Marc Polymeropoulos is a retired CIA officer from the Senior intelligence service ranks. He served for years in the intelligence community, in the operational field and leadership assignments. He’s an expert in counterterrorism, covert action, and Human Intelligence Collection.
As one of the CIA’s most decorated field officers, Marc honed a unique style of leadership based on decision making under pressure, inclusivity, camaraderie, and competition. He’s the author of Clarity in Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the CIA.
Marc Polymeropoulos has a goal to pass on his knowledge to people in the sports and business world who could benefit from his unique experiences serving his country in the hotspots of the world.
In this episode, Marc and I discuss:
- How Marc got into the CIA—and why he wants people to get excited about serving their country, whether it’s at the local, state, or federal level
- How his mom put him on an airplane by himself at age ten, and he flew from JFK Airport to Paris alone—then his dad drove them miles through the Sahara Desert (and this is what got Marc hooked on the Middle East)
- Principles on how to lead elite teams in times of crisis and how to deal with fear and uncertainty from a leadership perspective
- The process of recruiting a foreigner, a spy, and getting someone to betray their own country, by identifying their motivations
- How Marc was the base chief in Afghanistan for a year with 20 Americans and 1,000 Afghan indigenous fighters—and how being deployed taught him humility
- How everyone at the CIA wants to be promoted quickly, but there’s something to be said for a slower, more methodical rise—because nothing beats experience
- Marc’s thoughts on Pineapple Express and how the U.S. blundered the exit from Afghanistan
Marc Polymeropoulos also shares how he had “a really awful end of his career,” due to Havana Syndrome. He got physically sick and experienced a loss of cognitive abilities, and didn’t get the help he needed.
“I was a highly decorated officer, rising to the top. I didn’t want to retire, but I had to,” he says. The clear leadership lesson for any organization is that, “You’ve got to take care of your people. And unfortunately, the CIA didn’t take care of me when I needed them most. It was a moral betrayal for me.”
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