Admiral James A. Winnefeld Jr: Top Gun, Gender Equality, & The Best Parts of Commanding a Warship


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Admiral James A. Winnefeld Jr. is a retired US Navy admiral who serves as the chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. While on active duty, Winnefeld served as the ninth vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Listen in to hear valiant leadership stories from his military career, highlighting everything from Naval aviation to commanding Naval war ships.

James sheds light on what it’s like to be a young officer leading people who have serious combat experience, the lessons he learned from working with Colin Powell, and why it’s so important for leaders to prioritize care and awareness of others. He talks about his time at the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program (Top Gun) and shares his thoughts on the evolution of gender equality in the military.

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Episode Timeline/Key Highlights:

[06:53] Introducing Admiral James A. Winnefeld Jr.

[09:04] Leadership lessons in call signs

[11:40] His first experiences with leadership as a Naval aviator

[16:54] How do you keep the attention of young members of the military when war ends?

[20:11] The importance of intellectual curiosity and creativity in your military profession

[23:13] Great leaders and leadership characteristics that James emulated in his career

[32:31] Moments that made James the most proud of himself as a leader

[37:10] What does an Admiral’s cabin look like?

[38:41] The best lesson James learned from his worst leader

[49:33] Gender equality in the military & is the Marine Corps getting better for women?

[51:20] Preparing for the first time you have to say NO as a leader

[55:16] Lessons learned from being a student and instructor at the Top Gun school

[1:02:40] How did you early moments in leadership impact your career as an Admiral?

[1:05:39] What do young leaders need to do to show they care?

[1:15:20] When you go back to a squadron after graduating Top Gun, how does your role as a leader change?

[1:21:36] Leadership lessons James used from aviation to command a war ship & Early opportunities and leadership skills young pilots need to focus on

[1:32:21] Leadership underway: Great moments in leadership from being a skipper in the Arabian Gulf and an Aircraft Carrier CO

[1:46:13] What it’s like to be a 4-star General & James’ powerful advice for emerging leaders

[1:54:30] Why James is so passionate about stopping the addiction fatality epidemic & Why he started SAFE Project + About his upcoming book, Sailing Upwind

Relevant Resources & Other Mentioned Episodes:

Moments In Leadership Supercast:

SAFE Project:

Listen to The Adrenaline Zone Podcast with Captain Amy Bauernschmidt:

Listen to Ep 9 with Ron Boxall, VADM, US Navy:
Captain James A. Winnefeld, USMC Proceedings Article
The War Planners Series - 6 Books

What is Moments in Leadership?

Moments in Leadership is a podcast where you will hear firsthand about the careers of senior military leaders as they share their unique and individual experiences. Moments in Leadership will immerse you in real-life stories where you will learn about the challenging situations these accomplished leaders faced and discover the lessons they learned early in their careers that were the most influential in developing their overall leadership style.

Conceptualized by a group of friends who served together as young officers in the early to mid-1990s sitting around a firepit telling funny leadership stories, Moments in Leadership is designed to provide some relatable context to the formal leadership training leaders of all ranks and services receive throughout their military careers through the power of storytelling.

Why Should You Support this Project?

I realize all of the leaders who listen to the episodes are at different levels of life and my goal is to be able to have this project remain free and available to anyone who wants it and your donations help go towards that. Your donations go towards offsetting my costs of producing high quality episodes. Additionally, since this is a part-time hobby project for me, I’m forced to outsourcing a good deal of work to others to maintain a regular publishing schedule You donations help offset these costs as well.

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Other Podcasts Interviews with David B. Armstrong

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Former Action Guys Podcast EP 141

Former Action Guys Podcast EP 60

Former Action Guys Podcast EP 54

About the Host:

David B. Armstrong, CFA, is President and Co-Founder of Monument Wealth Management, an independent wealth management firm he started in 2008 in Alexandria, Va. David received his B.A. from the University of South Carolina in Government & International Relations and his MBA at the University of South Carolina's Moore School of Business in International Finance. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant through the Navy ROTC program and served on Active Duty in the Marine Corps from 1990-1997 as an Artillery Officer and then received a secondary MOS as a Tank Officer. He re-entered the Selected Marine Corps Reserves in 2003 and served in several billets across the Artillery, Tank, and Light Armored Reconnaissance communities. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in late 2018.

23 episodes