A Spymaster Revealed – Emotional Intelligence at Work

A Spymaster Revealed

Dr. Relly Nadler: We are really excited this week to be able to peek inside the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA. We have Jack Devine, who served at the CIA for more than 30 years rising to become the Acting Director of Operations and the Head of all CIA Spying Operations. He has a new book out called, Good Hunting; An American Spymaster’s Story. It’s a sophisticated, deeply informed account of real life in the CIA that adds immeasurably to our understanding of the espionage culture.

We talk a lot about is Fearless Leaders and how we apply emotional and social intelligence. With the gripping intrigue and high-stakes maneuvering as we all maybe hear about, but we don’t necessarily know the inside story. Jack was present at nearly every major CIA operation during his career. He uses a keen sense of humor, sharp wit, and enthralling tails of his life as a spymaster with an unprecedented look into the clandestine world of the CIA and how it ties to current events around the world.

He’ll describe some of the inner personal relationships and how self-awareness is required to conduct successful covert operations in colorful detail while not disclosing still classified information, of course, but to give you a look at some of the agency’s most controversial entanglements, including his role in Charlie Wilson’s role in the war in Afghanistan, the largest covert action of the Cold War, made into an award-winning movie by the same name, that many of us have seen.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Jack Devine has had an amazing leadership career at the CIA from running Charlie Wilson’s War, as we talked about previously, to overseeing the operations that brought down Colombian Drug Lord Pablo Escobar, and many others. Jack has been a strong voice during the Iran Contra Affair and a strong opponent tangling with Rick Ames, the KGB Spy inside the CIA, and aided in the search for the FBI mole now known as Robert Hanssen.

Devine ran CIA stations in Latin American Rome, he headed the counter-narcotics center, he rose to become acting chief of the agencies clandestine service, and he has received the Most Distinguished Intelligence medal and several meritorious awards.

Jack is a recognized expert in intelligence matters, he has been on all media outlets on all networks; CBS, NBC, MSNBC, Fox, PBS, The History Channel, ABC. He also acts as a special consultant to one of our favorite award-winning TV Shows, Homeland.

I want to say that what Jack does, in addition to being a historic leader within the CIA community and a great public speaker, is he is the President of the Arkin Group, which is an international risk consulting and intelligence firm whose mission is to use strategic intelligence and analysis to enable its clients to importantly minimize risk and maximize payoff when making critical business decisions.

Hopefully today, we will learn more about how Jack does that work, how he has learned to do that work, and why emotional and social intelligence is such an important part of being a leader in that industry. Jack, welcome to the show.

Jack Devine: Good to be speaking to you again Cathy and Relly.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Thanks Jack. We usually ask a question or two from the leaders and people we have on the who, about who has been most influential for you? Who has helped shape your career?

Jack Devine: Well, I think it starts at home. Look at our parents, I’ve have had a happy and loving childhood. I think mentoring starts at home. Then I would say sticking close to home, as I moved up in my CIA career, my spouse was a major factor in keeping me “chin-up” if you will.

Inside the agency I was fortunate, over a long period of time, particularly when I was writing a book and going back and looking at it over a number of years, you begin to appreciate just how many senior people at one point or another, helped me, positioned me, directed me, and saved me from making some of the mistakes that I might have.

I have a long list of people that I feel a sense of obligation to, unfortunately a fair number of them have since passed away. I did feel that in writing the book, it gave me a chance to say thank you in a way that I hadn’t been able to do while working for them. Certainly I said thank you, but not in the way either tonally or substantively that I felt in retrospect. I really needed to tip my hat to a fair number of people. They helped to get me up the food chain in the CIA, I certainly didn’t do it on my own.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: I was going to say, you are such a powerful person and you are so humble. That is such a strong character of yours. I assume one of the questions that you get a lot is one we are going to ask you. What is your book about and why did you decide to call it Good Hunting?

Jack Devine: Let me do the last part first. Good Hunting is an expression that is very frequently used among clandestine operators in the Western world. It’s not just CIA but the Brits use it and so do some other services.

There is a long tradition of using that expression, the first place I noticed was in Kipling, writing years ago, Jungle Book, I think he refers to “good hunting.” It’s an expression like, “good luck,” “break a leg” in show business, so to speak. I think it is so apropos to CIA; go find Bin Laden, go find that Russian penetration of the CIA or the FBI. Go find John the Cutthroat that worked for ISIS. I think it is a very good expression and I wrote many times, cables. Not ever cable warrants it, but where you are starting an operation or you are trying to finish off something, instead of saying “good luck” it’s “good hunting.” So that was an easy thing to explain.

Writing a book is a process in the sense that when I first left the CIA I didn’t even tell people where I worked for so many years, even though I was authorized. Because I became a public figure in CIA, was publicly in the press in a number of issues, it was just awkward. So you get from you barely mention what you did, to a point where you feel those deep emotional attachments to CIA and the mission that you want to write about that mission so that people better understand it.

Not to ramble on too much, when you look at CIA on its operational side, not the analytical or the science, but just on the operational side there are two fundamental activities. One is espionage; spying, meeting agents late at night. If any of our listeners are fans of le Carré, The Spy Who Came in From The Cold. The other one is the James Bond, the action. In other words, it’s not running spies, it’s making things happen.

These are the two major disciplines, there are other sub-disciplines, but these are the two major disciplines in the operational world. This book is about the action part. I do roll into it because it was part of my life. The espionage part, as you mention, with Ames and Hanssen and so on, but the principle objective was to talk about action. When does the US government turn to the CIA and under what conditions do they use that powerful instrument to change an event in a foreign country. That’s either to disrupt the counter-narcotics world, the terrorism world, or to over-throw a hostile government, or as you had mentioned, in the case of Charlie Wilson’s War, to prevent the Soviet Union from developing a lock on Southeast Asia.

The easier part to write about is the action part and that is because most of those activities eventually become public because the events become public and because you invariably end up in congressional hearings or some newspaper story. So I had a lot of material to write from.

I wanted people to understand. The CIA is not a rouge entity, it is an action element that is directed by the President of the United States. I wanted folks to understand; I’m fascinated by the number of TV shows and movies about the CIA but there is a distortion that is disturbing and it is that distortion which is that the CIA never does these things on their own. It’s always the President of the United States signing an order in writing that gets the CIA to do things that sometimes become controversial. That is a capsule summary of the book.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Before we get into the key behaviors that are necessary to become an operative, I just want to remind people, because it’s so apropos, so salient to our conversation what you just said. This movie, 13 Weeks: The Benghazi Story, just came out and that movie focuses principally on the mission of the CIA. I think it’s a good example, and I know that’s not the topic for us today, but would you consider that a good example of how the CIA is placed somewhere to, in fact, do its work?

Jack Devine: Well, I think so but what happened in the case of Benghazi is a place where there was a raid and the ambassador was killed, and it was very disruptive. I would just simply note that there are many Benghazi’s in the world that happen that way. So you have people out there and I’m sure many of your listeners have seen the walls inside of the CIA with the stars where there are relatively few when I first joined and today there are 112 I think at the last count.

There are people that die in Benghazi type of activities. You touched on something Cathy which I want to underscore because your theme over and over again and your life coaching is leadership. The point I would make is you are going to have your most effective leaders if they are in a line of work that they believe in and they have a sense of mission, like the folks whether it’s Benghazi or anywhere in the world, or any agency or government institution or public sector. You are going to have stronger leaders when someone enters it’s rare that anybody gets to the top to where they can exercise influence over an organization that isn’t really committed in the product and the mission.

I think people have to start with that. What makes a great leader? Well, first they are in the right business and you really believe in it with your heart and soul and you are prepared to make sacrifices personally, for some common good.

Listen the rest of this really interesting interview about the CIA and Emotional Intelligence. You can listen above, without commercials.


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