DiscoverThe Idealcast with Gene Kim by IT RevolutionLeadership, Radical Delegation, And Integrated Problem Solving with Admiral John Richardson
Leadership, Radical Delegation, And Integrated Problem Solving with Admiral John Richardson

Leadership, Radical Delegation, And Integrated Problem Solving with Admiral John Richardson

Update: 2021-04-221


In the second part of this two-part episode of The Idealcast Gene Kim and Admiral John Richardson, former Chief of Naval Operations, continue their discussion on the importance of leadership in large, complex organizations, especially enabling leadership training early in one’s career, and exploring why he views it as so important. Admiral Richardson also shares why radical delegation is needed more than ever, and provides tools and techniques for enabling it.

Kim and Admiral Richardson discuss the important characteristics needed to integrate problems solving into an organization. And finally, they talk about the nature of the US Naval Reactors that are responsible for the safe and reliable operations of the US Naval Propulsion Program, why that warrants the command of a 4-star admiral, and what should ideally happen when accidents occur in complex systems.

Also joining the conversation is Dr. Steve Spear, who has written extensively about the US Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program program in his book The High-Velocity Edge.


Admiral John Richardson served as the Chief of Naval Operations for four years, which is the professional head of the US Navy. While in the Navy, Richardson served in the submarine force and commanded the attack submarine USS Honolulu in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for which he was awarded the Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale Inspirational Leadership Award. He also served as the Director of Naval Reactors, responsible for the design, safety, certification, operating standards, material control, maintenance, disposal, and regulatory oversight of over 100 nuclear power plants operating on nuclear-powered warships deployed around the world.

Since his retirement in August 2019, he has joined the boards of several major corporations and other organizations, including Boeing, the world's largest aerospace company, and Exelon, a Fortune 100 company that operates the largest fleet of nuclear plants in America and delivers power to over 10 million customers. 

Dr. Steve Spear (DBA MS MS) is principal for HVE LLC, the award-winning author of The High-Velocity Edge, and patent holder for the See to Solve Real Time Alert System. A Senior Lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School and a Senior Fellow at the Institute, Dr. Spear’s work focuses on accelerating learning dynamics within organizations so that they know better and faster what to do and how to do it. This has been informed and tested in practice in multiple industries including heavy industry, high tech design, biopharm R&D, healthcare delivery and other social services, US Army rapid equipping, and US Navy readiness.  

Visit Steve Spear's Website



  • Admiral Richardson’s views on the importance of training leadership in the earliest stages of a sailor’s career

  • Why leadership is so important

  • Various tools and techniques for enabling radical delegation

  • Important characteristics of the different ways that integrated problem solving incurs in organizations

  • The nature of the function organization that is the U.S. Naval reactors, comprehensively responsible for safe and reliably operations of the US Naval Propulsion Program and why it warrants being commanded by a four-star admiral

  • What should leaders in complex organizations do when accidents occur





[00:00 ] Intro

[01:24 ] Toughing up the training

[09:37 ] Feedback from the fleet

[11:00 ] Discussions with the instructors

[14:03 ] A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority

[18:07 ] Designing for the next place

[28:18 ] Reducing the cost of change

[35:22 ] Configurations for failure or success

[39:55 ] Tools for integration

[47:39 ] How structure affects the dynamics of how organizations work

[51:59 ] Gene reflects on integrated problem solving

[57:28 ] Two domains of activities to use the slow communication paths

[1:00:42 ] If these mental models resonate with Admiral Richardson

[1:02:31 ] What point does the center get involved

[1:07:47 ] Why the delegation for the nuclear reactor core is important

[1:14:00 ] What happens when complex systems go wrong

[1:20:37 ] Contacting Admiral Richardson

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Leadership, Radical Delegation, And Integrated Problem Solving with Admiral John Richardson

Leadership, Radical Delegation, And Integrated Problem Solving with Admiral John Richardson

Gene Kim