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The Leadership Podcast

The Leadership Podcast

Why do we do this?

We interview great leaders, review the books they read, and speak with highly influential authors who study them.

How we do this?

#1 We interview great leaders.
#2 We review the books great leaders read and write.
#3 We have fun!

May 5, 2020

NOTE:  This episode was accelerated and is being promoted out of order because of the timely discussion on pandemics that Jim and Jan recently had with Lisa Monaco, an expert in this area.  We will return to our normal schedule (episode 195 next week).


Lisa Monaco served as the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor to President Barack Obama from 2013-2017. In this role, she coordinated the federal government’s crisis management and response to cyberattacks, pandemics, and terrorist threats. She also spent 15 years at the Department of Justice, serving as a career federal prosecutor, and in senior management positions including at the FBI. It was there where she was Chief of Staff to the Director, and helped lead the FBI’s post-9/11 transformation. Lisa discusses how to lead during a crisis, and ways to create a readiness plan for potential threats; pandemic or otherwise.


Key Takeaways

[3:35] The role of ‘duty’ in business: A true test of a leader is whether they can put the organization’s role ahead of their own personal views, interests, and what’s safe.

[5:25] Leaders can know when they’re on the right track by checking their inner compass and understanding their gut intuition.

[8:55] Lisa spent every day in the situation room when she was the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor to the President. She found that the best decisions that came out of that room were when they had an inclusive process and having multiple different voices in the room to express their facts and opinions.

[10:55] The best leaders have built their credibility and trust long before they’ve needed to use it.

[11:45] Lisa puts the complex Taliban/Afghanistan peace treaty into perspective. This is only the beginning of the process to end the war.

[19:40] What keeps Lisa up at night? Pandemic diseases. As businesses are facing repercussions from the coronavirus, Lisa reminds us that we have to think about resilience and to always have a readiness plan for potential threats.

[22:55] Communication and preparation are the two main ingredients to survive unforeseeable events.

[24:55] A leader needs to shift through the opinion pieces and be the person that delivers reliable information that the team can trust.

[29:25] CEOs are so focused on being busy that they’re not looking to the future. Instead of planning for March or April 2020, you should be planning for March 2025.

[30:10] The tone and pace of an organization come from the top.

[31:40] When Lisa worked for the President, every day there was a crisis happening. She was able to manage the stress by having an amazing team and having a repeatable process to gather information and assess the importance of it.

[37:25] Throughout Lisa’s career, she has been surrounded by amazing leaders.

[37:55] A moment that stood out was during the tragedy that happened at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. It cost the lives of nine people. Lisa personally saw how President Barack Obama demonstrated a whole range of leadership skills in just one day.

[42:30] Try to live every day as a custodian of the institution that you’re leading. Do not focus as much on the individual needs and desires of the daily decision.


Quotable Quotes

  • “One of the things that make for an effective president is they realize their job is not about being busy, it’s about slowing things down.


  • “Panic ensues when people don’t have information or don’t believe they’re getting enough clear information.”
  • “The best leaders have really built up and honed their ability to be effective in that moment well before the moment arrives.”


  • If the leader has built credibility as somebody who doesn’t shade, who doesn’t put spin on the ball, then they’re going to be able to deliver that uncomfortable, or perhaps, unwelcomed, but truthful message in that moment.
  • We should not lose sight of the fact that those servicemen’s and women’s sacrifices are ongoing every day as we go about our daily lives.
  • We have to think about resilience across all these types of threats, whether it’s terrorism, cyber-attacks, or pandemic disease.
  • Are you being clear? Are you being candid about what you know and what you don’t know, and are you being regular in that communication?
  • Leaders are best when they really listen to their inner compass.”


Resources and Books Mentioned


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