Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Timeless Principles

I recently read Steve's Coll's excellent book - Ghost Wars.  The book details the global events, leaders, relationships, strategy, and intrigue prior to the attacks of 9/11.  The book is worth a read on many levels. Coll speaks to the backgrounds, styles, priorities, and effectiveness of many kinds of leaders in his work.  These two passages regarding George Tenet - who took over the CIA at a crucial time in history - echoed timeless leadership principles and priorities worth repeating.

On Tenet's upbringing.

"His parents drove home the immigrant creed:  hard work, education, family, faith, ambition.  His father worked sixteen-hour days so the twins could make it in America.  Both apparently took internal vows to do so or die trying."

On Tenet's priorities when he took over the ailing agency in 1997.

"George Tenet measured his ambitions at first largely by the CIA's institutional needs:  a more clearly defined mission, higher morale, better execution of core espionage and analysis, more recruits, better training, and more resources......"This is all about focusing on basics," he told a CIA staff meeting to announce his priorities.  He was going to break the pattern of the last decade...."It is truly unfortunate" that the agency had endured three directors in just five years, he said.   "This one is staying."  His approach, he told them, would put "a premium on hard work for common sense goals."

The classic leadership themes of leading by example, hard work, commitment, common sense goals, and a relentless focus on basics are all essential building blocks for sustainable individual or organizational success.

I recommend you read Ghost Wars by Steve Coll.  Penguin Books 2004

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