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The Leadership Podcast

The Leadership Podcast

Why do we do this?

We interview great leaders, review the books they read, and speak with highly influential authors who study them.

How we do this?

#1 We interview great leaders.
#2 We review the books great leaders read and write.
#3 We have fun!

Apr 24, 2019

Lieutenant General Robert L. Caslen Jr. served in the U.S. Army for 43 years, and he retired in 2018 as the 59th Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He talks with Jim and Jan about the responsibility that came with his role as superintendent. They also discuss diversity in leadership, winning in a complex world, the role ethics and character play in leadership, and his fondness for the new generation of leaders.  Under his direction as Superintendent, the Academy was recognized as the number one public college in the Nation by Forbes Magazine and the number one public college by U.S. News and World Report.


Key Takeaways

[3:18] Yes, Lt. Caslen really did kill a deer by drowning it.  

[9:08] Lt. Caslen’s role as the 59th Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point gave him an opportunity to make an impact on the next generation of leaders. He saw it as one of the best opportunities to build a legacy of future leaders in the military and in their communities.

[12:06] It is important for leaders to make everyone feel valuable and to be sensitive to policies that polarize or discriminate.   

[16:21] Great leaders are equipped to lead diverse organizations. They develop future leaders that recognize others as a valued member of the team. Lt. Caslen believes in everyone having the opportunity to serve, regardless of ethnicity, sexual preference or gender.

[20:29] Before becoming the West Point Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Caslen served as the chief of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq, where he served as the senior military commander in Iraq after the drawdown of U.S. and allied forces in 2011.  He also has served in combat and overseas deployments in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, JTF-B in Honduras, and Operation Uphold Democracy and the United Nations Mission in Haiti.

[24:22] The most important element of leadership is trust. When we lead with competence and character, those around trust us and our actions match our words.

[26:03] When you are engaged, empowered, and energetic, it shows others you care.

[28:31] Leaders must understand the complex nature of their battlefield, and also possess the interpersonal skills to develop relationships that support others.

[32:17] Great leaders should be on the edge of seeing how technology will affect our future, and also empower others by underwriting the risks of making mistakes.

[37:37] Whether we are leading big organizations or individuals, savvy leaders respond to compromising situations to the best of their abilities and their values consistently remain in tact.

[46:17] The next generation continues to inspire Lt. Caslen.

[48:18] Lt. Caslen’s challenge to us: Be more engaged, and live a life of constant learning, as it enables us to continue to give back. The more senior you are, the more opportunity you have to give back.



  • “Perseverance is persistence.”
  • “When you find a way to bring people together, they feel good in your presence.”
  • “The first lesson of leadership was to learn how to follow.”
  • “Trust is a function of competence and character.”
  • “We have to have character internalized 24 hours a day, and I think that’s how it ought to be for all of us.”
  • “Let’s live a life that has our values internalized.”

The Speed of Trust

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