Retired Marine Corps three-star general Jefferson Howell salutes the Muse by sharing his story of a mini-mutiny. 

Show Notes

In this episode of Management Muse, we’re joined by retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Jefferson “Beak” Howell. Beak Howell has managerial experience at all levels of organizations, and he has handled a number of significant crises throughout his distinguished careers in and out of uniform.

In this episode, Beak talks about the first crisis he navigated as a squadron commander in the Marines. Beak talks about admitting when you’re wrong and owning up to your mistakes, and he also shares why he believes transparent communication, even in times of crisis, and even when painful, is essential for building strong teams.

Episode Highlights:

  • Face crises directly, and find joint solutions to steer teams out of danger.
  • Don’t stick with bad decisions– admit when you are wrong.
  • It’s usually not too late to repair a relationship.
  • Some crises originate from misunderstandings and miscommunication, but that doesn’t necessarily make them easy to solve.


[1:21] The different types of crises that Lieutenant General Howell faced in his career

[7:15] The challenges Beak encountered as a squadron commander

[9:33] How Beak reconnected with his troops when he found out they were unhappy

[11:23] The methods Beak used to help his troops open up about what was bothering them

[12:15] How Beak took ownership of his mistakes and learned to be a better leader

[19:33] The ways Beak improved systems to prevent similar future incidents

[20:49] How open communication strengthened Beak’s squadron

[22:22] How transparent communication helped Beak throughout his career

[22:45] Some of Beak’s principles of leadership

[26:30] The importance of working the problems in a crisis, and managing the emotions in a crisis

Episode Quotes from Lieutenant General Jeff Howell:

“Every day as a leader is a learning experience. If you don’t keep learning, you’re in trouble.”

“I try to approach all levels when I communicate my intent and my ideas and talk about how we should do things. I try to just say that we are all in this together.”

“One of the principles of leadership is to communicate with your people. Make sure they have good communication. I strive to do that because you can never communicate enough, but you have to keep trying.”

About Lieutenant General Jeff Howell:

Lieutenant General Jeff Howell had a 37-year career in the Marine Corps and then was Commander of the Johnson Space Center. Following his retirement from NASA, he served on the faculty at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Episode Resources:

KW: leadership, communication, team building, leadership qualities, transformational leadership

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