What books are recommended for leadership?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft recognizes the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star










The following article was written by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft and was originally published on USCG’s All Hands Blog.

 by Adm. Paul Zukunft (USCG) This year’s reading list includes both books I selected and books that were shared with me throughout the year – from discussions with cadets at the Coast Guard Academy to sessions with my leadership team to meetings with key stakeholders. My hope is you will use these selections to remain dedicated to your mission today, while considering what it means to meet your mission in life into the future.

Thank you for being lateThank You for Being Late. I selected Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat 3.0 in my 2015 list. His latest update on the forces transforming our world today – technology, globalization and climate change – is a valuable read in assessing how the Coast Guard operates in an increasingly interconnected world. Friedman discusses transnational organized crime, piracy, mass migration, cyber threats, pandemic, and rising sea levels – each of which poses a threat to national security and creates challenges for nations and Coast Guard missions across the globe.


DreamlandDreamland. In addition to serving as Commandant, I also chair The Interdiction Committee. Comprised of a coalition of U.S. agencies, the purpose of TIC is to disrupt illicit networks in the drug trade. Members of the TIC recommended Sam Quinones’ text in order to gain a better understanding of the opioid epidemic in our country. Quinones paints a picture of the heroin trade and opioid epidemic through myriad stories from addicts, law enforcement agents, and drug trafficking organizations ending with what is undoubtedly a call to action for state, local, federal, and international partners.


The Net DelusionThe Net Delusion. Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday, Commander of Coast Guard Cyber Command, recommended this book to our leadership team as it challenges conventional wisdom about connectedness and networks. The book’s author, Evgeny Morozov, demonstrates how the internet is a tool that spreads freedom and liberal democracy, yet can also be effectively used by regimes to control and suppress free speech.



The Hidden BrainThe Hidden Brain. When speaking with affinity groups over the past year, I routinely referenced this book I picked up while at the Coast Guard Academy. The author addresses the power of the unconscious mind, specifically unconscious biases and prejudices. As I discussed it with members of the Coast Guard, I posed a question: how do we as an organization systemically address and work to eliminate the effects of unconscious bias? To me, this is an awareness issue where we need to acknowledge our biases and then focus on the positive: compassion and fair treatment. What this really comes down to is the embodiment of our core value, Respect.


UnleashedF(x) Leadership Unleashed. When I asked my senior enlisted advisor for his selection this year, he shared with me F(X) Leadership Unleashed! by Thomas Narofsky. It’s no surprise the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, Steven Cantrell’s, selection focuses on core leadership principles as he has been keenly focused on realigning our enlisted leadership continuum. We have an impressive group of young people joining the Coast Guard every day and I am looking to efforts like his to ensure we continue to recruit, train, and retain the workforce needed for the 21st century.


Broad InfluenceBroad Influence. Without a doubt, an organization that does not value inclusion will fail to keep pace in today’s world. In Broad Influence, Jay Newton Small writes about the ways in which women are shaping the public and private sector alike. My wife and the Coast Guard’s Co-Ombudsman-at-Large, Fran, first shared this book with me. For the women and men in our workforce today – to those who mentor, engage, and strive for positive change – this book offers a valuable lens for understanding how to inspire a talented and diverse workforce.


Laws of TrustThe 10 Laws of Trust. Each quarter, the Leadership Council meets in person. This is the highest-level, decision-making body in our Service; it is here where we make the most difficult decisions impacting our 88,000-person workforce. Before the fall session, I shared with my Leadership Council the principles from The 10 Laws of Trust as a reminder of how critical trust is in both weighing the decisions before the council and communicating our decisions. Throughout the book, Joel Peterson provides case studies and stories with an underlying message: a culture of trust gives organizations an edge.


TribeTribe. I had read Sebastian Junger’s previous works, such as The Perfect Storm, but this book came as a recommendation from my staff. Junger makes the case for the tribe and how communal benefits can be lost if we move toward a culture of competition or one of individuality. I see this sense of belonging and its loss among many crews and responders. We cannot and must not go it alone. Maintaining “tribal” connections within the Coast Guard – both unit and crew – is a key aspect of resiliency and it is this resiliency that propels our organization forward.


Power of HabitThe Power of Habit. Charles Duhigg offers a compelling read on how habits are formed, how they can be altered, and most importantly, how healthy habits can lead to greater efficiency and productivity at work and at home. Duhigg draws upon studies, which he pairs with anecdotes, to explain how individuals, organizations and societies were able to alter their behavior through habit.



World in DisarrayA World in Disarray. Due to be released later this month, I eagerly await Richard Haas’ argument for ‘world order 2.0,’ which provides a different perspective on America’s role in renewing efforts toward global peace and stability. It promises to tackle tough problems – politics, growing debt and a decreasing appetite for involvement in world affairs – and I imagine it will be a timely and relevant book for 2017.





  1. Douglas Savage says:

    Please forgive a comment by an extremely new, Auxiliary member, barely in “AP” status. For 30+ years, whenever the child of a friend or colleague has entered any US military academy, I have always given that new cadet a copy of the magnificent collection of speeches on Military Leadership, DOUGLAS SOUTHALL FREEMAN ON LEADERSHIP (1990, Naval War College Press). The edition in my massive, Civil War library was published by White Mane Publishing. Douglas Freeman’s (1886-1953) father served in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. I regard this text as a must-read for all future officers in any branch of our armed forces. What a privilege for a new Auxiliary member to post on this esteemed blog. Thank you, indeed. –Doug; Canton, OH; USCG-Aux, flotilla 070-09-06

  2. Tom Hart says:

    Good Onya! Mate.

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