Change Proof | Anthony Simmons | Leadership And Resilience


Ever wondered how a Navy surface warfare officer transitions into a top-tier leadership consultant? This episode dives deep with Dr. Anthony L. Simmons, a seasoned Navy veteran and founder of Sixth Gear Consulting. Host Adam Markel explores Dr. Simmons’ fascinating journey from rehabbing homes and restoring cars to his visionary approach in leadership performance and organizational wellness. Discover the powerful lessons he learned on and off the battlefield, the significance of mentorship, and the critical strategies for thriving in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (V.U.C.A.) world. Whether you’re navigating military-to-civilian life or seeking to enhance your organizational culture post-pandemic, Dr. Simmons’ insights will inspire and equip you to lead with resilience and adaptability. Tune in for a masterclass in transforming challenges into opportunities and fostering a culture of trust and collective strength.

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Unlocking The Secrets To Leadership And Resilience With Dr. Anthony Simmons

Welcome back to another episode of the show. You’re going to love the guest that I’ve got ready for you. This gentleman is somebody with tremendous insight and great experience. I enjoy his presence. You’re going to enjoy him as well. Here is his bio, and then I’m going to jump right into it. Dr. Anthony L. Simmons served 28 years as a Navy surface warfare officer, and he retired with the rank of captain. His Navy experience includes 4 at-sea commands, a patrol coastal, 2 AEGIS destroyers, and a destroyer squadron.

Ashore, he worked in Human Resources at the Navy Bureau of Personnel and the Pentagon on the staffs of the Joint Chiefs and Naval Operations as a Strategic Planner and Resource Officer. Since retiring, Dr. Simmons has worked in the defense industry as a system and test engineer, experiment planner, and leadership instructor.

He earned his Doctoral degree in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. Also, Dr. Simmons is the Founder of SixthGearConsulting, which is a leadership performance consulting practice that instructs leaders on how to lead through bridging people and technology. You’re going to enjoy this conversation, so sit back and find a great place to relax as we gain some tremendous insights from Dr. Anthony Simmons.

Taking Things Apart And Back

You’ve had quite a career and quite an amazing journey. I really want to ask you. Even though your CV and the bio are impressive and most people couldn’t even imagine how you could fit all that in a single life, you’ve managed to do a lot of those things that have made such a big impact. My question is, what’s something that isn’t a part of your record service, your job history, and all those amazing credentials? What is one thing that’s not included in that that you would love for people to know about you that maybe people don’t know about you?

I’m a blue-collar guy. I spent a lot of time rehabbing homes and working on special projects within the community. Also, I have a hobby of working on automobiles. In fact, I was restoring A 2001 BMW 540i manual shift.

Have you always had a head for that or understood the components?  I love cars myself. I’ve always enjoyed them and whatnot. I can figure some stuff out common sense-wise, but I don’t know how they work. If I took something apart, my fear is I wouldn’t be able to put it back together.

My father was an auto mechanic, so I grew up around it. He always had my brother and I to always watch the parts. He was self-employed once in the mobile industry. Also, he always ensured that we could work on the cars we drove. I had a ‘67 Mustang, the same year I was born, when I was in high school.

I watched the stuff he did. I always had an affinity for taking stuff apart. Once, I restored that ‘67. I took the entire dash compartment out when I was sixteen years old. I probably couldn’t do it now. It’s amazing how some things we can do when we’re young and now, we dare to do it. I was around it. He was a good teacher, so I had that opportunity. It was also the hometown I grew up in and the guys that came through in the ‘70s. One of the best years for cars was around the ‘60, ‘70, and ‘69 timeframe. You had all the Chevelles, Mustangs, and Dodges that were on the street and pretty popular. I grew up in that environment.

Those early Camaros. The Vettes, Stingrays, and all that.

I was a Ford family guy, but I still admired the Camaros, Chevelles, and Corvettes.

I want to maybe follow that thread a moment more. I want to use this as a metaphor. We’ll try this on for size and see if it can fit throughout our conversation. What do you learn when you’re young and impressionable about taking stuff apart and putting it back together or diagnosing what might be wrong?

We don’t typically take something that’s working apart and put it back together. We often do that when something’s either not working or we want it to work better. I imagine if you wanted to get more performance out of an automobile or out of an engine, you might take it apart or add something to it to do that. I want to get back to what’s the mindset around doing that. You’re going to break stuff. You’re going to make some mistakes. If you’re going to put some things back together in the wrong way, it’s not going to work. Did you do it perfectly right out of the gate?

No, I didn’t. In fact, I did take stuff apart that worked perfectly. My father brought me a gun that was ignited with a gas chamber in it once. I took it apart on Christmas day. He was so upset with it. He was like, “I paid more for this gun than I paid for any of my guns. You took the thing apart and springs went everywhere.” That was a bad experience.

To go back to what you’re talking about, I did a lot with leadership. I went to Air Command and Staff College in Montgomery in 2001. I learned that social science really evolved in the ‘60s. I look at physical and social science and see the parallels between tearing things apart and the discovery inside of things. With the physical or social side, once you get inside of pieces, you understand the makeup of it. That’s the beauty of it when you’re there. What is an automobile engine or what have you? You mix the parts.

I recall the guys in my hometown when I was young. They would try to get the maximum power out of a vehicle. The guys had these 350 engines and they would take them apart and put a 400 intake on them. They would maximize the power. That’s the beauty of it. Once you get inside and look at the internals, you say, “What can I do to add some value to what’s inside of here?” That was a big takeaway I feel.

It’s the same thing with the human being on the social science side. You have to get inside of people and dissect them so you can see what’s within the realm of the possible. You have to be resilient because there are going to be some failures in life and also in your challenges, as I talked about with the pellet gun that I took apart.

Change Proof | Anthony Simmons | Leadership And Resilience

Leadership And Resilience: You have to get inside of the people to see what’s within the realm of the possible.


Leadership Lessons

I want to get into the leadership thing too. You read my mind there. Maybe start with a little bit of your background. You’ve had the opportunity to work at a very high level and lead folks in Military service. Let’s dig into where it was that you first started to learn about leadership yourself in some of those roles. Will you take us back in time to a bit of that?

In life, we do things naturally. We find ourselves eager and curious when we’re kids. You find yourself in certain positions, making certain things happen. The first time I played football, I was eleven years old. I was a tight end, but I always wanted to be the quarterback. We played what we call sandlot football. I always wanted to throw the ball, but I was young, so an older guy became the quarterback. I begged the coach to let me throw the pass occasionally, so he would put me back there on certain plays to throw the halfback pass. Even though I was a tight end, I lined up as running back.

The next year, I was like, “I’m going to play quarterback regardless.” I went out for quarterback. I was not the guy he selected. He brought another guy that he knew to play quarterback. I said, “He has to beat me out.” I became a quarterback in my second year of playing football. Basketball was the same. I was always the point guard. I always felt that no matter what team I played on, I could wheel the team to win. I said, “You guys choose your team and I’ll take the leftovers. We’re going to beat you with the guys that you guys don’t want to have.” I had this innate ability to lead and then make a difference. I felt independent in my actions in doing that. I didn’t feel like I had to have someone to push me to make a difference.

As I began to grow and learn, especially over the lateral years, I had a chance to go back and pretty much validate some of those innate natural abilities. I learned from my Clifton Top 5 that my ability is to be a learner, be responsible, and be a lifelong achiever. My spiritual gift from Romans 12 is to teach. That’s my natural makeup. I learned that and it went back and fed into the way I always happened to appear, which I strived to be in my formative years. I continued to stay on that glass slope.

Fortunately, I joined the Navy after playing sports through high school and collegiately. I was a ship driver. I had a lot of fancy weapons and worked in combat, but I always like to tell people I spent 28 years as a sociologist more than anything because it was all about the people around me. It was being able to interact with them and put them in a position to help be successful as an organization.

A lesson that came out of your time in the Navy, it’s a hierarchical structure, unlike being in a sporting structure on a team where you could decide, “I want to be the quarterback.” Even though maybe somebody else was thinking that you weren’t suited or, at first glance, they weren’t thinking of you in that role, you decided that you were going to be in that role and then were able to manifest that through hard work and proper attitude. I imagine you practiced a lot in everything else, including all this natural acumen and natural skills.

In the Navy or in any hierarchical structure like that, you could decide that you want to be something, but maybe in that structure, it’s either you have to have a lot of patience or you have to go through a certain process. Maybe there are some ceilings you can’t bust through because you decide that you can do something. Does any of that ring true for you?

It is, but it never bothered me. I always tried to understand the process. Even before the Navy, I would pay close attention to my high school football coaches and say, “They get to be a coach. They don’t have to do all this sweating and what have you.” I said, “Maybe one day, I’m going to aspire to be like them.” I didn’t envy their position. They paid the price. They paid their dues. I said, “I want to be able to listen to them and be able to do what it took them to get to where they are.” I looked at it in kind.

It’s the same with the Navy. At first, it was hard transitioning from a collegiate athlete going into officer candidate school, not because I wanted to be front and center, but it was because I had this really aggressive nature and I was competitive. I was surrounded by people who were more academic. It was a big mixture, something I had not been exposed to. You have to learn to be humble. You have to be very patient. Adjust to the environment and understand the landscape. That was, I felt like, my key attribute.

As I got more involved in the Navy, I would watch the people who did have certain positions and ones I worked for. I continued to model. I tried to see whether I could do their jobs. It was understanding I could not be them because that comes with time. I always tried to, as much as I could, support whatever they were doing to the point where they established confidence and trust in me. They gave me more opportunities to do things. It was never a problem with positional authority, the hierarchy aspect of it. It was that if you do what you’re supposed to do, then those opportunities will present themselves. You better be ready when they do. I wanted to make sure I was prepared for the next level.

When those opportunities present themselves, you better be ready. Share on X


I don’t think I’ve ever asked anybody in a similar role like yours whether they had a mentor. I’ve had lots of people who have had long and distinguished service careers, but I don’t know that I’ve ever asked about mentorship in the context of Military service. What could you tell us about that? Is that a thing?

Yes. You don’t go anywhere in life, I feel, without good mentorship. I had mentorship when I was growing up. I didn’t know what mentorship meant. My father was more into the agrarian lifestyle because that’s what he knew. He believed in hard work. We farmed in the summertime and did logging in the winter. That’s what he knew. That’s what he was taught, hard work. It was not so much based on the academic side.

I had a high school principal there who offered me advice and guidance on the importance of academics. He set me up and facilitated some of my learning. The word mentor didn’t exist, but I could not have accomplished and achieved things I did, like being prepared to go off to college and understand and appreciate education, without having him there to support my vision in that regard and also shed new light on stuff that I didn’t have exposure to.

As you come into the Military, it’s very similar. It was probably not until maybe 5 or 10 years into the Military that we made it pretty accessible that we would be assigned mentors. When it came up, it was a little more palatable. We began to understand and meet those individuals that would help champion your career.

I’ve always had the pleasure and the luxury of a mentor throughout life. That’s why I try to give back as much as I can. I changed my approach from mentorship to a coach. Some people use the word life coach. I don’t necessarily like that one. I like more like a career coach and professional development coach. That way, you can interact with people on the level of co-equals, not like mentors.

It’s more like, “I see who you are and what you’re doing,” and not, “Be like me.” That’s not how it is. I want to draw introspect. Have conversations. It’s more of a co-equal vice with someone you look up to based on their accomplishments. It’s a little different process. I try to be more like a coach protege and vice mentor-protege models.

You served for 28 years. Is that correct?

I did 28 years.

Transitioning From The Military

Retiring from that, you were working on a transition plan, I assume, at some point as to what you’re going to do after that. It is such a structured life. Being on the other side of that can be a challenge where that structure is no longer there. I had a gentleman on our show. He was retiring from a Fortune 500 company after 33 years. He was wondering, “What the heck am I going to do when I don’t have ten meetings all booked up every day?” It’s so structured. There’s so much to do. You always know pretty much every minute what it means to be on task. It’s freedom, but it’s also a lack of a certain structure. Maybe tell us a little bit about what that transition was like for you.

You have to have foresight. No matter what you do in life, you always have to plan ahead. Some things are going to happen that are going to be off-ramps here and there. We don’t know what is sometimes on the road ahead, but we have to be prepared for whatever direction life offers. It goes back to simple as on a plane talking with a retiree. I was probably 12 or 15 years into the Navy.

I was talking to someone who was sitting next to me. He was like, “This is life on our side. It’s not like it was in the Military. There was so much structure in the Military. People really care about each other, and you can make so much happen. Here, no one cares about each other. It’s a free fall. I miss the Military and serving, so enjoy while you’re there.” That’s one.

I listened to that part of the conversation but also listened to the other part. It’s not the same on the outside, so what do you do? You take these skillsets. I have traveled to over 63 countries. We did a lot of what was considered the sail of the Great White Fleet. The Navy was always good at diplomacy. We visited countries or had captains who would take the young officers on official calls and teach us how to interact with dignitaries from other countries. We went in and did community relation projects, goodwill projects, and sporting advances throughout.

You take these lessons to know how the United States Navy can influence many other parts of the world. We are a pretty large, powerful Navy, but how do you make people comfortable and develop partnerships so you can train to get to the bigger mission? I said, “These are some really powerful stuff I’ve been exposed to here.”

I started preparing myself to get out and do inspirational speeches and engage in people and organizations that are trying to help those guys find efficiencies, get people to appreciate each other, and try to bring more unity and connectedness together. It’s similar to what we did in the Navy throughout other countries. Why can’t we do this right here in America?

With so many microcultures in America, people sometimes don’t appreciate that. People talk about ethics. They talk about values. Those are strong beliefs. Sometimes, you have to get out of your prism and belief and try to understand and appreciate things from another person’s perspective. That’s when I went off and did my doctorate.

I wrote my thesis on championing organizational wellness which pretty much tees up how you have people connect and appreciate each other across different cultures and throughout. I modeled that from what I did in the Navy. It was a vision that I started framing. I started doing a lot of writing and what have you. I was putting all these different concepts together. It was maybe to realize that I’m really beginning to start that journey and push some of those lessons out as I gain more footing post-Military.

I want to know more about what’s involved in championing organizational wellness. That, I know, is something that is near to us and near and dear to my heart personally. In the times we’re living in, the signs are everywhere that people are burning out. Some are burned out, and some are in the process of burning out. There are anxiety levels and mental health challenges. This is real. Nobody’s screaming fire and it’s not a false alarm at this point. Maybe we can get a little granular on what that looks like to you. I’d love that.

I went through Joint Command and Staff College. We tried to become joint qualified officers. I started at the basics with inter-organizational relationships. We were discussing 9/11. With all the different information that was available, how did we really apply that? It was enough information that probably could have helped us to prepare better for what potentially happened. Sometimes, you get overwhelmed with information. You don’t know what information to apply. I’ve always been big on human intervention and people skills.

I started this company, SixthGearConsulting, to bridge people and technology with the foundational pieces of human intervention in place. To fast forward that into a champion organization, I went and did my Doctorate degree. I was pulling from what I had experienced in the Navy with connecting people and some initiatives to have people work together, looking at how we deal with the younger generations, and as far as a performance perspective, how we do cross-functional training. There were a lot of different tools that I saw.

People notice the term for organization development. It’s so common. I say, “A lot of people practice organization development, but they bring consultants. Outsiders come in and work with organizations and teach certain skillsets, but they never sustain themselves.” I went back and looked at what I had experienced in the Navy, the good and the bad.

For tight leaders, we had the ones that were more inclusive and provided platforms and instruments for us to work better as a team. I implemented some of those programs in the ships that I was commanding. One of them is to mentor what I call a coach protege program. If I had kids coming from different parts of the world who were not familiar with each other, I personally was involved with aligning mentors and proteges so they could get to know each other and learn from each other. That’s another advantage of a coaching relationship.

Mentoring is a relationship with co-equals where you guys really grow together. That’s what a champion organization wellness does. It brings all these concepts together. What it distills down to is organizational wellness, which is the confluence of organizational development plus organizational sustainment. How do I get development? I get it through trying to grow as an individual through self-assessments and navigating blind spots. It’s the ought self versus the won’t self. That’s overcoming some of your cultural norms, ethical beliefs, and what have you, and then you link with another aspiring leader through a coaching conversation.

Change Proof | Anthony Simmons | Leadership And Resilience

Leadership And Resilience: Organizational wellness is the confluence of organization development plus organizational sustainment.


I always say meeting people halfway is not the same. People have socioeconomic status. They have background differences. Halfway is not always the same distance for everybody, so how do you reach people? I did my dissertation and leadership coaching when I was going through the doctoral program. That was my means. It was to establish those foundational pieces and assess myself, like, “How did you grow?”

We talked about how I read a lot. I read Optimal by Daniel Goleman, a psychologist. He has been studying this whole emotional intelligence concept for over 25 years. I take some of the lessons from there. Also, Stephen Covey’s Trust & Inspire because it’s no longer a command and control hierarchy platform that we’re dealing with. We have to be able to better relate to people.

Those are my foundational pieces for championing organizational wellness. I put this triangle in place. With organizational wellness at the bottom of the triangle are those three pieces I talked to there: assessing yourself, getting better and overcoming blind spots, having a coaching conversation, and linking with the person you’re trying to aspire to do better.

Once you come together and meet them wherever that location is on that bottom of the triangle, then you have to be culturally agnostic. What does that mean? I have to understand other cultures. I had to improve my cultural intelligence by talking to people, getting to know them as we went into other countries, getting into the trenches with them, and understanding life from their perspective so we could better engage them.

The last piece was the coaching organization where you empower people. I like to use the words encourage people and enable people to do better by giving them the tools and the instruments to get exposure and get access to some of the same information as you begin to co-create. You do that through a coaching organization.

People will talk about, “I want to have a flat organization.” What does it mean to have a flat organization? People don’t have access to the same information. They don’t have too much to offer you. You have to imbue people with a certain level of knowledge where you do strategic thinking and strategic acting in the same space. That way, you can deal with change throughout that organization. That’s what I call true empowerment.

I take the organization that has people that are encouraging power and what have you, and then with being cultural agnostic, that’s your way to get to the top of that triangle. Once you’re at the top of that triangle, that’s what equates to organizational wellness. We walk together there, me as the leader and the aspiring leader.

Once we get to the top of that triangle, it becomes leadership succession where that aspiring leader has the same skillsets and tools that I have. I can circle him around back in that training and he can bring someone else along. We got leadership succession. We have people who will continue to enter your organization as it reaches peak performance. That’s the genesis of the organization.

The tools in the back is chapter eight. You have to have your main thing. What’s really important? You have to communicate the same message to your organization. Mine was always responsibility, accountability, loyalty, and trust. I always felt that accountability and trust work two ways if I’m senior to junior and junior to senior. Responsibility means you are responsible to the person you work for and do your job. Loyalty is top-down.

It’s important for the guys that work for me to trust me as it is for me to trust them. Some people don’t understand that sometimes. They feel like it’s a matter of the senior person trusting the junior person. Those are my main things. The other one was you have to have people. You have to have a human resource strategy or professional development strategy for people to give them an opportunity. Let them know what the future holds for them. We did delayed gratification. People want gratification to be a little more tangible.

It is the mentor with the coaching protege model and then it’s the cross-functional training. Those are the tools that I used in that final chapter. That’s how you sustain organizational wellness. It is by giving people the independence to grow. That way, they stay around. You try to get rid of this quiet quitting. They have to be assured that they are connected and people are investing in their well-being.

Organizational Culture

You said a lot there. I want to maybe talk about a couple of things. If you were going to redesign a culture, given what you’ve seen because you worked with multiple organizations and you came out of a very large organization and a very structured organization, which is the US Navy, I’m curious if there’s something that would have to be part of the design-build of an organization. It could be corporate culture, for example, or it doesn’t have to be corporate but a culture that’s being designed on purpose.

Given what’s going on in the world, our environment is not the same as before the pandemic. Anecdotally, what we hear from organizations we work with is that their culture got them through the pandemic. We hear that frequently. They attribute the culture as part of what was their superhero power or the thing that buoyed them in the midst of that uncertainty. I get that. That makes sense.

On the other side of the pandemic, when asking that organization or those leaders questions about their culture, they say, “It’s not the same culture as it was before.” If the pandemic were to happen and that organization was to come together the way it did a few years ago, it might not be the same result because the culture feels different than it did before.

I want to come back to you and ask you to comment on any of that. You’ve also seen that the culture before the pandemic and post-pandemic is different. I also want to go back to the first question. What would it look like if you were to design and build a culture? If it would look differently than it would’ve looked a few years ago, what would be the difference?

I told you. I study a lot. I read a lot. You have to because in order to add value to people, you have to understand and pace the changes. I read Hybrid Workplace. They talk about culture. How does the hybrid workforce really work? You have to be careful not to overconstrain a problem. We did remote during the COVID. Before then, it was more on-site. You have your cake and leave the two. We’re going to have both. We have to determine who’s hybrid and who’s not hybrid. How do we do this? How do we do that? You have to be very careful. Don’t envision something that’s not tenable. That’s my concern with that part.

Some people don’t know where they are culturally, but you have to establish a culture as a leader. You have to be very genuine as you establish that culture. From my research, there are four culture types. You have a hierarchy culture. You have the clan. That means that everyone who has developed comes together as a team. You have the market. That’s in order to pace change in society and chase the market. You then have the ad hoc culture where you stand up for certain situations.

You have to establish a culture as a leader, and you have to be very genuine as you establish that culture. Share on X

I have a friend I went to office school with named Mark Divine. He came up with the term VUCA. He’s a former Navy SEAL. He’s doing a lot of great things out there post-military as well. VUCA means Volatile, Uncertaintainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. That’s what that really meant. You have dynamic external actors. The market is all over the place. Things are changing and people are changing, so how do you do that?

I mentioned strategic thinking and acting in the same space earlier. That means you have to empower people. What clan cultures do is develop people, train them, and increase their skillsets so they can work together. I’m doing a presentation down in Florida for the American Nurses Conference on the 29th of May, 2024. I’m putting the product out there. You have to blend those cultures. You have to do hybrid cultures. You can’t fixate on the market.

Change Proof | Anthony Simmons | Leadership And Resilience

Leadership And Resilience: You can’t just fixate on the market.


That’s what you’ll find sometimes in the defense contractor sector. You’ll find people chasing market conditions. When I say market, what does that mean? I mean a lot of stuff is based on profit and loss more so than anything. They cut personnel sometimes because the market drives that. People feel like you are being disloyal to them, so you have to have a combination of that market culture as well as that clan culture.

You have to still grow and develop people. You have to invest in people. They do understand the conditions, but you also have to make them appreciate what you’re doing so they can have a big grasp. You can’t be disingenuous about how you’re managing your organization from a cultural perspective. You have to be agile within those cultures, and you have to blend them in a hybrid-like fashion. There are a lot of moving parts. You want to turn all those VUCA conditions into opportunities and put a positive spin on them. That’s my take there.

When you were in the Navy, and I’m speaking for you but asking you to correct me if I’m speaking out of turn, I imagine you weren’t worried about your job security. You did your job. You were going to keep your job. If you did your job well, there was a road ahead. There was a career path that you could at least look to and plan on to some degree. That’s accurate, right?

That’s very accurate. You had job security. You see a similar approach. When I retired, I could have applied and become a government civilian with the same security level. The other option is not to become a government civilian and become more of a contract, which I chose the latter and with less security. Why did I do that? It was because I felt that I prepared myself that I could bolster or enhance my job security by being better prepared.

The reason I’m bringing that up is because it is a curious thing that when you watch organizations coming out of the pandemic, many of them were, at the beginning wondering, how much pain they would endure and, for some, whether they’d even survive. Two years later, they were having their best years. One after another, they had their best year, best revenue, etc.

Yet, in the same context, there were layoffs that were happening. People were contracting. The market culture was based on market forces. They began to contract and people were losing their jobs. It’s an interesting thing when we think about what effective culture looks like. In the midst of that, there’s this insecurity that’s baked in.

I wonder if you have an opinion as to whether or not that inherent insecurity on the part of people who are working in those jobs is helpful to them and the organization’s performance and in developing the culture that can succeed in the long-term, whether that insecurity or fear even plays out well or is useful or whether it’s counterproductive action.

That’s a loaded question.

Feel free to push back at me anything you like there. It’s an important question.


It’s a very important question, and there’s no direct answer to that question. We go to being resilient. We talked about being agile and flexible. We have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. You used the word security and how you are as a person. Some people are risk averse. When we had the pandemic, it was tough, but we adapted as a country.

I always like to think America as a whole is a very resilient country. We do get comfortable. We got innovative and creative as a result of the pandemic. Go back and read history. We went through the Great Depression. We’ve been through so much in this country. Stuff that happens in life always happens and makes us better.

When I face challenges in life and have setbacks, I look at it as an opportunity to get better and learn lessons there. You can’t walk scared in life. You have to understand your landscape, and you have to be able to deal with whatever the circumstances are. You can’t live in a completely risk-averse world. That’s the only thing I can say. It’s your culture. You have to teach people the reality. Teach them to be flexible. Keep them informed.

You look at everything as an organizational problem. It’s not an individual problem. I’m really big on the sum of the wholes. You bring all the minds together. You keep people in the know. You can do risk mitigation by encouraging people to work with you as a team. They can see the changes. They can see the dynamics. They can help inform you so you can stay ahead of the power curve or get to the left of the problems.

There will always be problems. There are always going to be unknowns. There’s always a fog of war that we learn in the Military. In society, we have to look at the market in certain manners. You put mitigators in by preparing people so we can all paste the problem and adapt the best we can. What 9/11 did is it prepared us for the next setback, a challenge we may face.

It was so interesting, the reading I did on the way the Coast Guard prepared ahead of time for 9/11. They were one of the most prepared groups on that day because they had been involved in a certain amount of training in future casting and scenario planning exercises. Nobody’s got a crystal ball. Maybe in 1993 or ‘94, the World Trade Center was bombed. That was a major event. There were signs that this could happen or something like it could happen.

I don’t believe it personally. I know there’s a book written with this title The Black Swan. I don’t think there’s any such thing because anything that happens is inevitable. It happened, so clearly, it could have happened. The Coast Guard was not just thinking about it but embodying what it would be like to be involved in one of those remote situations. Therefore, they were able to grapple ahead of time with what it would look like and then be prepared.

I couldn’t agree with you anymore about those aspects of resiliency. In fact, Darwin, who’s often quoted when people think about what resilience is or what strength is, says it’s the survival of the fittest. It’s a misquote in some respects because he says it’s not the ones that are the strongest that survive or even the ones that are most intelligent in our species. It’s the most adaptable. It’s what you said. I couldn’t agree more. Of every nation on the planet that I know anything about, the United States has been incredibly adaptable.

That’s true. I have an epiphany. I’m parallel with the Coast Guard, and I agree with what you say about heroism and the most adaptable. The Coast Guard worked for DOT during peacetime, the Department of Transportation. They did law enforcement. They also prepared to flex into the DOD side. That in itself gives them flexibility and adaptability. I’m not surprised that they were the ones that responded in kind. They make up. They’ve been agile for some time as well as flexible and adaptable.

There’s something there for us that’ll be good for follow-up. The other thing that you brought up that I think is really important, and it’s not a tough love conversation, but I had this out with a guest on my show, is there’s an element of self-responsibility that’s embedded in this. The tension here is on the organizational side, when you think about culture, to me, transparency is important. I get it. You can’t let everybody know every detail of your plan and your strategy any more than high command would let enlisted men and women or others know because it’s not what you would do. It wouldn’t make sense. There’s a certain level of not entrapping people or leading them to believe something that’s not true.

When organizations talk about this being a family, I get it. I love my family. I love my friends. I consider my family, be it every man, woman, and child on this earth, on some level from a spiritual side. When you’re working at a place and people talk about it being a family and the next minute, they’re laying off their family as though they’re strangers. There’s a conflict there. There’s an issue with that. To me, there’s some level of honesty and transparency about what this relationship really does look like.

There is another level of if that is going to be a part of the cycle, and let’s say it is a natural part of the cycle or a predictable part of the cycle that when market forces require organizations to take care of stakeholders, which is a separate conversation, but assume that that’s not going to change that the stakeholders are going to be the tip of the spear, then there are going to be times when we contract. Contraction is going to mean a reduction in force and stuff like that.

Prepare those people not only for that eventuality, if you want to call it that, but also, what kind of training can we provide them? What kind of support can we give them to be more adaptable? You’re not an average guy. That’s the truth of it. You were not average in high school. You weren’t average when you took apart that pistol or when you took apart the car. These are not things that a lot of people do. When you joined the Navy, you had a certain self-determination but also a high standard of self-responsibility.

When you feel that way, no matter what life throws at you or no matter what your employer throws at you, you know you’re going to land on your feet because you’re able to think on your feet. A lot of people honestly have not been trained that way. That’s not their prior life experience. They’re relying on their employer to take care of them if they put in their 40 or 50 hours. That’s where they’re coming from. We could do a better job of training people, especially those young folks and middle managers who don’t seem to get a lot of the training dollars when it comes to how organizations allocate training and development investment.

I really love talking to you. First of all, thank you for the vote of confidence there and compliment. I appreciate that. It brings more insight into me here. The first thing is trust. That’s the term. That’s independent. We have to do a better job of developing trust. You can’t give people everything. You have to develop more trust. You have to be more transparent. I read Fast Company articles. It’s constantly drum-beating people, not communicating. It’s like, “I did not communicate because they were not trusting.”

I had a concept that always worked for me in command. I had people from all over the world on the ship. The Navy is probably one of the most diverse services, where we have guys who come in who don’t do quite as well in their ASVABs, and then we have guys who are rocket scientists straight out of high school. I always feel like you are only as strong as your weakest link, and I strive for that. You got the Pareto rule that 20% of the people are doing 80% of their work. My concept is team within teams. If I have someone who is super smart and gifted, then they have to help the people around them. We’re the sum of the whole. We have to make each other stronger.

You are only as strong as your weakest link. Share on X

If you go to a classroom, the teacher wants to show you their A students. That kid is going to be an A student regardless of whether or not you teach them anything because they’re driven. How about those kids that come in here that started out with maybe Ds, don’t have confidence, and are not quite as gifted? Are your A students helping those kids become better? Are you working as a team? That’s what I always try to promote. I always had a team within teams. I wanted everyone in our organization. We didn’t have any QIATs. I was convinced that there are no failures in the world. Some people don’t know how to win or how to succeed.

I always looked across everyone because it’s the sum of the whole. We have to be able to give back and help each other to make each other strong. I never bought into the 20% of the people doing 80% of the work or the A team-to-B team concept. We’re all one team. We’re going to balance out God-given skills and make everyone on the team better and appreciate each other. That’s what has always worked for me.

Even before I became a commanding officer, I had a department that I oversaw. I had a division before that. It’s always been the same. That’s what has worked for me throughout. It’s the same thing with sports. If one has something to offer, you have to build them. Everyone was not as fast on the football team. They had something to offer. Otherwise, they wouldn’t put the uniform on every day.

You have done some work for the Marine Corps, which is an aspect of the Navy. I remember when I was working with a group of officers. We were talking about not leaving anyone behind. You don’t leave a man behind. You don’t leave a woman behind. You don’t leave anybody behind. I’m wearing my resilience shirt, but I got another one that says, “Got your back.” That probably would’ve even been better for this conversation. From a cultural standpoint, it is a really important thing that people can feel. They could say nothing else. They could say, “I know where I go to work, where I put my service in, and where I put my time in. It’s an environment where people have my back.”

Exactly. That’s important. We have to respect each other. That’s why I said we have to get away from our own prisons and our own beliefs sometimes and try to understand each other regardless of where people are from. We have to do a better job at that. I say it all the time. It’s connecting and appreciating each other.

I don’t want to say if, but when we learn how to do that, I hope it’s in our lifetimes because we as a species haven’t figured this one out yet.


It could break your heart every single day. As my wife would remind me, I got to have a hopeful heart. Well,

We’ll get there as long as you have people like yourself in the world making a difference. I was talking with a coworker. He has been called to do a speech somewhere. He’s a retired admiral. He said, “I don’t really want to do this.” I said, “People like you need to be heard. There are a lot of people out there speaking and doing stuff. You’d do the country a disservice when you’re not one of the people that’s heard. I know you don’t like to be front and center and don’t like a lot of attention, but you have so much to offer.” Once we get people like that, people like yourself, that’s more vocal, we will make some progress.” Sometimes, we can only measure progress.

Daily Ritual

It is a good thing that it’s so easy for everybody to be a broadcaster. It is possible to have a voice by sticking a mic in front of you and all that good stuff. I’ll end as I began. It’s been a pleasure to speak with you. I appreciate your insights and your time. I want to wish you well on your continued journey. I’ll say this. Is there one thing you do on a ritual or daily basis, whatever it might be, that keeps you resilient or how you define that word?

Yes, I do. I read a devotion every day. I always think the Bible is the most powerful book on leadership. Almost every day, whatever scripture I read applies to where I am that day. I do that before I open my computer or before I do anything. I’ve been doing this for about three years. It’s probably one of the best rituals I ever started.

Change Proof | Anthony Simmons | Leadership And Resilience

Leadership And Resilience: The Bible is the biggest, most powerful book on leadership.


I have a similar practice, and it’s very personal. Not everybody who reads this, it’s going to be a thing for them. Some people will probably nod their heads, going, “It’s my secret weapon.” For me, when I have that start to the day, it is so personal. There are so many things that can be set into motion. This is getting back to the truth of things.

As human beings, we all have the same basic desires, whether it’s peace, happiness, love, fulfillment, prosperity, or all these things. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are. It doesn’t matter what religion you believe in or don’t believe in or your politics. To use your word earlier, you could be agnostic to all of it. It doesn’t matter because it’s all the same. We’re all baked with that same stuff.

To me, what I love about having a set practice or a ritual at the beginning of the day is to be still and sit in gratitude or maybe to read something. I read something that often has a reference point to something in the Bible. While I’m not a Bible scholar and I’m not a particularly religious person, I love how potent, tangible, relevant, and real it is even to this day. You have to be able to connect the dots. You have to be able to see through in language that’s old. You have to be able to assimilate that and see what the value is. To me, it’s a worthwhile practice. I always appreciate somebody else getting benefits from it, too.

I attended Regent University for that reason because I wanted to get strong in that area or at least understand that X is more so. I feel a lot better. Thanks.

Thank you again.

Thanks so much.

It was a pleasure.

I thoroughly enjoyed that conversation. Anthony is something special. He worked 28 years in the Navy. He is an incredibly insightful man and a humble man. He has had some significant leadership roles throughout his career and since retiring from the Navy as well. Yet, he is one of these quiet leaders. It’s not quiet in the shy sense but in that sense of having humility. To me, it’s this mix of confidence without arrogance or confidence without being oppressive in the standpoint of how you treat people, how you talk to them, like your tone, and where your ego intersects with all of that.

Humility is vitally important. It’s one of those qualities that is difficult to define at times. It’s also something the greatest leaders have worked on and have seen as something that was worthy of their time, and it is often an area that needs development. I know that in my own journey as a leader, that has been something I’ve been focused on as well, but not with total success. It’s a work in progress.

In this episode, we got to get into some really deep stuff when it comes to how organizations from a cultural standpoint are doing, where it is that we can create greater wellness within those organizations, and what it takes to create champions for organizational wellness. We got to talk about trust and the value and importance of trust and where, interestingly enough, it might be that people are having trouble communicating and where there are communication challenges that are based on a lack of trust. That was one area that we talked about.

We talked about cultural intelligence and how vital it is and where it is in developing that agnostic belief system. This means that you are not looking at the diversity of culture as a separation point but rather as a commonality or common ground. Therefore, you’re agnostic to what those cultural differences might be.

He used the Navy as a great example, traveling to 68 countries but wanting the Naval presence in those places to be integrative, not intrusive. It’s not to be an outsider but more, if possible, woven into the culture of the place where they were stationed or where they could potentially even make a difference in some way, add value, provide service, and benefit those other people. All that was very telling.

I loved when he talked about creating the team within the teams and how it is so important that the A players, in particular, are involved in helping others to succeed, the people that have less acumen for something potentially maybe because it’s a lack of training or a lack of experience. Maybe it’s even some personal shortcomings that can lead one person to be less successful or less of a performer than someone else. That is the job of the team, to bring everybody along and look out for one another.

To have each other’s backs is the term that I expressed. It’s how we refer to it at WorkWell, our company, when working with other companies. You want to create cultures that are got-your-back cultures versus watch-your-back cultures. They know almost nothing else as a certainty, but what they do know for sure is that the people that they work with are there to support them and that they’re there to support others. It’s that got-your-back environment.

It’s similar to the way in the Military theater. People know that that’s what keeps everybody safe. That’s the essence of how they can achieve something as one unit. They’re not worried about whether somebody behind them is looking to see them succeed because they know that no one succeeds without everyone succeeding. No one gets left out or left behind. When we can incorporate that to create this greater performance and a culture where people can truly show up as the best they can be without fear and insecurity, that’s ultimately what we’re after.

It’s not to promise what is not possible. Organizations are going to go through changes. There are going to be structural changes. There are going to be restructures based on market conditions. All of that is evident. All of that is true, but we need to be truthful with people so that they have to understand that, from whatever stage they’re at, that’s potentially the case. It’s a potential.

For some, it’s an eventuality. If we train, if we give people our true care, if we are helping them and supporting them to rise to the best level that they’re capable of rising to, then they can adapt. They can be adaptable within the organization if their journey includes staying there. If their journey means being somewhere else, they’ll not only be able to survive, but they’ll be able to thrive truly because they’ve developed this resiliency that comes from learning how to adapt.

Those are not necessarily things that we are trained, taught in school, or taught by our parents or others as we are growing up. These are skills that organizations can imbue, impart, and train along the way. The caveat here is this is my personal opinion. These shouldn’t be left only in the upper reaches of leadership, where only senior-level leaders get access to these types of training. Rather, we invest the time, energy, resources, and money to allow for training to occur earlier on in the career path so that people do learn, at a minimum, some of these essential skills that will only hold them in good stead if their career continues within that vein or whether it leads elsewhere for whatever reason.

I love the conversation. Dr. Simmons laid out some structures for us. He talked about self-awareness and the importance of that, as well as overcoming our blind spots and creating our coaching organization. It is where we provide people with feedback on a consistent basis so that they can know what those blind spots are and we can help them overcome them.

I appreciate your tuning in and that this is hopefully something valuable for you. If this episode was valuable, I would love it if you’d share it with someone else. The greatest compliment you could give when you appreciate something is that you share it with someone else. Maybe it’s an insight. Maybe it’s an idea that you’ll share as well.

When you do share it, then the powers that be or the algorithm that controls so much of what content shows up for each of us in our various platforms that we are consuming content from, this show will show up in more places. That’s because you’ve either shared it with somebody else or you’ve taken a moment to rate it and give it that 4 or 5-star rating. Hopefully, you’d think it was worth the five stars, but that takes time for you to do. If you choose to do it, we appreciate it. That is how our community has grown significantly. That’s how we are able to reach more people with this message. I thank you in advance for taking the time out of your very important work to do that for us.

Lastly, this is something that I highly recommend for you and the members of your team. If you’d like to get a snapshot in this moment of time of how resilient you are mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually speaking, you have access to this. It’s free. The insights are pretty remarkable in so many respects.

We’ve been able to, through our research, pinpoint several things on the emotional intelligence side as well as in the area of spiritual resilience that come up consistently through our data. If you want to get access to our Resilient Leader Assessment,  go to There are questions and no strings attached. You get sixteen questions, and you’ll get a confidential report that is for you. You’ll also get some resources that are based on what your report has found. Those will be valuable for yourself and those around you as well as potentially anybody that you might share it with. Thank you so much for being a part of our community. Thank you for tuning into this show. I look forward to you getting access to more in the future. Thank you, and ciao for now.


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About Dr. Anthony L. Simmons

Change Proof | Anthony Simmons | Leadership And ResilienceDr. Anthony L. Simmons served 28 years as Navy Surface Warfare Officer where retired at the rank of Captain. His Navy experience includes four at-sea commands: a Patrol Coastal, two AEGIS Destroyers and a Destroyer Squadron. Ashore, he worked in human resources at the Navy Bureau of Personnel and the Pentagon on the staffs of the Joint Chiefs and Naval Operations as a Strategic Planner and Resource Officer. Since retiring,

Dr. Simmons has worked in the defense industry as a Systems and Test Engineer, Experiment Planner, and Leadership Instructor. He earned his doctoral degree in Strategic Leadership from Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA. Dr. Simmons is also the founder and owner of Sixth Gear Consulting, LLC, which is a leadership performance consulting practice that instructs leaders on how to lead through bridging People and Technology.