Lippold of the USS Cole

At Accelerent, I was lucky to meet the commander of the USS Cole and hear his story of the day his destroyer was nearly sunk by al-Qaeda. Kirk Lippold made clear that his ship was saved mostly because of how he led and trained his crew in the years prior to the attack, rather than by any dramatic decisions or heroics on October 12, 2000.

His “Five Pillars of Leadership” are:


• Vision

• Personal Responsibility and Accountability

• Trust and Invest

• Professional Competence

He gave a thrilling and informative presentation. I particularly thanked him for illustrating the masterful use of chain of command, maximizing his impact as a leader by improving his officers rather than continually reaching down to personally resolve specific issues.

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The Navy, unfortunately, tends to be rather unforgiving of officers whose ships are damaged so Kirk Lippold never made Captain. The military’s loss is our gain as he tours the country sharing his leadership lessons.