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Intrusive Leadership | This Is Where the Magic Happens

Jason Kuzik

Jason Kuzik is a military veteran with over 27 years of service spanning the US Army, National Guard, and Coast Guard. From joining the army at 17 to his stint in the National Guard, Jason continuously sought his true calling until curiosity and a desire for new horizons led him to the US Coast Guard during the 2003 recession. He has navigated the waters of the Great Lakes, ensuring security amidst the vast expanses of water, from Chicago’s Calumet Harbor to Alaska and the shores of Maine. As the keeper of Lake Michigan, Jason’s leadership journey unfolded, marked by trust, resilience, and a commitment to service. 



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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Jason Kuzik shares insights on leadership and military service
  • Jason’s Coast Guard experiences on the Great Lakes
  • A story about trust in leadership and quick decision-making in high-pressure situations
  • What Jason learned about intrusive leadership from Commander Canady
  • The value of being sensitive to others’ needs and asking questions
  • How do leadership, mental health, and trust intertwine?
  • The importance of valuing and supporting team members

In this episode…

In this era of rapid change and uncertainty, the need for intrusive leadership has never been more pressing. This bold approach challenges the status quo, daring leaders to step outside the lines of traditional management and delve deeply into the heart of their teams’ dynamics. How can organizations leverage this leadership style to foster innovation, collaboration, and growth in the face of adversity?

With a career spanning 27 years in the military, seasoned veteran Jason Kuzik believes leadership begins with listening, empathizing, and empowering others. Delving into his experiences with the Coast Guard, Jason paints a vivid picture of a close encounter on the Chicago River and a life saved, underscoring the essence of trust in high-stakes situations. By immersing themselves in the daily experiences of their team, intrusive leaders cultivate a profound empathy that becomes the bedrock of their decision-making. Jason’s narrative deepens as mental health intertwines with leadership, revealing his role as an emotional anchor for junior members in times of despair. His stories of camaraderie and shared struggles demonstrate the essence of intrusive leadership — a beacon of trust, resilience, and unwavering commitment to one’s team and organization.

In this episode of the Proof Point podcast, Stacie Porter Bilger hosts Jason Kuzik, a United States Coast Guard officer, about the power of intrusive leadership. Jason shares insights on his leadership approach and military service, including his Coast Guard adventures on the Great Lakes. His narratives emphasize being sensitive to others’ needs and valuing and supporting team members.

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Proof Digital.

We are a strategic and creative performance marketing agency partnering with organizations to create data-fueled marketing engines that drive growth and deliver a tangible ROI.

Founded by Stacie Porter Bilger in 2012, Proof Digital employs a strategic marketing approach by blending today’s marketing tools like SEO, PPC, and paid social ads with traditional sales funnel processes.

Ready to get results? Visit to learn more.

Interview Transcription – Intrusive Leadership This Is Where the Magic Happens

(0:00 – 0:16)

Welcome to the Proof Point Podcast, where we decode digital success one click at a time. We share key takeaways fueled by data and insights that your team can implement today to drive growth. Now, let’s get started.

(0:20 – 0:43)

This is Stacie Porter-Bilger, your host of the Proof Point Podcast, where we feature B2B and D2C businesses and thought leaders sharing marketing, data tactics, and sales tactics that kickstart growth in a rapidly changing digital space. This podcast is brought to you by Proof Digital. Proof Digital is a strategic and creative performance marketing agency.

(0:43 – 0:52)

We partner with companies to create data field marketing campaigns. Visit to learn more. I’m excited today.

(0:52 – 1:11)

We have a great guest. I want to shout out first to and thank my colleague, Kristin Kuzik, who works here at Proof Digital as a web development lead. You might notice that our guest today has the same last name as Kristin.

(1:13 – 1:51)

She has told us great things about her husband, Jason, who served our country for 27 years. And so I want to really thank Jason Kuzik for coming to join and have a conversation really around leadership and really about in life, too, working through… Jason was in the military, both the Army, National Guard, and Coast Guard for 27 years. Jason, thanks for hopping on and giving us some life lessons here today.

(1:52 – 1:53)

Oh, no worries. Thank you. Appreciate you having me.

(1:54 – 2:05)

Absolutely. Why don’t you give us just a quick as well? It’s not been quick. It’s been 27 years, but kind of a summary of your career.

(2:05 – 2:17)

And then we’ll go into some of the highlights of how your leadership has been recognized at the highest level of the National Guard. I mean, I’m sorry, Coast Guard. Yeah, yeah, of course.

(2:17 – 2:25)

So I joined the Army when I was 17 years old. I was still in high school when I first signed up. I needed my parents’ permission to do so.

(2:25 – 2:41)

I had my 18th birthday in boot camp, and that wasn’t the best birthday. So I stayed… No, I think I got to run around the block without my rucksack for my birthday. See, I did that.

(2:41 – 2:50)

I was stationed in Fort Polk, Louisiana for three years as a light wheel mechanic. It was a good job. I liked it, but the Army just wasn’t for me.

(2:50 – 3:17)

It just, there was something about it that really, it never grasped me to stay, right? So I decided to try a different path. So I joined the National Guard, and I quickly realized that also wasn’t really for me. I got out of the military completely after the National Guard, and I got a job at a factory in Snap-on Tools, and things were going great.

(3:18 – 3:32)

But the recession of 2003 hit, so we lost… The plant closed, so I lost my job. I really didn’t know what to do, so it was my wife’s idea to look into the Coast Guard. So what can I lose? I figured I might as well just see what they got to offer.

(3:35 – 3:48)

I knew nothing of the Coast Guard. What were they, lifeguards with guns? I have no idea what the Coast Guard does, and that’s embarrassing, already having served active duty. So I just went down to a local Coast Guard station.

(3:48 – 4:00)

I knocked on the door, asked them what they did, and boy, I talked to this young lady for probably about two hours, and I was like, oh, I’ll give it a shot. Went up to a recruiting office, and I talked to the recruiter. I went there with an attitude, too.

(4:01 – 4:13)

I’m older, I got a kid, and I’m thinking, I’m not this young kid that you’re trying to schmooze over, like I was when I was 17, right? And the recruiter actually laughed at me. He said, son, you need to calm down. This is not the Army.

(4:15 – 4:26)

And I figured, all right, all right, this might not be so bad. So then I joined the Coast Guard in January of 2004. I left for boot camp, and I’ve been in ever since.

(4:26 – 4:35)

I figured I’d try it for four years, and if it was decent, I would do another four. And I’ll tell you, I never looked back. And it feels like yesterday that I joined.

(4:37 – 4:42)

It’s been pretty amazing. It’s been an amazing ride. I started out in Calumet Harbor, that’s south side Chicago.

(4:43 – 4:52)

And then I went to downtown Chicago. Then I did a small stint in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Then I moved up to Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

(4:52 – 5:05)

Now I’m finding myself being the keeper of Lake Michigan, right? I’m just kind of walking my way up Lake Michigan. Then we went to Alaska. But then from there, we went to Maine, Maine to Michigan, and Michigan here to North Carolina.

(5:06 – 5:12)

So it’s taken us all over, and it’s just been an absolute wonderful ride. I’ve really enjoyed it. It sounds amazing.

(5:14 – 5:31)

And sometimes you don’t necessarily think of the Coast Guard and some of those locations that you mentioned. Especially, I mean, you think about now, you think, I step back and think, okay, yeah, Michigan is, I mean, there’s a lot of things that can come through on Lake Michigan. Probably even just as many than North Carolina.

(5:32 – 5:51)

I mean, some issues from, what are some things that you can share that you saw? Okay. So some of the problems that we have, a lot of people don’t think about the Coast Guard on Lake Michigan, on Lake Huron and Superior, Erie. They’re all Ontario.

(5:53 – 6:01)

Canada is right across the north, right? Drugs come down through Canada. Migrants come through Canada. There’s no border patrol on the Great Lakes.

(6:02 – 6:10)

There is, but it’s very small. So all you need is a boat and a lot of gas, and you can pretty much come right into the United States and nobody can stop you. So that’s what we did.

(6:10 – 6:18)

We would stop vessels coming through. When I was stationed in Michigan, I was on Lake Huron. So any vessel that came through, we’d inspect them and check them out.

(6:18 – 6:33)

And we had intel on human trafficking, intel on drugs coming through, human trafficking going out. So we kept an eye on a lot of that stuff. So we really did do a lot on the Great Lakes, even more so than I did, say, when I was up in Maine.

(6:34 – 6:50)

The Great Lakes were just extremely busy for us. And not many people even think about, oh my gosh, they see us and will stop over. It’s like Coast Guard, what are you doing? So it was actually quite interesting on some of the things that we did, some of the ships that would come in.

(6:50 – 7:03)

So first port of call, they come in through the St. Lawrence Seaway and they might dock in Chicago. That might be the very first place that they stop. Or in Saginaw, Michigan, where they might have stowaways, where they might have contraband and drugs, weapons of mass destruction.

(7:04 – 7:17)

So we go on those ships and we do inspections on all those to make sure that they are safe to actually come in our waters. It’s quite exciting because you don’t know what you’re going to find. We did an inspection of one vessel, just walking around, schmoozing through it.

(7:17 – 7:25)

Next thing you know, we had a life raft, the spare life raft on the back of the ship was filled with stowaways. That were trying to come into the United States. Wow.

(7:25 – 7:31)

And the ship never even knew they were picked up. They had no idea they were there. So yeah, you just never know what you might find.

(7:31 – 7:36)

It’s pretty amazing. It is, I’m sure. And you lived in Alaska for a bit.

(7:39 – 7:59)

I’m sure, I mean, not only from a geographic piece of obviously weather, days and nights, sometimes mixed together. And I know there was some excitement and not some excitement when you got that call. But tell me a little bit about that experience.

(8:00 – 8:12)

Well, from the beginning, we transfer every four years in the Coast Guard, sometimes every three. And sometimes it’s when you get promoted or we call it advancing. And this time it just happened to be four years at a unit.

(8:12 – 8:21)

It was my turn to transfer. Well, I put down a bunch of places to go and Alaska was one of them. I told my wife it was at the very bottom of my list.

(8:21 – 8:30)

I picked 47 places to go and I told her it was about number 40. She’s in the other room doing some work. So to be honest, it was like numbers.

(8:30 – 8:36)

It was like number eight. Okay. So you told her 40 and it was actually eight.

(8:36 – 8:45)

She’s going to listen to this, by the way. Eventually, right? Sorry, babe. And when we got orders to go there, I was shocked that we were actually going to go there.

(8:45 – 8:48)

I really didn’t think I was going to get it. She cried. She had tears.

(8:49 – 8:58)

She’s like, oh, my God, we’re going to the great north, not knowing anything about it. And but when we got there, we fell in love with it. It was absolutely gorgeous.

(8:59 – 9:15)

The winters are like you see on TV, but not as bad. Sunrise was usually in the worst part was around 10 a.m. and sunset was around 315 in the afternoon. So it was dark a lot, but we did get a little glimpse of sun throughout the day.

(9:15 – 9:25)

So that was pretty great. The snow, we were in Valby, and the snow that we would get. You look at the 10-day forecast and it says light snow every day.

(9:25 – 9:31)

Light snow was eight to ten inches a day. That’s what they considered light snow. Oh, it would be a pleasure.

(9:31 – 9:44)

We would shut down here. Oh, yeah. And you know, the very first snowstorm we got, we had some gosh, I have to look at the picture, but I think it was either 58 or 62 inches of snow since Friday from Friday night to Monday morning.

(9:44 – 9:51)

And the kids were like, hey, no school, no school. That bus was waiting for them. And I was like, oh, my goodness.

(9:51 – 9:59)

They never once had a snow day. And we averaged over 350 inches of snow. They got the system down.

(9:59 – 10:05)

They got the system. Yeah, they built the city around snow removal. So it was pretty great.

(10:06 – 10:20)

My job up there was on a patrol boat. We did fisheries enforcement. It doesn’t sound glamorous, but it’s actually quite important because, as you know, humans, humans will take and take and take and take until there’s nothing to take anymore.

(10:20 – 10:34)

So the same with our fishing. These countries all over the world would come off the coast of Alaska and do the fish. And we made sure they had the right amount of fish, the right nets, the proper fish because if we didn’t enforce it, nobody else would.

(10:35 – 10:48)

So we preserved, you know, the resources that we had. So generations can enjoy a fish sandwich or whatever it might be. So even though it didn’t have a lot of glory in it, it was extremely important.

(10:48 – 10:57)

And I really liked it because I got to learn a lot and go on a lot of these big boats and see how it actually works. It was it was quite interesting. Guardrails are important.

(10:57 – 11:12)

We all need them for whatever it is, whether it’s catching fish or make sure we stop at the stop sign. We need some guardrails so that we we protect each other or generations, like you said, right? Yeah, exactly. That’s pretty neat.

(11:14 – 11:44)

You know, in your position with the Coast Guard and the leadership position that you kind of grew into, what are some maybe a story that you can tell around trust? Maybe that might be good because, in your line of business, trust is everything. So what is what is any story that you can share that would be enlightening not only to me or families, but businesses, too? I mean, it’s a it’s a big piece. It is.

(11:44 – 11:55)

And, you know, there’s part of the leadership thing that I truly believe. And, you know, I’ve got like we’ll have like the three L’s and the three keys. And one of my keys that I make down is Trump’s.

(11:55 – 12:00)

That’s usually my first one that I put. And I was in the Chicago River. And this is a crazy story.

(12:00 – 12:12)

And looking back on it, I still am so glad that it turned out the way it did. But it could have been so much worse. We’re going on a Chicago River and I get long-winded.

(12:12 – 12:27)

So if I get too long, please, Paul, I apologize in advance. You’re good. So a commercial taxi, the pretty large kind just overtook us on the left passing on the water.

(12:28 – 12:39)

And he just pulled right in front of us and started slowing down to more up where we had to. I was the boat driver at the time. I had to back down and stop and avoid collision.

(12:39 – 12:58)

And this is a commercial boat, a commercial ship. And I was so angry and I was kind of tossing him out under my breath. And one of the boarding officers on the boat decided that he was going to do a boarding on that and actually talk to the captain about how illegal that was, according to the navigation rules, and what he did.

(12:58 – 13:21)

So he went to the bow of the boat with another member to go on board the boat and do an inspection of the boat and talk to the driver. Well, as the captain was mooring up, I kind of hung outside next to him and on his starboard or I’m sorry, on his port side, he was off my starboard. And I’m just kind of sitting there waiting for him to moor up.

(13:21 – 13:29)

And I hear my guy on the front of the boat. His name was Eric. And I’ve worked with him a whole bunch and I trusted him.

(13:29 – 13:44)

I knew he knew how to do his job from working together so closely. I knew when he said something, there was no exaggeration. There was no added story to it.

(13:44 – 13:53)

It was exactly what he said. You know, it’s just from working with him. I knew him, just the tone of his voice, how he projected himself.

(13:54 – 14:04)

And my nickname, obviously the last name of Kuzik, everybody always calls me Kuz. And he just starts screaming, oh my God, Kuz, go, go, go. And he’s throwing his hands like this.

(14:04 – 14:17)

I have no idea what I’m doing. And then he starts pointing towards the pier and I’m kind of coming around slowly and he’s screaming at me to go faster. I have no idea why I’m doing this.

(14:17 – 14:34)

So I actually increased the throttle, dang near to full throttle, turning hard to the right and I hit the wall of the pier with the boat. I just hit that wall so hard. But then I hit the boat that was mooring up and he yells at me to stop and I stopped.

(14:34 – 14:45)

And now I’m thinking I’m in trouble. I was like, what the heck did I just do? And I don’t know why I did it. And looking back and thinking to myself, why would I do that? I trusted him and he was telling me to do it.

(14:45 – 15:01)

So I did it. What happened is one of the deckhands from that commercial vessel was trying to put a line over and fell in the water. Well, when it fell in, if this is the pier, they were to the side and they were springing into the pier.

(15:02 – 15:11)

Well, the captain couldn’t see her in the middle between the pier and the boat. And it was a hard-faced concrete pier. She was about to get crushed between the boat and the pier.

(15:12 – 15:14)

Oh, my God. I had never seen her. I didn’t know this had happened.

(15:14 – 15:18)

I’m getting goosebumps just talking about it. Right. Sure you are.

(15:18 – 15:27)

Mike Fruman on the front of that boat started screaming at me to go, go, go. So I went, went, went. And what happened was I hit the pier and I hit the boat.

(15:27 – 15:40)

That boat could no longer spring on the pier because I was wedged in the middle. So it hit me and it crushed the side of my boat into the pier. And she was right off of our bow and they would pick her up over the bow of the boat and bring her on our boat.

(15:40 – 15:45)

Her life jacket never inflated. It was an inflatable life jacket. And it never inflated.

(15:46 – 15:50)

She would have been crushed. She would have died for sure. I’ve never seen it happen.

(15:50 – 15:59)

I’m just sitting at the helm just thinking, okay, well, never. And I’m looking at things. I’m probably looking over here till I heard him start screaming.

(15:59 – 16:06)

And I came up on throttles. I did. Well, I think it was estimated at $14,000 of damage to our boat.

(16:06 – 16:11)

And I didn’t know why. I had no idea why I did it. But I trusted him that he saw something.

(16:11 – 16:21)

He knew that something had to happen. And we saved a life because of it. And I had until that point until they started pulling her out of the water, I was so scared and so nervous.

(16:21 – 16:32)

Like I just wrecked my boat for no reason. That’s an extreme story. But it was a life saved based solely on trust and knowing your people.

(16:33 – 16:47)

I mean, intentionally, I mean, obviously, part of your leadership was always about being intentional, about earning that trust. But I mean, that’s incredible. I mean, I’m sure there are life lessons across the board.

(16:47 – 17:00)

I mean, life saved multiple times by how important that is from a trust standpoint. I mean, you didn’t question him. You just said, okay, you’re directing me now.

(17:00 – 17:11)

I trust you fully. And when you’re in those situations and life and death situations or wherever in a workforce, I mean, I trust your wife, Kristin. Totally.

(17:12 – 17:21)

Right. And that’s why we all have our back. And I mean, I’m sure, you know, I’m sure you wonder where she’s at sometimes.

(17:21 – 17:31)

Oh, yeah. She’s got a life story impacting others. I’m sure to this day.

(17:31 – 17:41)

And you saved her life. Or he saved her life, right? Yeah, he did. And, you know, at the time, I was the ranking person on the boat.

(17:43 – 18:07)

And I just did what one of the junior members said, you know, even though he really outranks me now, but I just did what he said. And I didn’t know why. It was just I knew from working to him and that stems from intrusive leadership, right? Being asking a lot of questions and really getting to know somebody on a personal level.

(18:08 – 18:27)

Will you define that a little bit for me? What do you mean, intrusive leadership? What is that? I mean, well, to be honest, I didn’t know what intrusive leadership was until recently. Somebody had reached out to me. They heard a story about my leadership skills through someone.

(18:28 – 18:42)

And then he heard another story about this guy named Chief Kuzik that he’d never heard of by somebody else. And he started putting this together. Like, I hear a couple of stories that are really the same about this guy’s leadership.

(18:43 – 18:50)

I just thought I was being a good person. So he reached out to me and his name was Marcus Kennedy. And he wrote a book about he’s the commander of the U.S. Coast Guard.

(18:51 – 19:02)

Yes, he is. He’s a 30 years flying helicopters, super, super decorated person. And he reached out to me and he wanted to talk to me about intrusive leadership.

(19:03 – 19:20)

I always thought intrusive leadership was a bad thing. You know, when I hear of an intrusive leadership, I’m here with somebody who’s micromanaging, somebody who is untrusting because they’re always in your business. But he taught me what intrusive leadership was.

(19:20 – 19:48)

And it’s about asking questions and getting to know somebody, trusting them and asking questions that people wouldn’t ask, you know, difficult questions to get to know people. And the intrusive leadership that he told me that I’ve always had, and I just didn’t know I had, was the listening, the talking, the understanding where people come from. You and I come from completely different backgrounds.

(19:48 – 20:09)

He told me a story that I really never thought of before. When his son gets pulled over by the police, he has to teach him something a little bit different that I don’t have to teach my son. And I never thought about that before, because we come from extremely different backgrounds.

(20:09 – 20:25)

And knowing that background can be extremely important or not knowing detrimental to a relationship at work. And he taught me that you learn those by being intrusive. And intrusive is actually a very good thing.

(20:25 – 20:37)

He actually wrote a book. I read his book and pulled in my story, and he really loved it. So we became friends throughout the last year and a half or so.

(20:38 – 20:56)

And it’s just a really good story about intrusive leadership with him. And I didn’t realize how vital it was. It’s absolutely vital to run a business, to be a first responder, to be in school, to be a teacher or a counselor.

(20:57 – 21:06)

How intrusive leadership kind of helps get to the core of things. And I never even knew it was a thing. Apparently, I was doing it, and I didn’t even know.

(21:06 – 21:14)

It was a thing. It just has a name now. Right now, it’s like you can identify it, right? And if you can identify it, you can teach it.

(21:14 – 21:21)

And if you can teach it, you can, you know, people can use it. So it’s actually absolutely, it’s really wonderful that this is happening. That’s awesome.

(21:21 – 21:50)

I mean, Commander Marcus Scandi, I’ll check out his book. But I know, like you said, he reached out to you just because I think he values, sounds like the same approach, right? To listening, to being sensitive to, you know, whether somebody might be going through something that you’re not aware of. You’re seeing signals, asking questions just to try to get, you know, help them through whatever they’re going through.

(21:50 – 22:18)

And I know, I mean, it’s almost like, similar to the story you just said earlier. I mean, you’re saving lives, right? Without the search and rescue alarm going off on the Coast Guard, right? I’m speaking out of school a little bit because, but isn’t that accurate? Is that accurate from a standpoint of, I mean, you’re just really saving lives one after another without actually, you know, without the alarm going off? Right.

(22:18 – 22:21)

You’re not leaving the boat. It’s not going over. You can save a life in an office.

(22:22 – 22:39)

I can tell you a story that how Mr. Kennedy and I have gotten together. It was one of the stories that he was told by a member was of, this guy had said he had a chief and he would sit there and listen to him. And they would talk about things.

(22:39 – 22:59)

And it was pretty great that he actually felt like this guy in a senior leadership position would actually sit there and take the time and listen to the most newest, youngest person at the unit and hear what he had to say. And then he heard it again from somebody else. But this time, this person was telling him a story about, he may have been suicidal at one point.

(23:01 – 23:13)

And because I was listening to him, he called me after he was drinking pretty heavily. And me and another member went to his house that night. We spent the night with him, making sure that he was safe.

(23:13 – 23:22)

And we laughed and we cried. We cried together. And we really stayed there until he started getting into a brighter place.

(23:23 – 23:38)

And once he was in a brighter place, we were able to get him some help either that he needed, but he was safe. This junior member, if they didn’t trust you, they would never call you in the first place. Because if you don’t want to hear what they have to say, they’re not going to tell you.

(23:38 – 23:55)

And by him having the comfort to call me and say that, hey, we got a problem, I have a problem, we’re able to help him. That happened a couple of times when I was at a unit. And it turned out that one of them was another, just happened to be extremely homesick.

(23:56 – 24:01)

Came in the office and asked if they could sit down and have a chat. I was like, of course. I asked if they were okay.

(24:01 – 24:25)

And they started crying, just broke down crying, and said, I’m not doing okay at all. And I’m preparing for the worst. I’m preparing for, do I have to get the sexual assault checklist out? Do I have to get a checklist out for her being harmed or hurt in any way? Did one of my people do it at the unit? I’m in a full panic mode that this girl is extremely injured.

(24:26 – 24:34)

It turned out she was homesick and she just needed somebody to talk to. She told me I reminded her of her dad. She said we had the same haircut.

(24:35 – 24:44)

Nice haircut, like it. And I wear my hat and I have gray hair. So we know we can cover up all we want.

(24:45 – 24:48)

Wisdom highlights. Wisdom highlights. Go ahead, sorry.

(24:49 – 24:58)

So we just talked and we talked for about two hours in the office. And she felt better afterwards. And she left.

(24:59 – 25:12)

Ever since then, we talked every day since then for five, 10 minutes, something simple. Before the workday started, I would go in early and we’d just have a conversation. I found out months later that she also was thinking about hurting herself.

(25:14 – 25:24)

And she felt, she felt a connection with me like she had with her dad. And she changed her mind. She’s like, this is, it’s not so bad.

(25:24 – 25:33)

I have somebody. I wrote a story recently and I talked about just that. And the most important life that you could save might just be your own.

(25:34 – 25:44)

And I’m not ashamed to talk about it. And some people would be, but I was in that dark place once. I went to the doctor and I had some pretty crazy things going on.

(25:44 – 25:52)

And one of the doctors said it might actually be ALS. And if you’re not familiar with ALS, it’s a, it’s terrible. It’s terrible.

(25:52 – 26:00)

I got to thinking, I’m not going to let my family watch me deteriorate like this. I had a plan on how I was going to take care of it. So they would never see me deteriorate.

(26:01 – 26:08)

I just didn’t have time. I didn’t know when I was, I was going to do it. You know, I went and I told my doctor that I was thinking about that.

(26:08 – 26:16)

Honestly, that’s true. She said, well, you might want to do it before you lose the use of your hands. That was, that was what my doctor told me.

(26:18 – 26:24)

How do you react to that? Right. I was like, oh my goodness. Uh, I didn’t know what to think.

(26:24 – 26:30)

So now I’m thinking maybe I need to speed things along. It came up at work. It did.

(26:30 – 26:37)

That did not come up at work. One, of the members at work, knocked on the door and asked to come in the office and have a conversation. And I asked him if they were okay.

(26:37 – 26:43)

He said, no, absolutely not. We’re not, I’m not okay. And I won’t be okay until you tell me what’s going on with you.

(26:43 – 26:50)

So excuse me. And they say you are not the same. And I’ve got to be honest with you.

(26:50 – 27:07)

I thought I was hiding it. Well, I thought I was doing okay. The only people who knew was my wife and, my, I told my brother and they, they could tell something wasn’t right.

(27:07 – 27:17)

And they could tell it wasn’t right. Because all the time we’ve talked in the past, I no longer had that spark. I really wasn’t a longer conversation.

(27:17 – 27:24)

It was that intrusive leadership that you had taught them coming back right out. Yeah. You bet.

(27:24 – 27:39)

And they knew me on a personal level to know when I had a good day or I had a bad day. And it was a couple of weeks that I’ve been having a bad day. And another member came into the office asking the same question that same day.

(27:39 – 27:52)

There was three of them outside my office said, you need to tell us what’s happening. Are you okay? Truth, right? And that’s another one of my keys. You got truth, truth, truth, trust, and transparency.

(27:53 – 28:06)

Truth, trust, and transparency. And that’s one of the things I’ve always kind of thought about myself. So I figured if I was going to expect them to be truthful with me, how can I be a do as I say, not as I do type person? That’s absolutely horrible.

(28:07 – 28:16)

That’s, that’s not, you don’t earn trust that way. So I opened up to them and I told them where I wasn’t. I told them I was in this dark to go out and I had been thinking about it.

(28:17 – 28:31)

We had some long conversations afterward and they asked me to get some help, you know, from counselors. And I did just to kind of ease it. You know, it turned out that that wasn’t what was wrong with me.

(28:31 – 28:35)

It was something completely different. It was a misdiagnosis. Not that it wasn’t a full diagnosis.

(28:35 – 28:46)

It was one of those diagnosis this you probably have. And it turned out I didn’t. I can’t tell you that I would still be here if it wasn’t for them coming into my office.

(28:47 – 28:52)

That’s right. The most, most important life I saved through my leadership was my own. And I didn’t even know it.

(28:52 – 29:21)

Well, thanks for your vulnerability on that. But I mean, it’s just, I mean, it’s another example how that in, you know, intrusive leadership, is saves lives every day if you actually practice it. And it and it’s really impressive and reassuring too, that you have folks like, you know, the commander Marcus Kennedy.

(29:21 – 29:35)

Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy. I apologize. Who, recognizes how important this is, within the U S Coast Guard at the highest level.

(29:35 – 29:53)

Because that makes me feel safer to be truthful, you know, along the way to, and, and know those people who are sacrificing their lives are being taken care of as well, you know, and growing as a leader. Yeah. Captain Kennedy, you can talk to me.

(29:53 – 30:07)

And he was so thankful that I was willing to share that because he, because of the transparency, it can happen to anybody. I didn’t see any big deal about it. I’d be like, well, you know what? I’m not a shy guy.

(30:07 – 30:13)

I’m not bashful. I’ll tell you it’s, you know, I own my past. It’s who I am, it’s what made me who I am today.

(30:13 – 30:24)

And I don’t shy away from it. And I thought if I can tell that story and maybe one person could hear it and maybe help just one person that, Hey, great. You know, everything happens for a reason.

(30:24 – 30:39)

You know, I’m an older, I get more, I believe that. Right. And when captain came across my path and was telling me this and just the other day, he just messaged me on the blue and he was telling me how proud he was of me that I was able to share that.

(30:39 – 31:04)

And I didn’t realize at the time, but anybody would say, you know what? Honestly, everybody won’t say that. Right. So being a little bit vulnerable and showing your vulnerabilities, you’re going to go with the transparency part, right? When you show people that you too need help, it makes them understand that they’re not alone.

(31:05 – 31:27)

And the alone part is that’s the scary part. And that’s when it gets scary when you think nobody else is in your corner. So that intrusive side, I am there and you have to know I’m there and you will know it, you know, because when I was in the army, we had a phrase that was your problems are your business, handle your business.

(31:28 – 31:38)

My first sergeant, he did three tours in Vietnam and the infantry, that man on a battlefield, he’s got you. You don’t have to worry about it being a battlefield. We weren’t on a battlefield.

(31:38 – 32:00)

We were in a motor pool in 1992, 1993. He didn’t want to hear if I got an interest loan or a loan interest of 21%, he didn’t want to hear it, right? He didn’t want to hear if I had a cavity. He didn’t want to hear if something was going on.

(32:00 – 32:09)

But when we were on a battlefield, he was there. Guess what? We’re not. And I vowed I would never do that.

(32:09 – 32:17)

So I always wanted to learn to talk to my people and pull them into my office and ask them their questions because that’s when they’ll find out, hey, I just bought a car. I’m thinking about buying a car. Oh, yeah.

(32:17 – 32:22)

What kind of interest rate are you looking at? Oh, I don’t know. Whatever they tell me. Ooh, you might want to look at that.

(32:22 – 32:27)

Next thing you know, it’s a 27% interest rate. Yeah, they’re taking you. Exactly.

(32:27 – 32:50)

So you want to take care of them. And then once they find out that you do actually care, it’s just the floodgates open of how much communication you can actually get. And for me, you get more production, right? You have two types of power.

(32:50 – 32:53)

Your position power. You own the company. It’s yours.

(32:53 – 32:57)

You’re going to tell them what to do. The end. And then you got your position or your personal power.

(32:58 – 33:03)

They trust you. They know you’ll stand up for them. Hey, I know Chief has got me.

(33:03 – 33:16)

I know Stacey’s got me, right? So I’ll go a little bit more. I’ll do a little bit more because I know that this is good for them as well. So I always told myself I’d rather have personal power than position power.

(33:16 – 33:23)

Anybody can have position power. I mean, that’s easy. But getting somebody to have personal power and do things because it’s you.

(33:23 – 33:26)

And all right, I’ll do that. I’ll go above and beyond. I’ll do that.

(33:27 – 33:30)

You got to make me. You got that. So it’s pretty awesome.

(33:31 – 33:38)

That is. It is pretty awesome. I mean, I really never thought about leadership this way.

(33:38 – 34:11)

I mean, I think about leadership and it’s just more of the valuing of those people around me. But in the supporting those people around me. But I definitely think thinking about this intentionally as a leader on a regular basis is vital, whether you own a company like mine or you’re running a ship like you did, or if you’re running a large company or nonprofit, it doesn’t really matter.

(34:13 – 34:39)

Running from an intrusive leadership that kind of gets into getting to you know, understanding the issues or the problems that those around you are facing and valuing them and supporting them is the way that everything works better. Yeah. Like a little machine, right? When they know you got them, they got you.

(34:41 – 35:02)

And that’s where it’s at. You know, because otherwise, if they don’t feel valued, if they’re not supported and mostly heard if somebody is not heard, they’re not going to go above and beyond. They’re going to do what they need to do, collect a paycheck and go home.

(35:02 – 35:12)

And at five o’clock, the day’s over. Don’t expect somebody to do something at 530 because I’m not supported. I don’t feel valued.

(35:13 – 35:25)

You don’t hear anything I have to say, any of my ideas. So why would I do strong? So that’s why so many that’s so important. The littlest of things I need just Sunday morning.

(35:25 – 35:28)

Okay, I got you. Stace, I got you. Don’t worry about it.

(35:29 – 35:35)

Because you got them, they got you. And that’s where it’s at. That is where it’s at.

(35:35 – 35:44)

That’s where magic happens. This is awesome, Jason. And I know you’re retiring.

(35:44 – 35:54)

I mean, and I hope a lot of people listen to this, by the way, because I think it’s exactly what a lot of people need to hear. I don’t save lives like you demonstrated. I know you’re moving on, though.

(35:54 – 36:02)

I know you’re a chief and you’re no longer going to be a chief. And that’s a life transition. I’ve had different careers.

(36:05 – 36:19)

And any thoughts on that or how you’re going to take this leadership style and intrusive leadership and move it into a new career? I mean, you were in the military for 27 years. That’s a long time. And it’s going to be tough, I think.

(36:21 – 36:35)

I get asked, are you nervous? Are you excited? I got to be honest, it scared the shit out of me, right? Because this is what I know. I know how to drive boats. I know how to do search and rescue.

(36:36 – 36:45)

I know how to do law enforcement and maritime law enforcement. I don’t know how to talk to civilian people. You’re doing a good job right now, I’m sure.

(36:45 – 36:54)

You’re doing a good job today. Well, I’m not knife-handing and telling you how it’s going to be. Maybe later.

(36:56 – 37:06)

Possibly. You never know. You lose your identity when you leave a job after a long time or you leave a position.

(37:07 – 37:25)

You own a company. If you decide someday that maybe you don’t want so much and you want to do something that’s going to be closer to kids and grandkids and just a little bit more on the side, you might not be in charge anymore. You are no longer the owner of a company.

(37:25 – 37:35)

You’re somebody who used to own one. And what does that mean to the normal person? It means absolutely nothing. I’m leaving a position where I’ve been in a leadership position for several years.

(37:35 – 37:44)

When I get out, I’ll probably have to find a job somewhere just out of boredom. I can’t stay at home all day. One wife will kill me and I’ll end up missing.

(37:44 – 37:53)

And if you’ve ever seen inside of a milk carton, she watches too much damn true crime to be… So I’m telling you. I get it. I get it.

(37:54 – 37:57)

I’m kidding. Well, I know. We’ve talked about these shows before, so I get it.

(38:02 – 38:28)

I’ll have to do something just to keep my mind clear, right? When you stop moving, you get old. So will I be okay? I’m not going to be a chief anymore. I’m going to have a 19-year-old saying, bro, what’s up, dude? I haven’t been called bro or dude at work in 15 years.

(38:29 – 38:51)

Well, they’re getting knocked together right now because here comes the chief. Exactly. So losing your identity can be terrible, right? And how do you go about that? I don’t really know how to deal with that, but it’s just something you have to think about when you do leave a position like this.

(38:51 – 39:05)

I’ll take that leadership. And when my 19-year-old supervisor, wherever it might be, is having a bad day, and it’s bro, and it’s this. And all of a sudden, one day, he’s like, hey, what’s wrong, right? Something’s not right.

(39:05 – 39:17)

And you use that intrusive leadership even from a lower position to make sure that they’re okay. And you can use that. You start learning people.

(39:17 – 39:28)

As soon as you go somewhere, you learn them. You learn who they are, where they came from, what their background is, and how they grew up. Because how you grew up is completely different how I grew up.

(39:28 – 39:38)

And that will definitely determine on how I act throughout the day. So you have to learn people. And you learn by listening.

(39:38 – 39:48)

When somebody comes in, you got your cell phone, and you just set your cell phone on the desk, that you can still look at it. It goes away. It goes in the desk drawer.

(39:48 – 39:55)

You turn your monitor off. So if an email comes up and dings off, it’s black. Nothing can come up.

(39:55 – 40:04)

You can’t be distracted and just take a quick peek because you’re not listening. If you’re not listening, you can’t learn. And oh heck, I already said two.

(40:04 – 40:18)

The last one, the last LIO is you got to lean on them, right? You got to be able to say, hey, I need your help, even if it’s the most junior person. And when you get a job, even when I get a job on the outside, you can do that at any level. There is no level to intrusive leadership.

(40:18 – 40:24)

There is no position. It’s not the supervisor. It’s not the newest doctor.

(40:24 – 40:37)

You know, it’s not the person who washes the fruit or whatever it might be. It’s absolutely every single person around the board. So you make a better dynamic throughout the workplace.

(40:38 – 40:54)

And something as simple as knowing somebody’s background, you understand them, what to avoid. You know, like if I grew up north, just how you talk. If I were to say, come in your office and ask where the bubbler is, you can have any idea.

(40:54 – 40:58)

I would have no idea. No clue. No, not at all.

(40:58 – 41:10)

A bubbler in Wisconsin is a place, a drinking fountain, where you push the button, a little water comes up, you take a drink. That is a bubbler. Is that what you call a bubbler? We call it a drinking fountain in the United States.

(41:10 – 41:21)

Oh, boy, you get up in Wisconsin there, you betcha there ain’t, don’t you know. It’s a bubbler, you know. But then you learn things like that on just on how people speak and you can get along.

(41:21 – 41:45)

So you can take that anywhere you want to. And, you know, it’s the part of the lean part, I was just mentioning, one thing you can do as a leader is to earn trust, as I found out, is when you lean on somebody, even when you don’t have to. You might know the answer to something and you ask somebody for a little help and you thank them.

(41:45 – 41:48)

Oh, my gosh, thank you so much for that. I really agree. You could have done that.

(41:49 – 42:01)

You know how to do it. With that moment of value, that moment of, yeah, yeah, my God, I did. And they’re going to tell somebody that they were able to do something you couldn’t and they really helped out.

(42:01 – 42:09)

And what does that create? Value. You can have something so simple. I know I can do more of that.

(42:10 – 42:16)

But I mean, absolutely. I mean, like you said, they feel valued. They feel important as they should.

(42:17 – 42:33)

Yeah, when your employee starts looking at that business as their business and not your business, the world starts changing. Your business will start changing. And when you start, I don’t even know how to say it.

(42:33 – 42:50)

When they take ownership, even though they have no ownership in it when they say, this is mine, I own it, this is how I did it, and you value that. The way you get to the end and the way I get to the end are extremely different. I had a supervisor once tell me I was making mistakes on the bridge of the ship.

(42:50 – 42:59)

And he looked at me and I was like, well, why didn’t you correct me? And he says, we still got here. Nothing got hurt. And he goes, I would have just done it different.

(42:59 – 43:02)

But you did it just fine. Nobody got hurt. We got where we needed to be.

(43:02 – 43:08)

The ship’s moored up. Everything’s great. And I thought to myself, wow, thank you.

(43:08 – 43:16)

Thank you for letting me do that. So there are multiple roads to each ending. You just gotta make sure you grab the safe one.

(43:17 – 43:22)

So the way somebody gets to the end is not the way you get to the end. It doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It just means it’s different.

(43:23 – 43:29)

It might take them a little bit longer. But when they take their own road, that’s ownership. They own that road.

(43:30 – 43:36)

And when they own it, now we’re getting in a cycle. Now we got value. We got support.

(43:36 – 43:51)

And we’re heard when you do all that. So many things. It’s just the littlest things that start snowballing into just extremely large, career-changing, business-changing employees from where we are.

(43:51 – 43:59)

And I didn’t even know all this was a thing. I recently realized I’ve been doing all these. And Captain Kennedy was the one who told me, this is what you’re doing.

(43:59 – 44:06)

And I thought it was an aha moment where he told me this. And I look back at my past like, ah, yes. Yes.

(44:07 – 44:12)

You know? Now you’re an expert. Please do. You’re an expert now in intrusive leadership.

(44:13 – 44:16)

Not quite. He’s the expert. I’m just kind of dabbling a little bit.

(44:17 – 44:23)

  1. There was a story of, I’ll say his name, Jesse Deary. He was my captain of the ship Marcus Hanna when we were in Maine.

(44:24 – 44:35)

Great, great guy. I would follow him to the depths of hell. We were setting a buoy, a base of navigation, like the red and green things that you see out on the water.

(44:36 – 44:42)

There’s no roadmap on the water. So we use these buoys. And each buoy tells you something different on where to go and drive your ship.

(44:43 – 44:56)

Well, this one buoy we were setting, it was right by a very shallow shoal. It was a red buoy to make sure we stayed away from it. And we set the buoy and you’re always supposed to trust your instruments.

(44:57 – 45:04)

I didn’t trust my instruments. I’m looking at these and I’m getting ready to drive the ship away from the buoy. I’m looking at my instruments like, gosh, that doesn’t look right.

(45:04 – 45:12)

I’m looking around, looking at the shoreline. We’re just outside of Salem, down by Boston. And I was like, well, this is the way we’re going to go.

(45:12 – 45:23)

And I started driving the ship away from the buoy. And I didn’t realize until the ship had moved probably about 50 yards, I was going the wrong direction. And I had went right over the top of that shoal.

(45:23 – 45:31)

I must have missed running aground by two, three feet, this 175-foot ship. And it was rocks. I would have ripped the bottom of the boat open.

(45:32 – 45:41)

And I was in a full-on internal panic. And your body was reacting to that. It was I was so scared.

(45:41 – 45:47)

And I realized, OK, I’m over the shoal. It was a very short, small, small, small shoal. I was over it.

(45:48 – 45:56)

And the danger had passed. But now, again, I’m still in a panic because I just did this. I put the entire crew at risk because I didn’t trust my instruments.

(45:57 – 46:03)

I trusted my gut and it was wrong. And that was the end of it. And the captain never saw it.

(46:03 – 46:05)

He wasn’t paying attention. He didn’t see it. Cool.

(46:06 – 46:15)

Gosh, I got away with one. And that was the end of it. Well, gosh, about three years later, two years later.

(46:16 – 46:19)

No, it’s about three years later. I had left the ship. I was no longer on the ship.

(46:20 – 46:30)

We got together. We met up and we got to talking. And I says, Kevin, you know, this one time we were down by Boston and I ran over the top of the shoal.

(46:30 – 46:38)

I almost ran aground. He goes, yeah, we’re right outside Salem, right? Yeah. You know, he remembers it clearly.

(46:38 – 46:52)

He knew exactly what had happened. And when it started happening, he was about to make a jump in. But he realized that we had enough water underneath our boat that we, even though it was close, we were still going to be safe.

(46:52 – 47:12)

And we went over the top of that and he knew it. And I asked him, he’s like, Kevin, how come you never said anything? Why didn’t you do anything? He says, I could see on the look of your face, you knew you messed up. And I could tell that I didn’t need to say anything because you were, the look of fear and the trembling in your hands that happened.

(47:12 – 47:24)

What’s the point? I knew that you had messed up. You knew you messed up. And I knew it would never happen again because I could tell just by the way you look and how he knew me and my personality.

(47:24 – 47:32)

And you know, it never happened. Obviously, it never happened again. And I thought that was the coolest thing that this captain knew.

(47:32 – 47:42)

I made a mistake and we were safe, but he let me make that mistake. And I learned from that mistake. And to this day, here we are eight years later, nine years later.

(47:42 – 47:57)

And I still think about it often about how this captain kept his cool. Let me make a mistake and learn from it and never said one word. I thought that was amazing.

(47:57 – 48:07)

I thought that was really great. I mean, just another leadership example. I mean, we’re being schooled on leadership here across a lot of things here.

(48:07 – 48:23)

But that is, he knew where you were. And that leadership, this does not say something was also just so impressive. I’m not sure I’m always disciplined myself not to say something.

(48:24 – 48:28)

Right, exactly. And I think to myself. Sometimes it’s better not to say something.

(48:28 – 48:44)

So that example. Knowing when to be quiet for your people is sometimes extremely important. I learned more from him not saying and me going over that shoal and come to find out that that shoal was not nearly as close to the bottom of the boat as I thought it was at the time.

(48:45 – 48:52)

If it was, obviously, he would never have let me do that. He would not put the ship in danger. But he knew I would learn from that.

(48:52 – 49:04)

And by him not saying something, I learned more from that because if he would have stopped me and said, oh, no, don’t do that. Do this. You know, I might have made that mistake again and not trusted by instruments.

(49:04 – 49:16)

And maybe that time somebody would have seriously got hurt, seriously injured. He knew we were in a safe enough environment that I can fail but not get hurt. And he let me fail.

(49:18 – 49:36)

And so much by his by his silence, it changed. It changed on how I did business. Even after that, I took another position where I was teaching somebody how to drive a boat and I let them get in a position that was, I don’t want to say dangerous, but I’ll say sketchy.

(49:36 – 49:41)

And I let him do it. And chief, why didn’t you say something? I seen you had it. You had.

(49:42 – 49:45)

Now, obviously, that’s not going to work for everybody. You have to know your people. Right.

(49:45 – 49:50)

You need to jump in. You got to jump in. Don’t let your business fail because you’ll go and see if they learn.

(49:50 – 49:54)

This is a learning moment. No, absolutely not. But he knew you.

(49:54 – 50:03)

He knew your personality. Again, it was intrusive leadership, too, because he knew who you were. He knew you beat yourself up enough already.

(50:04 – 50:18)

And and kind of backtrack and say, how do I prevent that again? So he knew that his words wouldn’t add anything to the mix. Yep. He knew that if he said something would have zero value on my learning, my education.

(50:19 – 50:29)

Negative value. Which takes a lot from a leaner. So, I mean, there’s so many leaders in our in our military and our armed forces.

(50:30 – 50:44)

It just so many lessons that I think a lot of us could learn from. But I do appreciate the fact that I mean, you the intrusive leadership is not always a common one, I don’t think. And it needs to be more common.

(50:45 – 50:53)

So I appreciate you sharing your stories around that and how we can all do a better job. Thank you. From a leadership standpoint.

(50:55 – 50:59)

You know, there’s one last question. You’ve given me your time. I don’t want to take.

(50:59 – 51:08)

I appreciate you giving your time to us. Any final point to leave us? I mean, we have all our discussion. You don’t have to.

(51:08 – 51:24)

I mean, just you have a final point. Or maybe to summarize what we just talked about, you know, I can summarize a little something up, you know, things that I’ve learned throughout my years is one truth to power. Right, just because you’re in a position of power, you still need to hear the truth, even if it comes from the lowest position.

(51:25 – 51:30)

You need to hear it. You need to listen. Make sure your people are supported, valued, and mostly heard.

(51:32 – 51:53)

You have conversations, have hard conversations about emotional states and mental states. And how are you? How are you? Oh, you were sick. How did that make you feel? Did you feel OK with mentally? Are you OK? That can go a long way.

(51:53 – 52:06)

And like I mentioned earlier, you can have my basics that I’ve learned through leadership when I put it on paper. I have literally six things that I do. I have three L’s and three three T’s.

(52:07 – 52:16)

You learn your people and you learn them by listening. And then you make sure you lean on, right? Let them do their thing. Let them run.

(52:16 – 52:28)

Give them the ball and let them take their own path as long as they get to the end zone. Trust them, be truthful with them, and be transparent. You know, I think with those things.

(52:29 – 52:42)

You can you can achieve. A lot when you get to that and your people, you will have personal power that you’ve never had before, and it’ll be amazing. You will definitely see a difference.

(52:43 – 52:53)

I know I did. That is a great way to end. We get through it without going the sailor way at all.

(52:53 – 53:01)

I think we behaved ourself pretty well in our conversation. Thanks again, Jason. We’ve been talking to Jason Kuzik.

(53:02 – 53:08)

Jason, thank you for joining the Proofpoint podcast today. Really appreciate your time. Thank you.

(53:08 – 53:14)

Thank you. Thanks for listening to the Proofpoint podcast. We’ll see you again next time.

(53:14 – 53:17)

And be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes.