Jun 5, 2019
Michèle Flournoy is the
former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the seventh-ranking
official in the U.S. Department of Defense, and in that role served
as a principal advisor to U.S. Secretaries of Defense Robert Gates
and Leon Panetta from February 2009 to February 2012. Shew is
currently the Co-Founder and
Managing Partner of WestExec Advisors. On the show, Michèle
discusses speaking truth to power, the importance of service in
leadership, and what’s currently at stake right now. She shares her
experience of co-leading President Obama’s transition team at the
Defense Department. She also discusses her experience as the
principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense in the formulation of
national security and defense policy, the role think-tanks play,
and guidance for the next generation of leaders.
[5:35] Great leaders know they
don’t know it all. They listen to people around them for other
ideas and ways to make things better.
[7:40] Some of the most rocky
transitions in office have been between Presidents of the same
party. Michèle discusses the respectful and thoughtful manner in
which President Obama’s team transitioned, and how it set the tone
for the whole environment.
[9:46] Often times in a
bureaucracy what holds us back is a perverse incentive structure,
risk aversion, and resistance to change or innovation. Michèle
found when she focused on a Human Capital strategy that invests
in people, it translated into incredible improvements in
[12:17] Leaders must be able to
identify where the zero defects approach is needed, and where we
can experiment and afford risk.
[16:29] Though progress has been
made, Michèle would like to see Defense and National Security
represent the statistics of America in terms of gender and ethnic
[18:36] The Think Tank world is
an important place for leaders to be developed and trained, and
also for those who need a space to reflect and create new ideas
before they go back to public service.
[21:00] Michèle was asked by
Former Defense Secretary James Mattis to be his Deputy
Secretary of Defense. She turned it down because she was concerned
she was not aligned with the current administration.
[23:51] When making big
decisions, stay grounded in your principals and values.
[26:02] Michèle shares an
example regarding the Bin Laden raid of speaking truth to power,
and that it is a sign of intelligence to be able to change your
mind after careful consideration.
[31:45] Michèle would love for
there to be an expectation of service in any form for the younger
generation. It is up to senior leaders to create more avenues and
an expectation of service.
[33:07] Service is a bond of
commonality that we should be nurturing in the country.
[38:28] Each of us has an
opportunity to move forward and create positive journeys if we are
willing to do the hard work.
- “Listening is the highest form of
I have to work extra hard to make sure that women had opportunities
to mid management and senior levels? Yes.”
- “Being grounded in your values and having
certain principles that guide you is very important.”
imperative a leader hears dissent and a different point of
- “What’s at stake is who we are as a
Maxwell Airforce Base
Memoirs of a Secretary at War
TLP 053: Special Forces
Resourcefulness Parallels the Spirit of American
TLP 101: General Stanley McChrystal
on What Connects Us
Spirit of America
The Mission Continues