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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!

Oct 18, 2017

Rear Admiral Kerry Metz (USN, Ret.) started his career as a Navy SEAL, and eventually served as the first commander of Special Operations Command North. In this discussion, Kerry talked about career success, career setbacks, and how “you can’t be a shiny penny without a few wire brushings!” Kerry shares his 5 H’s when it comes to leadership: honor, honesty, humility, humor, and happiness. He discusses the differences and similarities between the military, sports teams, business, and the shared commonality regarding leadership. Listen in to gain insights from a modern-day, intellectual warrior.

Key Takeaways

[3:01] Kerry progressed as a SEAL from the tactical area, through operational roles, and then to the strategic level as an admiral. The Special Forces, SEALs, and Rangers are tests for the human body and mind to do 10 times more than they think they can. 

[5:48] A good team requires a common purpose or mission. Next, comes a shared experience or sacrifice. Everyone contributes to the best of their ability. These are the ingredients for a high-performing team.

[7:33] Kerry talks about sacrifice in a startup. Employees sacrifice high salary for shares. Founders are often on the road more than most executives, for a later payoff. Sacrificing now gives you future options.

[9:25] Kerry discusses how Naval officers achieve rank. Evaluations are not only for what they have done, but also their potential. Leadership is developing the leaders behind you. If something happens to you, the one behind you has to step up and take your place.

[13:29] Kerry talks about his advancement. He was passed over for Lieutenant Commander once, but not the second time. When he was up for Commander, it also took two times. But he made One Star Admiral before his contemporaries. Kerry follows five ‘H’s: Honor, Honesty, Humility, Humor, and Happiness. 

[21:13] Military groups fight in a mission to win or lose; sports teams play a game to win; but business can be a long slog. He cites Admiral Jim Stavridis, who said to be open, honest, and collegial, and Admiral Michael Mullen, who said to listen, learn, and lead. Leaders who apply these principles will lead well.

[25:49] Competition among peers is healthy if it is balanced with cooperation. Leaders should lead people the way they need to be led. Some need a push, some need a pat on the back. Tell the contributors how they are doing, and what they need to do to be on the mark.

[29:44] In 1989, Kerry tells a hard leadership lesson he learned as the Team Commander of SEAL Team One when they deployed to the Philippines. 

[37:27] Put people in the right spot for them, nurture them, and empower them, and they will surpass your expectations and surprise you with their achievements. 

[41:42] No one starts at the top. He would like to help others have a smoother ride, go further, and go faster. The world needs leaders to handle complexity.


LinkedIn: Kerry M. Metz

Navy Bio:


Hall of Valor:


Quotable Quotes

Whatever you can do, think 10 times that. You are capable of it.

Don’t let someone else determine where you’re going. You determine where you’re going. Stay on that path.

You’re going to get through that obstacle. You’ve just got to keep trying.

A high-performing team has a common purpose, a shared sacrifice, and everyone contributing to their best ability.

“A good leader can get the most of his personnel even that aren’t going all the way to the top.”

The bottom line is sustained superior performance.

If something happens to you, the one behind you has to take your place. If they’re not ready, then that’s your fault.

“If you’re doing something that you absolutely hate, my suggestion is, do something [about it].”

“You can’t be a shiny penny without a few wire brushings, and I got more than my share.”

The simplest solution is not always the best if there are unknown factors. Always listen to input.



Rear Adm. Kerry Metz holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Denver. He completed courses at the Air Command and Staff College, the Armed Forces Staff College and the Defense Language Institute. Commissioned via the Aviation Officer Candidate School in October 1984 and after a very brief time in aviation, he was assigned to the surface fleet where he served on USS Enhance (MSO 437).

Transferring to Naval Special Warfare, he completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training with Class 149 in April 1988.

He served in both Naval Special Warfare and Joint Special Operations assignments. Previous commands include a Naval Special Warfare Task Unit, a Joint Task Force, Naval Special Warfare Group 11, and six Naval Special Warfare Reserve Units. His service overseas includes multiple deployments to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Metz served as the first commander of Special Operations Command North, a subordinate unified command of U.S. Special Operations Command under the operational control of U.S. Northern Command.

Promoted to rear admiral in October 2011, he served first as the deputy commander and then as interim commander of Special Operations Command Central from September 2011 to July 2013.

Books mentioned in this episode

Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value, by Bill George

The Littlest Green Beret: On Self-Reliant Leadership, by Jan Rutherford

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J. D. Vance

Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice, by Adam Makos

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World, by William H. McRaven

Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman, by Yvon Chouinard

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters,
by Thomas M. Nichols

Letters from a Stoic, by Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by Joshua Foer

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, by General Stanley McChrystal
and Tantum Collins

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek

The Secret Knowledge of Water: Discovering the Essence of the American Desert, by Craig Childs

Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy — Until You’re 80 and Beyond, by Chris Crowley
and Henry S. Lodge