Leadership in a 21st Century Coast Guard

Over the past few weeks, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft met with Coast Guard members to talk about his leadership principles: know your purpose, standards matter, trust and empower your people, and take decisive action.

At Sector Lower Mississippi River, the Commandant talked with Chief Warrant Officer John Price about the principle of knowing your purpose. As a marine inspector, CWO Price sees commerce moving up and down the river and knows safeguarding that flow is critical to our Nation’s economy. He shared how purpose “connects and ties you to your responsibilities as a leader” and talked about inspiring others to know their purpose as well.

In Newport, Rhode Island, the Commandant talked with Petty Officer 3rd Class Erica Carey, stationed aboard Coast Guard Cutter WILLOW, about why standards matter. She shared how standards are essential in her role as a junior petty officer because they are consistent and repeatable. “I know what I have to live up to, and what I can try and reach beyond,” she said. Petty Officer Carey also shared her perspectives on mistakes and using them as teachable moments.

Meeting with both the active duty and reserve enlisted persons of the year for 2016, the Commandant talked about trust and empowerment. Petty Officer 1st Class Evan Ward, the active duty enlisted person of the year, shared how important trust is in his role as a pursuit coxswain. Trust starts at the commanding officer level, Petty Officer Ward said, and that trust continues on to the boarding team – from the boarding officer to the coxswain to the engineer. “It takes a great deal of trust for all of us to come together and really work as a team,” he shared. Chief Petty Officer Wilton Terry, this year’s reserve recipient, talked about empowerment in joint operations and shared some words of wisdom he continues to go back to: “Never forsake your crew for your career.”

In New York Harbor, the Commandant talked with LT Yvonne Yang, operations planning chief at Sector New York, about taking decisive action. LT Yang talked about her decision to participate in the temporary separation program and how that shaped her as a leader. She further shared how she takes decisive action, in a port with complex operations, working with and through others to make sure, “the right assets and right people are in the right place at the right time.”

Lastly, the Commandant talked with Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven Cantrell. The Commandant shared what it meant for him to hear anecdotes from Coast Guard men and women and how he enjoyed learning how they apply leadership in their everyday operations. “I’m especially encouraged that everyone in this organization aspires to lead, even at the most junior levels,” the Commandant said. The Master Chief shared that one of the things that was evident in the conversations was mentorship and how important that was to them. “I firmly believe that all of us had that one someone, at some point in our careers, who had such a huge impact on our lives.”

Editor’s note: To view full versions of the leadership conversations, visit the playlist. In accordance with Coast Guard policy, streaming media from a Standard Workstation is authorized for Coast Guard business. If you are viewing this blog on a Coast Guard Standard Workstation, you may receive a notification when clicking on a YouTube video. To watch the video click “continue to this website” then “continue session.”

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