Leadership Lessons From the CIA

Timothy Kilbourn spent almost 30 years as a military analyst with the CIA. He was the deputy director of two divisions and the dean of the Sherman Kent School for Intelligence Analysis and served for several years as the daily briefer to President George W. Bush.

Kilbourn spoke about his experiences and views on leadership in an interview with me.

Q. What led you to public service?

A. My dad believed in the power of government to do good, and I lived in a household in which the concept of public service was honored. I absorbed that view from a very early age. In school, I met several people who had careers in the military and diplomacy, and they seemed to me to be doing interesting and important work. I decided pretty early on in college that I wanted to be part of that.

Q. Do you remember your first day as a manager at the CIA?

A. On my first day, I walked in to find several dozen people working for me, and thought, "How do I do this?" I spent the first 25 minutes creating a list of all the bad experiences I had with previous bosses, as well as a list of all the good experiences. Then I just focused my efforts on emulating the good experiences and avoiding the negative ones with the people in my group.

Read more here.

Tom Fox is a guest writer for On Leadership and a vice president at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. Fox is also the head of the organization's Center for Government Leadership.