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Episode 065 – Baylor Leadership Guru and Former Navy Footballer Drexel King

Posted on Nov 30, 2017 by in Podcast Episode | 0 comments


Drexel shares leadership lessons from Navy Football and the Marine Corps.



Hey everyone and welcome to the All-Star Leader Podcast, where together we learn about leadership from the best and brightest, and keep it fun by connecting it to our passion for sports!

I’m your host Daniel Hare, and today I didn’t have to go far to bring a great guest to you. Drexel King works just across campus from me in Baylor University’s Leadership and Learning department.

Drexel is a graduate of the prestigious United States Naval Academy, where he also played defensive back for the Midshipmen and led them to bowl games in each of his four seasons.

His career prior to joining Baylor in 2016 includes stints in the Navy athletic department as well as platoon commander and officer in the United States Marine Corps, where he led troops in Afghanistan.

This is Drexel King. Drexel thanks so much for coming on the show!

Interview Questions:

  1. We’re going to get into your story, but first off tell us about Baylor’s Leadership and Learning department and what you are up to over there.
    1. January start after the Marine Corps
    2. Staff development / leadership development / team building
    3. Creating/delivering content; staff retreats
  2. Tell us how you found your way to the Naval Academy, and what your college experience was like.
    1. Dad was in the Army; handed him a brochure for West Point as he was nearing high school graduation
    2. Knew he needed a different / more structured college experience
    3. Naval Academy was a perfect fit; chance to play football; chance to test yourself and also serve the country
    4. How were you self-aware enough to make that choice?
      1. Was from North Carolina and lots of friends were going to the state schools; he was open to leaving the state
      2. Knowing himself; high school was very regimented and he fit in well; school/homework/sports/bed…fit well with his personality to go to the Naval Academy
    5. What was the college experience like?
      1. Wanted a challenge/test himself; chose English as a major even though math/science was his strength
      2. Went to prep school first in Rhode Island
      3. Four year grind; marathon not a sprint
      4. Not going home in the summer; you’re training – either for the military or for football
      5. Assumed some leadership responsibilities there; set himself up for success
  3. Navy tends to play a demanding schedule against teams who, on paper, are bigger and faster. Over your career you played schools like Stanford and Notre Dame, in addition to bowl games against Utah and Boston College. Yet you won many of those games. How does that happen and what are some keys to prevailing against long odds?
    1. Navy recruited athletes who were good but too short/slow for larger schools; this helped develop a chip on the shoulder
    2. Most teams felt like they should beat Navy
    3. We’re going to outwork/outhustle/fight with everything we have; the bonds the team had made them closer than other teams
    4. Know what sacrifice feels like and looks like; how to sacrifice for your team
    5. What about tactics and strategy
      1. Execute what we do better than you do
      2. You can do whatever you want, but it is man to man; weapon to weapon; line up and see who is better
  4. You spent some time as a coach after your playing days concluded. What are a couple of things that maybe surprised you or that you saw for the first time as a coach that you were unaware of as a player?
    1. Night and day being on the coaching side versus as a player
    2. Learned he never wanted to coach; seven days/week for most (though Navy now doesn’t allow coaches in the building on Sunday)
    3. Your livelihood is dependent on 18-22 year olds
    4. Tenured staff at Navy so very special place; Showtime feature “The Season”
  5. Describe the pathway from the Naval Academy to the Marine Corps (many might think you automatically go from the Academy to the Navy.
    1. Three primary service academies commissioning schools: Air Force, West Point, Naval Academy.
    2. The Marine Corps is a department within the Navy.
    3. From the Naval Academy you can go a lot of directions (Navy Officer, Marines, Submarines, Naval Aviator, SEALS)
  6. In the Marine Corps you had the opportunity to both serve under leaders and lead teams of people yourself.
    1. What are some of the traits or characteristics that you saw in the best leaders you served under?
      1. Marines all about professionalism; always faithful is the motto; always pride; getting the job done; discipline; tough
      2. Easy transition from Navy football to the Marines
      3. Leaders were extremely selfless; post-911 Marines who signed up are the best of America; they lay it on the line and make the ultimate sacrifice
    2. Talk about the difference in leadership styles between the drill sergeant and the officer.
      1. What officers are doing is training the trainer
      2. You are leading the leaders who are leading the group
      3. Officers are rare; and the infantry doesn’t see you much of the time; so you have to perform well when they do
    3. What are some that were present in leaders who weren’t as successful?
      1. New leaders struggle with wanting to be liked, and are susceptible to crossing boundaries
      2. More advanced leaders need to demonstrate humility and vulnerability; causes him to take a second or two after observing/hearing something before passing judgment
      3. Proximity helps with this; the farther away the more vulnerable you can/should be. If up close you need to be more aware of how much you let them see.
  7. How do you balance planning with taking action?
    1. Circumstantial
    2. As a leader, you have to be able to do both. If your team is full of go-getters, you need to plan; if you have a team of planners you need to go.
    3. Marines you have to have a bias toward action; you won’t ever get to 100% certainty before having to make a decision.
    4. Deal with consequences, learn from it and move on
    5. You have to zoom in and zoom out
      1. Gotta know you care before I care about what you know
      2. If you’re caring for your people, you need to know what they’re doing and what they’re feeling
      3. Leaders eat last (Simon Sinek book based on it) in the Marines; leaders serve first, and evaluate the morale of the people
      4. Have to zoom in for all this; but then you can’t stay there
      5. You have to zoom back out and apply what you’ve learned to influence
  8. How should leaders break down their teams in terms of how many people are under each leader
    1. Jesus kept it to 12; then had more intimate connection with 4
    2. Marines it is 3; you’re always only leading three people; this gives people ability to lead and empowered to make decisions
    3. Empower at the lowest level possible; they are the ones closest to the situation
      1. Jesus to Paul to Timothy
      2. What about flat organizations?
        1. But decisions are not having to go up and down a bureaucracy if you empower at lower levels, so the layers of leadership and structure don’t create bloat and slowness
        2. Corporations have an advantage in some ways because they can recruit to their culture (versus the military where you get what you get)
        3. Commanders Intent: with each mission you get the purpose and the end state. This allows soldiers to accomplish the end state by different means if circumstances demand it.
  9. We’re hearing more and more about how to best lead the Millennial generation. What thoughts do you have on that subject that might be helpful for our Baby Boomers and GenXers who are trying to lead?
    1. Information age has created immediacy of knowledge that translates
    2. People want to know more, and organizations who aren’t transparent will struggle
    3. Mentorship is desired
    4. Continuous improvement; must learn how to communicate
    5. Mistake: forcing people out when they don’t meet a standard; you have to teach people! Go and make disciples! Look for teachable moments.
      1. (Long-term v. short-term thinking)
    6. They want to be part of a cause; connect them and their work to the cause and they will be loyal
  10. You are a veteran who has transitioned to a new career, and I’d love for you to share a thought or two with our veteran listeners about how they can successfully make a similar transition.
    1. Figure out what you want to do
    2. Most veterans leave their first place of employment within a year; they aren’t finding what they want
    3. Don’t sacrifice culture; you’re coming out of a special culture.
    4. Never too early to start the transition; start networking and getting to know people in the industry you want to be in
    5. Tweak your resume so military experience translates to the job you’re pursuing
  11. PTSD/Mental health
    1. Huge issue
    2. People are leaving a very comforting environment (healthcare, meals, shelter, etc.) and are then on their own…and it can feel lonely.
    3. If you don’t have a support system around you it can be extremely tough and isolating
      1. Churches can be helpful
  12. Rapid Fire Questions (one word/phrase answers)
    1. Name one trait or characteristic you want to see in a colleague.
      1. Humility
    2. What habit has been key to your success?
      1. Bible/prayer each morning
    3. Most important app or productivity tool?
      1. Bear Necessities – daily planner, example: name someone you’re thankful for; name a thing you’re thankful for; name something you take for granted (three positive thoughts)
    4. One bit of parting advice for our audience?
      1. Self-awareness – always evaluate yourself and remain humble; everything you think you know could be distorted or wrong

Thank Yous/Acknowledgements:

  1. Antioch Live/Clear Day Media Group – music
    1. More here.
  2. Jonathan Davis – production
  3. Clint Musslewhite – voice over

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