events that illustrate the personal risks he and his fellow guardsmen took to protect the dignity of the Coast Guard and safeguard the country and the lives of its citizens.

    Filled with photographs and details of other military personnel, this memoir not only reflects the richness of Tanner’s life, but also illustrates the sacrifices and hardships men and women make for their country every day.

    Submitted by Alan Zack, CWO (AVI) USCG, Ret

  12. Brendan Rogers says:

    Admiral,

    Please consider, “Give and Take” by Adam Grant

    Description:

    “Using his own cutting-edge research as a professor at Wharton Business
    School, Adam Grant shows how helping others can lead to greater personal
    success. He demonstrates how smart givers avoid becoming doormats, and
    why this kind of success has the power to transform not just individuals
    and groups, but entire organizations and communities.”

    Very respectfully,

    LTJG Brendan Rogers, USCGR

  13. Joseph Haynsworth says:

    Admiral- I suggest “One Hundred Days: The Memoirs of The Falklands Battle Group Commander” by Sandy Woodward for your consideration. It’s a great book written by the Admiral who led the British response to the Argentinean invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982, and it’s supplemented with sketches and excerpts from the journal he kept throughout the events.

    Aside from the clear leadership components of the book, the daily trials and tribulations of a Royal Navy Battle Group far from home have a lot more in common with the U.S. Coast Guard than immediately meets the eye. Anyone who has served onboard a cutter, an embarked helicopter, at a command center, or on the mission support side can appreciate the complexity of what RDML Woodward had to contend with. In particular, the difficulties he had keeping his high-tech (for its time) fleet operating at full capacity while thousands of miles from their support infrastructure seems eerily similar to our challenges keeping the new NSCs and FRCs with their larger support logistics footprint running as we gradually test their limits.

    He also has some great insight on command center relations garnered from his time managing many ships, aircraft, and land forces- each operating through their own command center based on their own impression of the facts on the ground. It’s always surprising how an operational unit working with and through a command center can have trouble seeing eye-to-eye, especially since both sides have solid performers and are working toward the same goal.

    Anyway- great book & highly recommended.

    Respectfully
    Joseph Haynsworth

  14. Daniel Kehlenbach says:

    Admiral, I’d like to recommend “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. This book has had such a profound impact on my life and has helped me become a better husband, student, teacher and coach. Thanks for allowing us to contribute suggestions!

  15. Timothy Mutter says:

    Admiral, I respectfully recommend The Patriots History Reader: Essential Documents for Every American by Larry Schweikart, Dave Dougherty, and Michael Patrick Allen.

    This collection of historically and culturally significant documents, speeches, and court opinions from our founding as a nation through more recent times is a remarkable read for observers of history. Offering commentary concerning each text contained, the history reader refreshes our critical analysis on our perspectives concerning our youthful nation’s historical context.

    Including but not limited to: Common Sense by Thomas Paine (1776), The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States, Marbury v. Madison, On Dred Scott by Frederick Douglass (1857), Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address and Emancipation Proclamation, Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Woodrow Wilson’s Address for a Declaration of War (1917), On Social Security by Franklin D. Roosevelt (1935) and his “Date Which Will Live In Infamy” speech (1941), Brown v. Board of Education (1954), The Civil Rights Act (1964), Roe v. Wade (1973), Jimmy Carter’s “Crisis of Confidence” Speech (1979), George W. Bush’s National Cathedral Speech (2001), and Barack Obama’s “A New Beginning” Speech (2009).

    While a seemingly overwhelming catalog of history and social review, found within the The Patriots History Reader is a refreshing remembrance of our great thinkers and leaders. Each and every one of us has likely read some or portions of some of the included texts, whether in school, college, or personal interests in history. I recommend we reread these great works as a reminder of how far we have come and the difficulties overcome during that journey.

  16. Andrew Tucci says:

    My suggestion is “Arguing About Slavery”, by William Lee Miller. This is a fantastic account of the slavery debates in Congress in the decades before the Civil War. John Quincy Adams, who served in the House of Representatives after being President, comes through as a dedicated and creative foe of slavery. Core Values, our nation’s history, and a great connection to the Coast Guard’s emphasis on diversity. CAPT Andrew Tucci.

  17. Kathleen Shanahan Maca says:

    I would recommend David Falloure’s “Sheer Will: The Story of the Port of Houston and the Houston Ship Channel.” Fascinating stuff!

  18. D Thomas says:

    One of the books I enjoyed was Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior by General (ret) Hugh Shelton. It was an honest account of his time in the service through many different ranks with leadership lessons during each.

  19. Steven Wilkes says:

    Good day Admiral.
    I would like to recommend “The Fifth Man: Henry R. Bowers” by C. H. Lagerbom. This work recounts the epic journey of Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole (1910-1913), and focuses particular attention on the final member chosen to be a part of the crew, Lieutenant (Royal Indian Marine Service) Henry Robertson (Birdie) Bowers.

    This journey ends in tragedy, as all five party members perish during their attempted return. This story is a 180-degree shift from the successes of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expeditions. However, MUCH can be learned from the Terra Nova Expedition including, but not limited to, the need for thorough planning, the importance of logistics and financial support, and that crew selection, in any operation, is paramount.

    I cannot help but to remember a famous quote by General Dwight D. Eisenhower when I think of the Terra Nova Expedition: “Plans are nothing: Planning is everything.”

    Very respectfully,
    CPO Steven D. Wilkes

  20. Michael Allen says:

    Here is an easy way to get the books featured on the Admiral’s list: I set them all up and made a couple recommendations of my own. AET Allen

  21. K Sarac says:

    Sir, respectfully I’d like to suggest “Above the Line” – A Lesson in Leasership and Life From a Champion Season… by Urban Meyer. … Where it’s not just about the stars, but the whole team!

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