Leadership: Watch, Listen, Learn

Written by Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Michel.

Last month, the Commandant shared his reading list as a way to encourage continued learning and personal growth. Recognizing your demanding operational schedules, I wanted to complement his reading list with other ways in which you can think about your role as a leader within our Coast Guard. Below are podcasts, TED talks and even a documentary that I have found inspiring and educational. In sharing this list, I encourage you to listen, watch and learn with the hope that the ideas they spark can be woven into your day and help you grow in your own leadership journey.

TED Talks:

1Seth Godin – How to Get your Ideas to Spread: Coast Guard men and women at all levels often provide remarkable solutions to complex problems. I’m continuously inspired by the innovation I see across our Service in ways big and small. Unfortunately, many solutions can be lost during their journey from the deck-plate to leadership. Entrepreneur and blogger Seth Godin explores why some ideas are more successful than others in this TED Talk.


2Simon Sinek – If You Don’t Understand People, You Don’t Understand Business: Simon Sinek explores the importance of trust and authenticity in this podcast. It’s a topic that will certainly be at the forefront of our minds at this week’s Leadership Council as we make key decisions for our Service’s way ahead. We know that at every level – from the most junior to the most senior – we serve best when we achieve strong bonds of trust with one another. This podcast is a testament to that.


3Richard Green – 7 Secrets of the Greatest Speakers in History: Considered a leading communication coach, Richard Green draws upon history to explore seven key principles for effective speaking. In our Coast Guard, we communicate with each other and the American public every day – with both our words and our actions. These lessons will provide additional tools to incorporate into your communication tool-kit.


4Larry Smith – Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career: When I speak to Coast Guard men and women in the field, no matter rate or rank, there is one consistent message: our people love this organization and they love what they do. Larry Smith, a professor of economics, takes a closer look at passion and ownership. He also shares roadblocks for why some people fail to pursue their passions. Both are good reminders of why staying connected to the mission is important.


5The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers: Original thinking and creativity are two traits our organization values. Our missions require that people think quickly and develop solutions as events transpire. In this talk, organizational psychologist Adam Grant discusses traits that make original thinkers who they are in a humorous manner that encapsulates some of the best characteristics I’ve seen in our workforce.



aRadiolab Presents More Perfect: This podcast was of particular interest to me as a career judge advocate. I selected this podcast as it does a great job of demonstrating how Supreme Court cases impact our Nation. Each episode examines a Supreme Court case in depth – from the court’s founding to recent cases on the docket – and provides a window into the highest court of the land.


bHow I Built This: Our organization is comprised of incredibly talented and innovative women and men. This podcast highlights the innovative side of business and illustrates the triumphs and failures of some of the best-known companies and leaders in the world. From Richard Branson and Angie Hicks to Patagonia and Zappos, each episode inspires creativity.


cCSIS Presents Smart Women Smart Power: Our organization does best when we incorporate diversity at all levels in our organization. This podcast features episodes that highlight women in senior leadership roles within government, the academic community and businesses. While the podcast covers a wide range of topics, from technology and innovation to national security and terrorism, two of the most memorable from 2016 was a discussion on geopolitics in the Arctic and a conversation on military personnel policies and retention.


dFreakonomics: When the book Freakonomics came out in 2009, many were surprised how closely economics informs nearly aspect of our lives. I remember being surprised by many of the findings and even having a few “aha” moments. With this podcast, the book’s authors continue to share their interesting and surprising findings through fascinating stories and noteworthy guests.



eThe Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power: I selected this documentary because of its nexus to our role in securing the marine transportation system. As our prevention community knows, America’s marine transportation system is responsible for $4.5 trillion in commerce each year, with much of its cargo comprised of oil and gas. This eight-part documentary series is an engaging account of energy in the 20th century, capturing the impact of oil on American history.



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