2015 Commandant’s Reading List

Written by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft.

The New Year marks a time where we collectively look to the future, developing goals and resolutions for the year ahead. In considering what is on the horizon, I encourage you to reflect on leadership. The enduring tenets of leadership, a bias for action and adherence to our Core Values enable us to remain steadfast in accomplishing the mission while serving our nation.

I will share more on leadership over the next few weeks, including my philosophy and a video series. However, to start off 2015, I have put together a reading list. While the list provides recommendations related to foundational values, leading people and future challenges, it is not all-inclusive. And, that’s where you come in. You will notice my list only includes nine selections. I am looking to you for a 10th book to round out the list. Please leave your favorite leadership book in the comments section by the end of this month, and I will select one to read together as we start 2015.

Service to Nation
We serve a cause greater than ourselves.

constitutionThe U.S. Constitution: It is only fitting that we start with the document on which American ideals were founded. The rights and principles of government laid out in the Constitution more than two centuries ago remain woven into the fabric of our lives; these principles are the very reason Coast Guard men and women selflessly serve.


For the Survival of Liberty: Great Presidential Decisions – Elton B. Klibanoff: Coast Guard men and women place Service before self as they advance the Nation’s interests and preserve American liberty at home, at sea and abroad. This liberty is central as Klibanoff’s explores presidential decisions and governing philosophies by Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Monroe, Wilson and Roosevelt.


cyberCyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It – by Richard Clarke and Robert Knake: Operational planning, logistical support and interagency partnerships has transformed through today’s computer systems and Cyber War investigates the need to rethink national security. The Coast Guard must ensure readiness for all missions, including those in the cyber realm.


Duty to People
We have a duty to protect those we serve and those who serve with us.

thinkingThinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman: Understanding how choices are made, personally and professionally, is critical in attracting, developing and retaining a talented workforce. This book explores the way in which people’s decision-making and judgment processes through two systems: system one – fast, emotional and intuitive – and system two – slow, deliberate and logical.



Thanks for the Feedback – Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen: In cultivating the well-being and professional development of your people, it is important to consider feedback – a critical driver of performance and proficiency. Stone and Heen focus on how we respond and receive feedback, from annual reviews professionally to unsolicited comments personally. Feedback helps us learn, adapt and execute the mission.



Once an Eagle – Anton Myrer: Duty to People is about leadership – the good and the bad – and leadership is at the heart of Myrer’s novel. U.S. Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf described Once an Eagle as “[a] classic novel of war and warriors.” This is a must read for leadership lessons that transcend military doctrine.


Commitment to Excellence
We must strive to achieve the highest standards of readiness and proficiency.

hamiltonAlexander Hamilton – Ron Chernow: In thinking about our enduring legacy of on-scene initiative and a bias for action as we conduct operations, I’m reminded of Hamilton – the founder of our predecessor service the Revenue Marine. It was Hamilton who laid the groundwork for our operational doctrine and the pursuit of mission excellence that continues today. In this biography, Chernow shares the story of a man who overcame the odds to shape a newborn America.



The World is Flat 3.0 – Thomas Friedman: Friedman used the flattening of the world as a metaphor for globalization in 2005 and expands on that concept with new case studies and examples in this update. Whether thinking about innovative solutions for today’s challenges or ensuring efficiency across all Coast Guard activities, understanding the fundamental shifts in our world is an imperative.


ernestErnest Shackleton: Exploring Leadership – Nancy Koehn: This is a great selection for those who are short on time. Written as a business school case study and totaling only 22 pages, Koehn packs in thought-provoking ideas on risk, overcoming adversity and building trust and confidence during crisis. In fostering an organization of continuous learning, Shackleton’s story serves as both a reminder and inspiration for leaders in today’s evolving world.

Tags: , , , ,