Jimi Smoot Entrepreneur / Software Engineer

Kaj Larsen

Leading Teams

A Chat With Kaj Larsen

Today I sit down with Kaj Larsen. To say that Kaj is a former US Navy SEAL is just the tip of the iceberg. He is also a journalist who’s work you’ve probably seen on VICE and CNN. He went to Harvard. He worked with Sorkin on “Newsroom” –one of my favorite shows. The breadth and depth of his experience is incredible —just take a look at his bio below.

In this episode, however, we talk quite a bit about his time as a SEAL. I’ve been fascinated with SEAL training for years so this conversation was an absolute blast. Among many other things, we talk about leading men in combat, building team cohesion, and how some of the ideas from SEAL training can be applied to people in leadership positions outside of the military.

Kaj’s bio:

Kaj Larsen was born in Santa Cruz, California, and graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz with a degree in Political Science. At Harvard University he received his Masters degree in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government. At Harvard, Kaj was awarded a fellowship from the Shorenstein Center for Press, Politics, and Public Policy. He was also a joint fellow at Tufts Jebsen Center for Counter-Terrorism studies. His focus includes international security policy, media politics, and political affairs.

Kaj is an award winning filmmaker and correspondent. He was recently the Senior Correspondent and Producer for Now This News. He previously hosted the Emmy award winning series VICE on HBO. At VICE Kaj has produced documentaries on conflict and national security issues. He is the only journalist to be embedded in the Nigerian fight against Boko Haram, and conducted the first exclusive interview with the architect of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program. Prior to Now This and Vice Kaj was a correspondent at CNN as a member of CNN’s Special Investigations and Documentary unit. His on-camera career began in 2005 when he covered the war in Afghanistan for Current TV. At Current TV Kaj helped develop the Emmy Award winning Vanguard Journalism series. He was the first journalist to bring the issue of waterboarding to the public by having himself waterboarded on TV. He broke the media silence on Somalia by being the first western TV journalist in Mogadishu in over a decade. He has since gone on to report from war zones and conflict spots around the world, in places such as Pakistan, Yemen, Cambodia, Colombia, West Africa, and Latin America. His feature documentaries have covered topics ranging from the drug war in Mexico to the devastating floods in Pakistan to Wikileaks. His reporting is distinguished by his in-field and in-depth examination of difficult and dangerous topics around conflict zones, national security, and criminal justice.

Kaj’s intrepid reporting and powerful filmmaking has put him at the vanguard of a new broadcast journalism. He frequently appears on other media outlets such as ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and the Huffington Post. He was the senior correspondent and host of The Current Election, a daily show about politics and public policy. As a producer Kaj has created hit television series such as US Navy Pirate Hunters, a one-hour special for Spike TV, and LOCKUP the highly rated show about life in American prison for air on MSNBC. He was Aaron Sorkin’s private consultant on the hit HBO series Newsroom. His work has earned him critical acclaim including an Emmy nomination, a Peabody nomination, two Telly awards, and several Golden Cine awards.

Prior to his work in television, Kaj spent five years on active duty serving as a US Navy SEAL. As a Lieutenant he led a team of special warfare personnel in covert operations overseas deploying as a detachment Commander in support of the Global War on Terrorism. He continues his service as a SEAL reserve officer assigned to US Special Operations Command.

Kaj is a two time national champion open-water swimmer, and placed third in the Escape from Alcatraz duathalon. Kaj has lived extensively overseas, including Thailand, where he studied Muay Thai boxing. He is a practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and frequently competes in mixed martial arts competitions.

Kaj used his pay from the service to help launch The Mission Continues, and served on the Board of Directors for five years. Kaj also serves on the Boards of Advisors to the Veteran service organization Team Rubicon Global. He has deployed three times in support of Team Rubicon to render Humanitarian assistance in Pakistan, the Philippines, and the US.

Music: www.bensound.com

Tags: podcast and leadership

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