Marc Polymeropoulos retired in June 2019 from the Senior Intelligence Service ranks at the CIA after a 26-year career in operational headquarters and field management assignments covering the Middle East, Europe, Eurasia, and counter terrorism. He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and he is one of the CIA’s most decorated field officers. Marc is the recipient of the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the Intelligence Medal of Merit, and the Intelligence Commendation medal. His last position was overseeing the CIA’s clandestine operations in Europe and Eurasia. He is a respected commentator on foreign policy and intelligence matters and is widely quoted in both the US and international media.
During this interview Marc and I discuss the following topics:
- What drew him to the CIA
- Why he went into intelligence operations
- Lessons he learned from his first mentor
- How he was drawn to become a leader within the CIA
- How to face adversity and overcome it
- How to get a team refocused after a major setback
- How to remain calm in the face of adversity
- How to form peak performing teams
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The following is an AI-generated transcript for reference purposes only.
Mark welcome to the show surge so good to have you here.
SpeakerYes got it, I appreciate being here. I noticed you didn’t try to pronounce my last name, but that’s it. I am going to avoid your. It happened only monopolise buried up all her is added at brother. I’ll, probably forget that before the end of this episode, yeah it’s it’s tough. Perhaps you just swapping war stories and,
Speakeroh, I was going through ruin of our basic level training courses with the guy buddy of mine and his name was mouse ravage in a mirror first day. Of course, the sergeant and and drones doctor walks up to him looks out on, looks as name tag, looks at him like says named egos, and he starts counting one two, three, ten nine eleven. You are now
Speakerm twelve. Now as it is now known as mta like the can. This is this is almost fifteen years ago now and he I see em twelve, it’s m twelve. It’s not name is not the house strategist m, twelve.
SpeakerThose nicknames stick for sure. Absolutely so here we are we’re talking and by the way, congratulations. I’ve had former army on the show I’ve had former seals on the show. I’ve had canadian military on the show. I’ve had all kinds of different special forces and all the stuff you, sir, are the first intelligence
Speakeranswer, not agent officer to the show. So congratulations
SpeakerI appreciate it here. It’s it’s. An honor bound with india can be a fun chat and obviously I’ve. I’ve worked with
Speakeryeah the canadian government in various iterations, whether military intelligence over the years toys been a fantastic relationship. Look I grew up in new jersey. I look like I played ice hockey so immediately. I would a we have a bond together so a year ago, perfect. So it first question again like why intelligence, why a wise, ass, yea
Speakerdown that road for your career path? What was the big draw? The eye was a james bond movies are rules it something else. There are no look eddie. Everybody loves james bond movies, but I I talk about this notebook on a lot on how can of pet my journey? How I got there. I think I was born in greece. My dad was great. My mama’s american, but that meant
Speakerevery summer we went back to greece, said my dad was a university professor. So it means yet two or three months in greece. All you know it was either the greek islands are traveling around. So I got kind of this worldly view and I always knew I wanted some more. I look grown up new jersey, but there is more out there, but two things really kind of kind of set the tone for me. One is: I read this book by
Speakerjames michener called caravans, and it’s a it’s a book about a foreign service officer american diplomat in in the postwar period in kabul, a time where afghanistan was like a place for hippies. You know it wasn’t what you think of it now, but it was really romantic book about this exotic culture and- and so I kind of fell in love with this idea of doing something overseas. Ironically, act
Speakerwhen I was I remember, I was with special forces team in helmand province in in march about to talking to an afghan tribal leader, and I thought back to the time when I was ten or eleven years old. I read that book. Pretty wild oms bonus. That book was important on end at you know in an ultimately was just this ideas of kind of something you know why
SpeakerI could do something more special. I went off to the university look a certain era, james bond books. I liked it. I remember watching the hunt for red october. I thought I was pretty cool
Speakerand I not know I was recruited by the cia. I was at cornell university and it’s scarily enough. The only job I ever had in my life, which means the only thing I be able to do now afterwards write a book and talk about it, because a detailed intelligence offers. The only thing I ever did.
SpeakerI feel if I feel you, I literally missed my high school graduation, the sign up for the army
Speakeryeah and boom in a few weeks later, on a plane for assange. I back for a basic all the training and and military policy. Nearly twenty years now pass known of his twenty years to the day a month ago and and still go and so yep. I know I know what you’re talking about were the only thing I’ve ever done it
Speakerfor real job blue were wise story is being near army, but I liked the you know. Your draw rate is very similar to me to you. Wanna do something more, and I I jokingly say: okay, I’m back home, I’m from the east coast of canada, newfoundland and everyone dies in one of three things. When they graduate high school either go to
Speakermore memorial university for university. Great you go to to college in north atlantic against trees, to we just simply go away work and are they? I won’t do any that. I want to be different, so I sanford royal military college, one universe in a country where everyone dresses exactly the same and hat was me being different,
Speakerbut tie it. Yeah is super interesting. So now have what I recall from your book and just fishing reading it recently a great book by the way in forty listeners out there. I even grab a copy. It’s in the show notes. So if you go to moving for leadership, dot com, slash one, eight nine you’re gonna see a link there in the show
Speakernotes to grab a copy of the book. Clarity in crisis,
Speakerone thing: eight inches what you didn’t start off his like. You know the supersecret spy out of the gate, so you’ll want to lead you to going towards from mortal analytical side into are what people think of when they think see. I you’re so so. I received my undergraduate in my master’s degree from cornell and message me was on
Speakerno the rise of the affected by the islamic buddhist in in algeria. Interestingly enough a place where I visited years earlier, my dad and I actually drove to the sahara desert when I was ten years old
Speakerin a in a volkswagen minibus for a month, two thousand miles so yeah. That’s my my love of the middle east began it, but it look. I thought that that this ultimately I wanted to be an analyst probably watching you know, jack ryan, in on tom clancy books and in in movies and reading about it, but but it was a path into the organization and fortunately, when I’ve got
Speakerindustry, I I I I was an analyst for several years. I think at that time it out. After a while I realized I wanted to get operations officer. I wanted to be more the tip of the spear just it it’s a different job. Category simple as that, and so I went to my boss. Guy got a name john brennan, who later on became head of the cia and asked miss it look. I think I wanna switch over to the operation tractor.
SpeakerIt’s a big change like to go to a year of trade, craft training data, one of our secret bases and act to go after training a certain language, a wholesale get a move from the analytics side and he said yeah, no problem, that’s fine! Looking back now, I joke with them later on. I must have been the worst analyst ever because he just said sure go. Do it, and even I was like oh,
Speakerit is setting out someone comes and tells you wanna leave like got pushed back a little bit please,
Speakerbut he did, but what he did do was. Was he encouraged me to stay at the agency, which is really important, and so I I enjoyed my career as an analyst. You know I I what what it taught me how to do, which is really important as an operations officer taught me how to write. It taught me to think critically, and it was very hopeful down the line because your avon, if I’m running some kind of hotshot operation, but
SpeakerI don’t go back and write it correctly in a cable like it didn’t happen, so the ability to write to think critically and analytically at something that that’s what I learned. So I take those four years as as a really interesting steppingstone in my career,
Speakeryou spoke very highly of jon, especially in the beginning in the balkan. As you went through first handful chopped chapters there I could tell there was that specially relationship between you and him over some of the great leadership. The lessons that you learn from him and ass from being his subordinate that
Speakerhe would later take on in your career as you went up through the ranks and actually even before that, could you explain to the audience where you finished within the cia organization in charge are in context for them? Yes, so so I retired look. I was yeah, so I was gonna preface this by saying that you know I, I retired very senior in the secret intelligence service. I was nes ice for
Speakerthis equivalent in a military judge is a general officers. It is a four star general that sounds really impressive,
Speakerbut yeah. What what I? What I caviar, that with is that I work with a bunch of heroes, and- and you know it doesn’t matter, though, that kind of ultimate rank on where I left in truth be told. The most fun I ever had was as a line street case officer when I was much more junior when I got to be really senior and had thousands of people in a hundred years, a lot more budgets and resources,
Speakerbike. But your question and I’m learning leadership is a is a is a good one, because and- and I stress this all the time now- is it that no matter where you are in your career and you’re going to be working for someone I mean you know vice presidents work at the president, like your all your other boss on, but there’s always things to learn and you learn things what to do and what not to do so.
SpeakerWhat I always tried to do was was I take things from certain leaders that I really liked and then I’d look at them, some time to say it. I wouldn’t do it that way, or maybe I say things, have it a little different fashion?
SpeakerAh, but one of the I go back and there’s no one individual is: is the director the cia, with george tenet, I look back and one of my leadership principles in a book. I call family values like tell a story on george tenet is worth relating to you today and family values is just a simple ideas. When you build units, you know, when you build your team, you know you have to
Speakerembrace each other is gonna, be good. You could say it’s gonna, be a lotta love monks, one another. The camaraderie building lottery for me was really important, so it towards kind of did. For me. One day I came back from iraq in two thousand and three had been there for six months. I looked at a bitter case of ptsd. I wasn’t doing great, but I, but I did some really interesting things there. I received the distinguished intelligence medal, which is the eighty second
Speakerarthur towards a big deal, and, and there was a headquarters ceremony and and and my father was coming to the to the to the award ceremony and my dad is greek, greece and see- I don’t have a great relationship in the past bit. You see, I supported the greek junta. The united states did in the mid seventy’s a lot of greeks. Have some bad feelings for to see. My dad was never too
Speakerrode my career choice, but I told tenant who spoke greek. I told him before the ceremony. Would you mind talking to my dad, such by the sea address is a big deal. My dad comes. I see them talking for fifteen minutes off in the corner and aside and I in in afterwards I come back. My dad is tears in his eyes and in essence, what did you talk about said? I’m not. I am not gonna tell you,
Speakerbecause he still habits objection about big to the cia. When I saw ten it I said what you say. I said I just told me you’re a hero and that’s it and enzo, as I stepped back into that sir george tenet of fifty minutes of his time to do something that that helped the relationship I had with my father that labatt that you know that nationally repair but helped of years of stress
Speakername, and so that’s that’s a leadership lesson. George tenet did not have to do that. Anybody cared enough to do that, and so I would always find little things along the way that I really liked about. You know how leaders treated their their subordinates or even ah,
Speakeroh those of their peers are even those who they work for as well. But it’s it’s really important to to connect me I’ll pick and choose the things you like and then with the things you don’t it’s pretty obvious sometimes,
Speakerand I I loved that whole idea, because I’m very much similar you, okay, who was your mentor, my hi, everyone
Speakeryeah, I picked. I picked bits and pieces from every single boss, ceo, every single supervisor ever had and their supervisors, the good, the bad and ugly and I’ve been bringing together in the young and continuously learning is stilted m and zoning. In my new rules, my current roles and all this stuff and
SpeakerI’ll I’ll even go as far say. The tag line for this show. My ecosystem is hashtag lee, don’t boss. Why? Because be an absolute disaster of a commanding officer, one time that I was under that destroyed the union. Why? Because that person was a bike with pure boss,
Speakeryeah thought they knew everything thought they had it all blah blah you don’t you wanna see a unit. Morale goes through the through the floor and then into the basement through that down to the record of earth yeah. This was us right and it’s like why, because she was old, boss was a leader and there and then, when a great things, very similar yeah the story that you
Speakertension with your father, ned director. I got this idea from actually a book. I read: buy a used former us navy, captain michael other half. I can never pronounce his name. Neither don’t feel bad anyway. Am the some story was actually he was finish out. My command of a squadron, two hundred military members,
Speakerand I took kind of write, six letters to parents,
Speakeruh, very, very junior members in letting them know what a great job that their son, daughter or daughter was doing for for me for the for the unit for the country etc, and one of the members, let me know that that letter was framed in is in parents, yet living room right is just little things
Speakerwhen you tag really. How long did it take me? Write that letter each one five to ten minutes, because I knew my people. I knew I what a roughly wanted to say wrote the letter double checked it up printed off, signed it by hand if put in the envelope and shipped it off. I love that story. It’s it’s and it’s easy to do it. It didn’t. Take you a long time for
Speakerthat gesture and it can go so far is alarming. No jury, no is about political standing, one or the other george w bush when he was present in the us used to write. Just little note be like that little sticky, pads low notes on sticky pads the people at your what a tremendous in it it took fifteen seconds. Hey, you gonna a great job, hey thanks for this day for the background. Anything like that. Ah shucks,
Speakerthe smart thing to do it, but it was here. It’s got you think so many people don’t do that and a rising amazes me crazy, because you know if I can pass anything on
Speakertake. You know my future leaders. Current leaders is just take the time to to reward your people just take the time to get the note out amidst it sucked it. It goes back to that that that leadership principle. I talk about family values on because when you and when you have that magic of a small unit oregon a bigger unit, it’s incredible that, of course, as you said before, you know you don’t
Speakernot awesome awesome so
Speakergoing forward. You know you you you, you switch from analyst to operations
Speakerand then obviously you started going up through, like you said, you finished off to a coven of basically four star general, so congratulations highest ranked officer of ever had on show again,
Speakerbut so what was the draw for? You dude know not to stay at the tip of the spear by climbing known the so called corporate ladder within to become more of a an influential leader to get more of those responsibilities to oversee people, to be young ultra in charge of those budgets and personnel issues, but knowing that
Speakerit was having a fax to the people were at the ground level, know what it. What a great question this is: awesome because actors, they don’t know actually don’t of all the plaque. Has all the media stuff about, don’t know. Ask not. I love this question because I think there’s a there’s a way to answer it back. That is, is really true for who I am so so as a as a case officer operations officer,
Speakerthe yeah. You know, I’m out of overseas spotting assessing developing, couldn’t handling agents. These are foreigners will reach a spy for the united states penetration of the on no iranian nuclear program, the russian presidential office, the chinese military any of our adversaries, and that is it as an operations officer that that’s when you’re at the tip of the spear. But then, as you get more seats
Speakernr, then you start getting in charge of some the recall station. So that’s it! That’s it organizational unit to be ten. People can be five hundred and this you’re in charge, and then, after that, maybe you get back to headquarters and you get your you’re put in charge of a division. So maybe it’s over a year overseeing all of europe or or or all the middle eastern and to the big jobs I had as I was, the deputy deputy,
Speakerthe chief of operations for the middle east as well as the and she brought operations later on for europe and eurasia. These are really big jobs and I don’t do any of that fun stuff in the street. But what motivated me as I was rising higher bomb, was that bet that I was able to have an effect on younger officers. So I switched my mentality from I’m at tip of this
Speakerspear on me. Colo colo kid with an with a with a special operations team and were taken down a high value target based on intelligence that that guy provided from an agent pretty fun. While now it’s okay, I’m overseas stations that are doing things like that. But I have an opportunity to mentor the younger generation, and so I would meet with every officer.
SpeakerI mean it is unbelievable. Every officer walk in the door
Speakerwinifred, whatever career track on, I would always meet with them.
SpeakerI would keep in touch with every leader of a of a cia station were based on in always see how they’re doing so. I switched my mentality from being on the front lines to then be kind of a mentor leader, and that was that was what motivated me because it all in it. I always told us that the boat’s out downstairs my basement, like everyone else, I have in my room with all the euro
Speakerworship, nonsense. Nurse pictures me with kings and queens, and and also to stop and also the battlefield and a whole bunch of fancy intelligence metals.
SpeakerBut that doesn’t matter that gathers dust and- and I cannot tell ya I in this low pieces of doing a book signing at it- ain’t one of my former office from afghanistan- rosa base she’s between two thousand eleven, two thousand twelve in eastern afghanistan. He came the book signing and he is, as I signed the book he marked year, that you know you’re the greatest leader that I ever had. I said that’s a real honor, and is it not really
Speakerlearn from you and he is gone on to be station? Chief several times they said, I put in practice a lot of the things that you taught me and, of course I made the joke right after week at us. I hope you did some didn’t do some the things I messed up goalie, but but the point is like that navy feel so accomplished more so than intelligence. Now that I was able to mentor this individual,
Speakerso how will I be remembered not from those fancy medals but from this officer who now is at the pinnacle of his career, but he remembers the things he learned from me. So that’s what conor got me jazzed up towards the end and then sometimes you gotta do budgets and personnel those those are just giant headaches, but the mentorship peace is what I was the big takeaway. As I got more senior,
SpeakerI have love it. I actually remind me a story that you told in the book where you’re actually get rid of head out, and there is someone I was on operation and they were parked out you’re like what the heck is, this car doing it, which is funny because music, auto enthusiasts, I’m very similar mike. If I see a random car parked on a side street, a dharma is not here and like move out tough
Speakeragassi meter now, but it turned out to be one of your former subordinates. The heads months say hi and oh, but am I gonna run and don’t have a remember how much that touched you, but it’s it’s so true like what? Yes, I know, literally the wall to decide here is my degrees diplomas, my commissioning a scroll you that the hero wall right now that have that have my home office know that matters in comparison
Speakerto the stories that are being told about me from my former people die. What went around you drinker, whatever writer, or the lessons that that relearn learner, when I walk in and someone says- oh you’re, mccarthy, yeah I’ve heard about you like? Oh gosh, this isn’t a oh, that’s right,
Speakerbut I’ll, but I loved how you frame the different know essentially taken care of your people. The lily at the ground level off to say my job as a leader is enable you to do your job on my behalf so and I’s very my style is very delicate. Worry like empowering people down to the lowest level
Speakerto get after it gets things done, don’t wait on me.
SpeakerI don’t want to be that bottleneck a choke point for things moving forward. So, as you rose up through the cia ranks, how would you describe your leadership style towards your your subordinates outdoor? It will. It will certainly will first and foremost it changed and what I, what I it always is
Speakertalk about the book. I certainly when, when I do a lot of speed engagements now, I told people you know first and foremost, I evolve. I was not a good leader when I first got a leadership opportunity and that’s something that that I think is really important, because you can also use as a learning ground. What would the reason why I wrote this book is by the end of my career? I really got it but jeff
Speakerat the end, and in one of things I realized. What was that? I was really good at leadership in situations where there was you know it out the times of lack of situational awareness ambiguity. I always used to say that, but my happy place was in the gray, was in the shadows, where other people wanted to sleep. I was actually comfortable, so I started thinking. Why
Speakerreally dissected it? So I came up with these nine principles of leadership, all of which were talking about now, but ultimately was how to lead in really tough situations and- and I think one of the key parts of that middle go to the question is asked: was it don’t you, you kind of learn and you evolve, and I did so with you know, with with a feeling of
Speakerof a a key principle. Was that that I was a spouse with humility,
Speakerah, which is really important to me than that you have to really as you get more seniors will evolve as a leader. You know your ego has to come going in the opposite direction, for so many different reasons.
SpeakerAh, and and you know I always I always the sistine- know ass ass ass ass- I thought about when I was a leader in a small unit. Was first start my career. I would it would be much more like the right wing militaristic. I would dictate a lot when I became much more senior more experience. I learned I start putting these principles in a place on bit. Not talk about the book. It was more I’m, okay. How are we gonna get this done?
SpeakerI was much more inclusive. I was empathetic I was able. I was I I use something that I didn’t do early micro active listening. I was able to listen to someone, not gonna, want to hear myself speak like I’m doing right now,
Speakerand so so you really evolving. And yet you know and and and you mature and it’s I ate tomatoes, it was a fascinating transition. Was the end of the day. It’s not about you. You gotta put your ego at the door. You have to practice sense of humility august. You know it’s what you know the mission and your men. Women are all that matter.
SpeakerMother, apps I love and on ego and humility, parody
Speakerwholeheartedly agree with you. I find the worst leaders like they’re, the ones who hold the ego, think they know everything think they’re, that there are no it on and have actually no humility because reality, especially in this day and age, things change so rapidly, and am I like. I can only imagine meal when you’re working the field, how quickly things can change
Speakersituations change so rapidly over the world’s evolving faster than ever before. Absolutely in there and they’re here’s, the quote the honest. My honest assessment is that, as leaders is no longer having answers, were ego come from, but rather have knowing the questions to ask, because your people are the ones with the answers
Speakerright ones are gonna bail to bring out the answers and enable you to make decisions in one day also need to make. This is whether it’s a budgetary decision, or maybe that’s a personal assignment decision or will any type decision. It’s about that, don’t whether it’s a go or no go ahead, call it had such as the story that you talk about
Speakerin in your book, where what, when you thought about it, and then he said, yup be recommended for admission of own wont behold. It was a success in the end, but you know that that nestorian and that it would bet it from the book is really interesting, because actually that was happening about two thousand and fourteen or fifteen. That’s when I really right after I was like, I gotta, write a book and is not hadn’t retired at age. Seventy,
Speakeroh years at the head retired four years later, but but it was because I was so comfortable making that decision in in illinois, as I, as I said before it sort of dawned on me. Why am I able to do this and not anything that great you know, but, but all of a sudden I unable to make decisions in times of crisis, everyone else wants to flee. I’m okay, uncomfortable I put together these teams and that’s honest
Speakerdissecting and I’m like you know it, and I came up with these nine principles on how to how to leave. But how did? But, ultimately it’s how to organize a team that is able to operate in that gray in it. So it’s everything from us. We said before it’s it’s mentoring! It’s it’s professing that that idea of family values. Ah, it’s also one principles I talk about is
Speakerit is what I call win an oscar, it’s in it, because I as elite as a leader, your on your on stage, all the time people are gonna, look to you and so in that in that piece in the book right to make his key operational cisneros look at me. I was able to do it easily
Speakerand it’s it’s. I ask myself well well. Why is that? And so you know it’s it’s- it was just a it’s a it’s a it’s, a practical method that bills on each other of being able to leave in tough situations just based on it. The reason I was so fun writing is based on my real world career of just evolving is a leader and and talk about getting kicked in the face. A lot of idiots see I
Speakerwe fail all the time, but it’s how you gonna pull up your bootstraps and get back at it, which is actually critical. So this is not a book mike. My friends were navy seals always get pissed. When I say, as I say not if this is not a book on on pumping my chest in our prompted my chest- that I did all these great things, it’s actually a failed a lot and I learned from it and then I was gonna, make a joke that a navy seal gets a book deal during
Speakerbuds training, and so you know that that’s a I gotta throw that in there to get manuela time will never be invited on on some podcast. Because of that, but um
Speakerknows it was that it really was a fun incredible count. Evolution wrote this book because I wanted to just tell people about this leadership style philosophy that really work for me again, not talking not this is this is now could be taught at harvard business school, but I think you know whether it yourself or others were listening. It they’re gonna, it’s gonna resonate because it just real world people gonna get it
Speakernow all over a world. Like all my experiences, all the stories, I come from it’s from being a leader in clean army senior officer in the game. Erin, that’s one! Don’t wanna talk about by love, something a you hinted at and kicks in the face, and that’s exactly where I wanted. The gao is like yeah: let’s talk about some of those challenges, so, in a lot worse, some
Speakerof those defining challenges, failures that you went through and how did you one overcome it to pick yourself back up a three most important part learn from it to fly. Lessons gone up over economics is a one of my principles. I call it’s it’s adversity. Is the p data performance enhancing drug to success? And that’s that’s it it’s. What am I
Speakerkey principles because everybody fails? Ah is oh, so you are going to face adversity now I can talk about at you know. An image will accept some examples from the military, special operations and intelligence world, but think about the sports world to be michael, jordan got cut from his high school basketball team I mean c’mon. Is it to even have to talk anything after the great west?
SpeakerAh, so I would, I would say in- and I are close to my teens- is adversities- the super fuel on how you grow so you’re not going to grow and nappy it a success as a as a leader but also as it has even that unit. If you haven’t been kicked in the face. Sometimes you know, and so that’s what I yeah I would like. I would take officers who have failed. I would take,
Speakerbut you know units I failed on, and I and and I know that than they’ve recovered. I would take them any day over over a high performing unit. That’s never experience at berkeley because it’s gonna happen, so you want to see how people recover from that. So I’ll give you some examples out. You know in a in in late, two thousand two I was I was we were. Argentina was living up
Speakerin northern iraq with the kurds. This is before the wars in iraq, in it in in person in northern iraq, and our job was to prepare the battlefield so yeah, you know fervor a possible future vision. We did know was coming, but we have recruited. Her rocky was common across from saddam. That said, on control saddam hussein, iraqi regime lines and walking across
Speakerwho’s who’s, providing order that order battle information, which is just the disposition of iraqi forces, really important for war planners and get forget the statement on whether iraq was right or wrong. It doesn’t matter. I was after kind of draw practice this, because this is my world, so this is what I did so ultimately he’s providing this great information, washington’s loving it pentagon’s loving it. But for me,
Speakerah, I know I’m on his hands, or so I gotta keep safe and- and I made a mistake- there was too much of an appetite too much of a thirst for this information, so we met him too many times and ultimately it was my call- and I and I didn’t kind of ratchet back in the meetings, because there’s danger involved every time. We met him as he crossed over into kurdistan. If he was caught and is torture,
Speakernews kill, and that is weight. I mean that we’d be very heavily because while I never got a quote in trouble for it,
Speakerhe he knew the risk he was taking, but it still was my job as his case officer to keep alive, and I did- and so that really stuck with me. So that was a huge panic piece of diversity where this is someone who entrusted his life to me. I failed so I fast forward- and I tell the story- the book passport, afghanistan in two thousand and twelve, when we were looking for you know a high value too
Speakertarget. He was a taliban member who was actually responsible for the deaths of two cia officers a couple years earlier and also is planning future attack on an american and coalition forces, ah, and so really a key target for us and so kind of meticulously. Over time and with patience, you know, we recruited some agents who put him on the axe at other apps
Speakeridentified and were ultimately he was taken off the battlefield, but it took a long time to do. There’s a lot of pressure from washington. Even internal pressure on me is that, as the base chief and I resisted at it, I remember that previous time or I pushed you are never far from my mind. I we had the goal of of get out of taking a really bad guy off the battlefield
Speakerand ultimately we ran an operation that was successful, so it in in an antidote that the ending of this is is even more kind of powerful emotional to me, because that night week we called the widow of one of our c officers was killed. We called her in in fort bragg in north carolina and told her that we had avenged her husband’s death and so it you know it’s a personal ending to the story, but there’s no way we would have run
Speakerthat successful operation, and I would I had that the patients involved in kind of the meticulous planning, if I had not really screwed up, you know what nine ten years earlier in iraq, and so I used that story a lot. It’s you know, it’s a it’s a graphic story, but it’s one where, where I say again university is the is the key to success like it’s going to be your super fuel, it’s gotta, it’s got
Speakerit. You know if, if that’s how you grow- and I I always worry when I see units that are really high performing, this sounds crazy as a leader, but if I know that they hadn’t gone through some tough times on, like ah, what’s gonna happen when they do now, you don’t wanna, you don’t wanna wish that on anyone, but that that experience of having that adversely, I think, is something that dhaka
Speakeris- is really important.
SpeakerI wholeheartedly agree with you in in I flipped, a sports analogy may be in the canadian gunner, I’m a huge hockey fan and one of the big tournament’s that all canadian oceans at all by any hockey fan follows up here in canada, the world junior hockey torrent, which goes on between boxing day and just after new years, where it’s basically under nineteen you’re nineteen
Speakerjimmy kimmel were aiming your kids, who were gunning for data jaw, pull it represent their country plane, a very short tournament and caroline? U s. Russia are always young in the top three of the tournament, never euro. I want the canadian team to lose one redeem in the round robin. I want him to lose one game while
Speakerwhy? Because when you get into the play off section of that tournament, yeah I over die, you lose a game you’re out, and I want them to feel what it’s, how how much it sucks to lose a game in the round robin win. The stakes are lower, so I agree with you harlot when you, when units organizations don’t go through university yeah, it’s verses. What big
Speakers people bond together, gel together and come together and form that really cohesive team, because
Speakerthird, there looking out for each other’s backs and silver? This in the fact, your your story there and and no absolutely a lot lizards or business community are like, oh, you know, does road resonate with you vote? Guess what take that and flip it? Let’s look at the context of business yeah. Maybe that is when you’re supporting that you burnt out on a project, one that suddenly know had to go from
Speakermental health. I believe the company right now. Are you gonna make that same mistake? It really is the project them so important. They gonna completely burn someone out to the point where they have to leave. Stop working livelihood could be destroyed. Night ops he’s not as bad as losing a life, but but in reality you could destroy a person’s life in in the same contest.
SpeakerSo just so pointless is there. I will either. This is a really important point here when I, when I decided to write this book, someone took me aside, said okay mark in a we know. You know your book is gonna appeal to kind of type type. A alpha males and females know that was my world of intelligence special operations, but, but he sent me said your book has to also appeal to a library.
SpeakerI really took that to heart. So I tell these stories all the time, but it’s also with the idea that when you read the book and read the principles, it really is a clickable. So let’s go back to the university principal emulate, it’s it. So let’s say it’s just it’s a simple sales team, you’re selling, something in in something goes wrong in a sales pitch and it it really hurts the company. So you know it’s it’s just the idea.
SpeakerKind of learning from on, because look life is is is is is hard. You know, is what I’m trying to teach my kids like it’s not always going to be rosy, and so the ability to put up pull up your bootstraps up. You been knocked down like that is a really important trait to have, because I don’t care if it’s in business and sports in school,
Speakeryou’re gonna face amplified. So it’s how you respond is how it’s gonna define you as it is. It is a leader as a person. Ah to me, that’s a that’s a that’s super important and look like I gotta jump in what they can say something about hockey guy. Let me do this. I apologize gonna edit, it rats, okay, so gag, and I grew up in jersey. I played ice hockey, but I was a fanatical new york rangers fan so when they won the cup
Speakernineteen. Ninety four was the greatest moment. My life, I think, mark messier, is the greatest leader ever lived and I’ll end. This little segment was saying that while I have a beautiful wife, wonderful kids, I still tell them the best day of my life is when the new york rangers won the stanley cup gonna get in trouble all the time, but I’m sticking with it
Speakera hacker love. It especially me being a much all stand that we won the cup in ninety three the year before and oh by the way my say, the canadian us is. This actually happened at a minimum. The greek islands at when the intros want a cup him and all the all the oilers went, and I was there when summer, there partying on the island nicholas of
Speakeroh places, and so there I was. I went right up to america and metal, but yeah my boy. What a leader in I could be gaga spent an hour talking about mark messier, asia
Speakerawesome, so we took protect biodiversity. I was a little insert of hockey in there, which is always good to buy way. That will not be added a good attacker
Speakeryeah as as a leader of a team and no doubt as in this role, see a you as a leader within this yeah I’ve seen a lot of first, like you, said, you’ve lost friends on the battlefield. I’ve lost friends on the battlefield behind in kandahar
Speakeras a leader when, when those times hit wonder what some advice you have it different listener of how to get the team back together, molded back together, refocus because when, when you get hit hard, everyone kind of deals with it, your own way and focus gets lost. How do you bring that back and get people back towards whatever
Speakerthe objective? Is that you’re going after an absolute well? What what what it? What a great question goes? One of my leadership principles of would have mentioned before his win, an oscar on and and that’s the idea that, as a leader, you’re always on stage is really important. Now it doesn’t mean you can’t show emotion. Uk show empathy, acacia compassion, but just remember you are always on stage while tell a story honest, and it was
SpeakerI a couple stories. Is it oh, this was originally. We ran an operation once which it is actually one of my officers was killed and I had to go in front of my work unit station in front of several hundred people and tell them that their colleague had had died. Now I received this information over secure phone back that an operation that
Speakeryeah we were watching over kind of bias are over over over it.
SpeakerSatellite or out side can talk about, it does matter were watching it and something went wrong and- and so someone calls me and tells what happened is a senior officer says mark, and it’s not never forget this. He said you’re gonna have to go. Tell the station that that yeah yeah your officer was killed in this. In is the cia station. It was super tight. I knew his family if he had a kid.
SpeakerThis was awful what he said to me. He goes. He goes to things. I tell you right now, everyone’s gonna look at you and how you, how you pass this new ford and how you rally the team, it’s going to define how everybody operates for days weeks, if not months, number one and number two this is not about you. Do not feel sorry for yourself do not feel responsible.
SpeakerI did, I felt responsible, be operational in arise. It now’s the time to leave, and so, when I got up- and I gave a speech in front everybody- I really did try to rally the team together. It was really a fascinating time for me because I felt terrible inside argosy I was. I was the leader of this of this of this work in it I bore some responsibility for it, god or officers death.
SpeakerWhatever one did look to me, it’s I’ll, never forget that, because that is actually critical, critical and how you got it kind. It kind of you at how you how you move forward
Speakerend and again in the key part, is just you know it gets. Removing ego,
Speakerthat’s a that’s. That’s just a is something that is absolutely of of of absolute paramount success, and you know I mean get out to this day I’ll I’ll I’ll. Never forget that that incident. I know there are times later in my career, where there was other crises where people really looking out at it. I was at a us government facilitators attack by al qaeda out, grenades and bullets.
SpeakerOur hit us at my job is to kind of put everybody in body armor under the dash for breaking open, a weapon safe.
SpeakerI I might eat out. My heart rate went from zero to hundred. I was terrified. I needed everyone, I was scared to death are going to die. Then I got the I got the weapon safe opens in week. We put everyone in kind of a certain locations protect the office. Fortunately we had some some yes marines on hand, whoa kind of birth order, the threat killed, the kill the attackers but afterward
Speakerin an after action people. Certainly mark you look really calm. I was shocked. I was terrified, but somehow that kind of kicked in that end. So so, when I went in, I wrote the book I kind of talked about those principles of of winning an oscar because it’s as a leader ito at you have that responsibility. Everybody is looking at you and it it’s okay. It would have been okay, if I
Speakersaid hey hawaii and I probably get on more area oscar too, but we’re gonna get through. You can say things like that,
Speakerbut but if you, if you panic, if you don’t shout, show that sense of calm in a work units are gonna fall apart. So I really liked that principle and it really served me well
Speakeryeah god. That’s awesome that such great story in a kind of dovetailed well onto the question I had my head, which you connick answer now, is gonna: ask how how to remain calm during these new crazy situations. Right, you can enter with no win the oscar night. You gotta, you gotta, be con. You have to do one calm because
Speakeroften talker as leader. Now we need to be that calming enforcement things are crazy. Ah tian, never forget this, so it it was interesting was that I was the deputy of this office, but my boss, human and so we’re in the middle east, but he just got my facility earlier. We have been in iraq together and had been under fire and ice. This is happening out later on and if it were getting this, this you’re gonna facility
Speakerattack by al qaeda
Speakerthings were not looking good, and I remember going to my to my boss. You still is a dear friend and we got a spot each other like this might not end. Well, you don’t. What else are you gonna? Do we got a whole bunch of people? Look at us
Speakeran and afterwards you never really talked about so one other piece that I was gonna add to this. It is also based on experience of you get better
Speakerover the years when you have had experience in dealing with these high. You don’t know honestly high personal threat, but how you deal with crisis situations and I always told people they said no, liquid market or you’re really good. You know in x y z, job and I said well, I was good, but I was also experience because I knew I had I had faced an ambassador who was a p
Speakerkennedy asked you know I had faced a liaison service. You know one of our local partners who is it not doing things correctly? I had we had personnel issues where the death of an officer, red death of agents we were running
Speakeris so so all of a sudden. You have all these experiences to when it happens. Again, it’s not to say that you’re not nervous, not say your blood, you know, you’re, your your heart rate didn’t go up on too, but it was just over time. You kind of deal get get all these experiences and in this order things I’m told people that every cia officer, when they graduate from art, are training class and they become a case after they want to be stationary bike.
SpeakerI want to run things they want to be the boss, and I would always just say your your career is a marathon does have some patience gain all these experiences slowly over time, because when that, when you know when the shit hits, the fan. Excuse me if I could say that here on, you know it’ll. Ultimately,
Speakeryou know what you’re gonna want to rely on. All those things that that kind of work or foundational is, is how you progressed as an at it as a leader, and I was really good at the end of my career, not necessarily so in the beginning, but all these times, let’s talk about where I perform well, but I won an oscar lot of it also had to do with having the experience of of of getting it it’s impossible ways.
SpeakerAh, awesome awesome, vice love it
Speakernow. You obviously you’ve you’ve been station. Chief, been all the way up through young, basically almost to the top within the organization, so you definitely lead a lot of teams. How do you go about no forming an enabling these teams to hit peak performance
Speakerhere at the podcast? As are we? We often focus on me focus on three domains. Actually, I focus on three domains. One is leading yourself, I ii, how you become the best leader possible. Second, one leading your team are eating care of those individuals and and file paths, leading organization at either institution in your that’s all, but the budgets and fro
Speakerpersonnel issues and all that stuff, but it’s still leading institution so ill. One hit peak performance, crossbows three domains so for you, but did you find, was the best way to do it when we’re talking about teams and building teams and giving them to peak performance. So I think there’s there’s two things we could talk about. One is developing your people. One of my principles is agnes. Those
Speakerthis is a tactical, be a people developers that mentorship aspect is actually critical, because I we alluded to it before it’s not about you. It’s what you is, how you was was the famous montreal canadians, they’re passing the torch, to remember that, ah ah cause or called it in a locker right, ah yep ants opened passing the torch was huge for me. So that’s what matters is sorts
Speakerdeveloping your people and you do in so many different ways, so that to me is, is actually critical and- and I think the other part is also known- your people in identifying critical parts of it. One of my principles- yeah, I caught the glue guy to look out and that’s as it is, it is a leader in it again. This applies to any business unit. But for me it was the world of intelligence, especially right,
Speakershes a year. So you have your superstars everyone’s got a butt, but the glue guy, the guy who got principles, is identifying and cultivating indispensable members. Your team who you know who perhaps are not your your all stars who actor behind the scenes bit bigger than your spirit that that there, your support personnel on everybody has those. What is it the company? Could
Speakerthe I t folks, you they’re, not gonna, get all the glory on the time. Guess what nothing’s happening without computers running in my world a lot of times with the support and finance personnel logistics personnel you’re in the military? You know what is it with you know. The old adage of logistics is everything, and so so, but what when I, when I it without develop these business units- and I learned this
Speakerlate so so, for example, we have a morning meeting so order early on in my career, I gather just the case officers, or maybe the tartars are what are we doing today later on in my career? I guess would be at that meeting the finance people in the support people, because not only are they critical, indispensable member of the glue guys that will gauss, they actually might have some really good ideas too, and so I think
Speakerthe two things it was. It was developing your people in identifying the other. The indispensable members of your team behind the scenes over principles are really helped. Me
Speakerass ass, ass, ass, ass, I moved up in before and mostly and against the premise, the book, clarity crisis. You know who you don’t doing those things do exactly that developing your people identified the critical numbers on perhaps unheralded, where the times are tough. You rely on all of that, and so, when you do have that lack of situational awareness when you have to make those quick
Speakerapple decisions and and there’s this is huge ambiguity. Don’t you do this with no fear because you have yeah, you know you have done these things. I just talked about it again, people again for me, people are everything
Speakerwell, I’m here, and there is one, no valuing what every individual person or sub team brings to the table to showing them that they’re just as important as the other ones rab- and we see this and it’s funny- you mention logistics, because you guess what trade I am actually a logistics officer
Speakeryeah. I can speak from experience when new we’ve been cut out and is like right now. The tap lands not supportable for us right now and then suddenly, you’re like. Why was not the meaning? Why was I brought into the planning cycle for this? Like one of my second shelf? Second tier such an up note, every not and senior officers and good ones will know. Maybe you the first place
Speakerand they should go to remit, maybe the maybe have your door kickers. We got that, but but that that the logistics support people can make everything happen and you celebrate them all the time so it so. Let’s say, let’s say you do something, and some big reward comes to your work in whatever profession and you better celebrate everybody, not just the duchess tat tat, tat, tat person who made the sale
Speakerwell, you know who brought in two million dollars with the business. Ah, you better you better spread that love amongst among several months, the whole company whole business unit and that’s what good leaders do and again what is? It is? Oh, so, the other parties I go back to humility and ego. Like that’s an end, you understand that, even if you grew up in a world where you’re at door kicker here
Speakerthat fighter pilot doesn’t matter, you better celebrate everyone in in in in win when you embrace that you know, if other a whole world opens to limit, let me thrown one bookstore year once it was something that I did and that this is applicable to anybody at the end of my career. Even when I had big work units at go, take senior managers and get around the room.
SpeakerI would say the following: is the art in august, and they they’re, like, oh god, here goes mark, is, is now doing his like it up yet generation, x or molecular, or whatever this thing, because I really evolved as a leader overcompensate, let’s sit around and ever I want everyone to tell me something about them, nothing to do with work. What do you do in your free time? What do you do? That’s interesting? So then they won so hey this one
Speakerperson maybe play hockey on the side. This other person is in our concert pianist the other side. A person has this, you know, is it is. It is an artist so so couple things one: is it it really? It’s energy bills, the sense of camaraderie built a sense you care, but what is it also do down the line? Let’s say in my world. I knew that I had this witness
Speakerskill set of people and this will go for is for if you’re, if you’re doing sales as well. Okay, we have a target. Maybe we want to recruit a russian political officer and in our part of the study we learn, the russian political officer loves are or it plays hockey. Well guess what now I now have an officer like input on this with this commonality so maybe
Speakerbe. I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t, if I didn’t sit around like tea beforehand and have these conversations about them in their lives. But now I could say okay, this case officer, let’s put you against this russian party because guess what he plays hockey you play hockey you’re going to meet him at a hockey rink same thing. If it was in sales, you know who is going to try to to you know to sell the x y z prada
Speakerit got to this client. Well, if I know what this climb is, all about would have noticed clients likes dislikes. If you know the members of your team, what they’re all about you know magic can happen. So you know I love telling that story, because again it’s all about the people all the time and it’s it’s not just me being touchy feely and wanting to it wanted to be good there. What which I do it
Speakeralso it can help the productivity of a unit at at the end of the day.
SpeakerIt’s awesome great point, sir, and actually gonna. I even fortify with my own store near here.
SpeakerWell, when I was commanding ask water, and so there was a major exercise. I was come to our base here in kingston and verse. You were to support it as like fine
Speakera brigade headquarters staff come and operate out of the basement near the end of the exercise. Brain cramp brought me in and yeah we had. The coin tradition appear now to where debris kind of gave me a coin on which I accepted, of course, and then what up having mana doing was had mime material technicians guys who make all kinds it fixed
Speakerthings like you can only imagine, build a plaque put the coin in the plaque and I presented to my sergeant major and I said, and I said this coin was not for me. This is for the squatter new guys and, ladies, were the ones they’re interacting with the brigade and brigade staff on a daily basis. Helping should make their needs. Her
Speakermet eccentric center. I think I told him was to leave me alone and for them to actually do their job, because they’re expecting lava too much from us.
SpeakerAnd the note I know, that’s not our role, you guys come, do your job and that’s, I think I actually did with his axe and we’re so I presented to the squad major and it’s still within the unit will out with hookers yeah. I go to the all these different offices and you see. Coin, racks and people have like fifty twenty coins and like okay, so how those at you
Speakeractually personally earth
Speakerright like how many of those was it because you individually or how many those was because you were leading a team to actually earn back when know and too many people I find hold on to them as their own personal mementos, I don’t have any I have I saw. I do have a couple: I’ve I’ve coins from
Speakerright now my torn afghanistan and have a coin for helping a another organization in my spare time, surfer yeah, that’s it
Speakermark. My friend has been a fantastic conversation which we could literally probably go all day and night on loving it, but forty other things do come to an end. Soon, gonna wrap this up before we wrap up. I got a couple of questions for you and the first one being a question. Has all the gas here at the peak performance leadership podcast, and that is a
Speakerin to you mark what makes a great leader and I’ll and I’ll say it once I did. I said before it’s humility,
Speakerit’s it’s it out. Yet to understand that that the
Speakeryou know, you’re gonna you’re gonna, go through some tough times. You’re gonna have some adversity, yeah learn how to fail. You gonna learn from it.
SpeakerUm there’s a lot of great young leaders who have not exceed a non expert, an experience, failure and then, when they do, they get crushed, and so you better be humble mike in my world of intelligence, special operations. This was something that’s actually critical, so bad, but I think the biggest trade, the biggest characteristic of a great leader, was in my world, but it certainly applicable elsewhere. Is issue
Speakerreally love. It absolutely love it and fully expected something along those lines off on and show is. How can people find you? How can I follow you be part of your journey. Shameless plug is all but you’re nasser lot, love it. Okay, so on twitter, on, I met at m polymer you’re gonna. If you follow me on twitter to get a whole doses, intel special operations, baseball sports leader
Speakerdive bars food.
SpeakerWhat I my publisher, harpercollins and they’re, like, oh, my god, can we please stop tweeting about all these crazy things, and I said nope, because that’s who I am authentic, so you can follow me on twitter.
SpeakerThe book is a in crisis leadership. Lessons from this yea, it’s it’s published by harpercollins. You get an eye on amazon. Thank you again for for a kind of posting on on your site as well I’m having a blast doing this and and the last pieces. I write a weekly column on intelligence on in the washington examiner, which is a paper in that in
Speakerwashington dc and I’m also quite a quarter lot. The media as well new york times, washington, post msnbc, cnn fox, I gone every show. I have my own political views, which are actually very centrist but ah but but again I like I like talking about intelligence. I like talking about my old world, to the american people, to canadian people of the world, just because I think there’s a lot of misnomer
Speakerabout about the intelligence business. I like to explain what we do and we know what we did and what we can do in the future
Speakerand and that the final point to is especially on twitter dm me. I responded people I have you know at the I’ve, almost twenty thousand followers on twitter now, but I respond all the time to direct messages. I love mentoring, college kids, who inched in the intelligence business. So I spend a lotta time doing that as well, but you’ll be surprised if he sent me a message on my answer
Speakerawesome and for you, the listers, easy, always gonna moving for lucia dotcom, four slash, one, eight, nine twenty nine mark, my friend but honor, sir, been a pleasure and spun class awesome thanks. So much.