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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!

Jan 1, 2020

Considered perhaps one of the most influential Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in history, Admiral Mike Mullen takes a fresh approach to the most important issues of the 21st century—including America's global positioning and how business trends and the economic health of the U.S. directly impact our national security. Admiral Michael Mullen also shares his thoughts on how to eliminate fear, and why everyone needs to have a defined set of principles and moral values they should never violate.


Key Takeaways

[4:25] Admiral Mullen has taken unpopular stances throughout his 42-year military career, but you have to take risks if you want to succeed. When he took command of a small ship in 1973, half of the people he knew said not to do it/it was too risky and the other half said that he should do it/it’s who we are. A few months in, he crashed the ship! It took him 11 years to recover professionally.

[7:25] Admiral Mullen gets a lot of notoriety from his position on ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’ When Obama won, he knew the President required the help of the military.

[10:45] Admiral Mullen taught History and the Practice of Diplomacy at Princeton for six years and has recently transitioned to the Naval Academy to teach leadership.

[14:25] Admiral Mullen tries to teach young people about the importance of defining moral values and working with core principles. What do you stand for? You need to know.

[17:25] There are three principles about the proper use of military force: military power should be the last resort of the state, force should be applied in a precise, principled way, and policy and strategy should constantly engage one another.

[20:05] When you make a tough decision, you need constant feedback after, to understand how that decision is progressing and affecting the organization.

[21:05] If a leader doesn’t give permission for their staff to fail and recover, then your team won’t be taking much risk in the first place. How do you eliminate fear? By empowering your people to fail.

[28:20] People are so tied emotionally to how they’re feeling today that they put aside the organization they care about the most, the one they spend most of their life in, because of those feelings. Because of this, Admiral Mullen feels people do great damage to the military and its reputation.

[32:50] Admiral Mullen would like to have a smaller army; that way if we do have to go to war and have to draft our sons and daughters for it, the American people along with Congress have to think very carefully whether doing that is the right choice. It’s way too easy to go to war today and that’s the most serious decision a president will ever have to make.

[41:25] Veterans are having a tough time getting jobs and Admiral Mullen understands why. He has helped create veterans and throughout his career, he and his peers spent zero time helping veterans transition from military life to civilian life, and we need to get better at that. The transition phase is the hardest one to go through, not just for military personnel, but for their families, too.

[48:15] Admiral Mullen gives a shout out to an organization that he and his wife deeply care about — TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors).


Quotable Quotes

  • “People who will not risk cannot win.”
  • “In the military, even when it’s going really well, it’s a dangerous business.
  • When you teach, you really do have an opportunity to reflect.”
  • “What we do in one place affects so many other people in the organization.
  • “I had bosses who really encouraged me to take risks and when I fell on my face, they took care of me.


Admiral Michael Mullen on Wikipedia

Princeton University Faculty — Admiral Michael Mullen 

17th Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff — Admiral Michael Mullen

Admiral Michael Mullen in The New York Times


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