David S. Cohen was sworn in as the deputy director of the CIA in February 2015 after spending six years at the Treasury Department handling terrorism, financial intelligence and financial crime issues. In a conversation with Tom Fox, Cohen discussed his adjustment to the CIA, his leadership style, the issues that keep him up at night and what he does to decompress. Fox is a guest writer for On Leadership and the vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Was it a difficult transition coming to the CIA as an outsider?
There was an enormous amount about what the agency does that was new to me. That includes the operational work and some of the exquisite, technical and technological work that the agency does, as well as the vast support function that enables the agency's worldwide operations. It was a steep learning curve. I got up to speed relatively quickly, but until you are here and working in this environment, the scope of what we do is difficult to appreciate.
What have you done to earn the trust of the career staff?
There is a mission focus in this agency that is exemplary and part of that is the notion that everybody needs to be part of the team and needs to be functioning at a high level. I found a real desire by the staff to help me get into a position where I could be an effective deputy director. I did not find people throwing up barriers or refusing to allow me into the club. It was just the contrary. They wanted me to succeed because they want the agency to succeed.
This post was originally featured on The Washington Post's website.