AFCEA Capitolo di Roma, grazie ad i nostri soci Vincenzo Vitiello e Davide Maniscalco, è lieta di poter pubblicare l'intervista rilasciata da due esponenti americani di rilievo nel mondo dell'intelligence: Mr. Frederick (Rick) Hotchner, già Vicedirettore Missione Globale Antiterrorismo della Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) e Ms. Abigail G. Manning, fondatrice di Create Awareness...Change Lives Inc.
Di seguito, la prima parte dell'intervista:
Rick, You spent the last six years of your 28-year career in the CIA serving in senior positions in the Counterterrorism Mission Center. In assessing the challenge of Islamist terrorism and the need to build capacity to counter it, how important for strategic success is the counter-ideology component?
Put simply, it is the key to victory. The conflict with Islamist terrorism will go on forever, unless we either capitulate, which is not really an option, or win the strategic ideological battle. Until we engage in that battle, we will continue to be on the strategic defensive and cede the initiative to the enemy. The Islamist ideology is what the late Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz would have called our terrorist enemies’ center of gravity. As a result, counter-ideology should be the preeminent counterterrorist (CT) objective, to which we subordinate and align all other CT efforts.
The wide array of tactical and operational CT measures we employ offensively are, of course, important in their own right, as they often succeed in denigrating terrorist networks, taking terrorists off the battlefield and disrupting their ability to conduct attacks. Unfortunately, as we have seen time and time again, any such successes will be temporary, if the Islamist ideology persists. So long as it does, the enemy will be able to both recruit new adherents to replace losses, and reconstitute and resurge whenever given time and space to do so.
Ultimately, we must recognize that the strategic effect of tactical and operational successes is to buy us time to engage in the strategic ideological battle, with an informed, thoughtful and well-resourced whole-of-U.S. government effort that is coordinated with and leverages the good offices of partners around the world. Since we haven’t yet really done that in earnest, I’d say it is high time we do so and, finally, go on the strategic offensive.
Will you please talk about your approach to leading officers and teams working the counterterrorism mission?
CT practitioners are, as a rule, dedicated individuals who work long, intense hours. Effectiveness depends on both excellence and speed, both of which can obviously work against each other. High pressure, incomplete information and a demand for exertion while experiencing fatigue are constant realities. While the CT fight is a marathon, the reality is it often requires sprints. As a result, those who work CT often neglect to take care of themselves personally and professionally, and struggle to have a healthy work-life balance. Since working CT requires resilience, the consequent leadership challenge is to take care of those who are to a tremendous extent, and in some cases entirely, focused on mission. Indeed, part of this challenge is convincing them to take care of themselves.
My starting point for addressing that challenge was to get to know those I had the honor to lead as people as well as officers, and to share with them my philosophy of servant leadership and desire to support, enable and empower them. That approach helped me understand from the outset what was important to them outside of work and what their aspirations were at work. With those insights and in the course of my ongoing engagement with team members, I was able to monitor how they were holding up under the strain; encourage them to take care of themselves personally and professionally; provide personal support when life intervened; and help them manage their careers.
When it came to the work itself, as was the case in any leadership position I held, my primary objective was to give those for whom I was responsible what they needed to perform at a high level. To that end, I tried to ensure that everyone understood the overall mission of the organization and their respective roles in contributing to mission success. I also tried to be clear about expectations (i.e. what the results needed to look like) and parameters. Then, while remaining available for consultation, I left the “how” part to each member of the team to figure out for themselves.
In addition, on an ongoing basis, I looked for opportunities to express appreciation; recognize and reward exceptional accomplishments; and highlight members of the team to the chain of command. In the latter regard, I gave credit for successes to those I led, and accepted responsibility for any failures or errors in my area of responsibility. When necessary, I did not hesitate to have difficult conversations, in order to gain clarity on all manner of issues that could arise, and effect course corrections when necessary..
In these ways and others, I sought to create an inclusive team culture that encouraged everyone, whatever their background and outlook, to feel valued and be fully engaged, as they worked individually and together to effect mission success, take care of themselves, and take care of each other.
Abigail, in addition to being a mother of two United States Marines, you work with the U.S. military and in the corporate environment to develop individual skill sets and team culture. Will you please discuss how you see the role of soft skills as it applies to both the military and the workplace?
I would be happy to! In both the military and the workplace, I witness how strong individuals come together to build prosperous and productive teams. The organizations that develop their people are the ones who thrive both on the battlefield and in the boardroom. To me, there’s no better way to develop strong individuals than through developing their soft skills both internally, or intrapersonal skills with self-awarenesss, self-ownership and self-commitment. These skills include developing your character traits, attitudes, emotional intelligence and resilience.
The second part is to develop soft skills externally known as interpersonal skills. These are the skills we need in order to work with well others and include communication, social, culture and team building skills. When we combine strong individuals to make strong teams, it’s remarkable what can be accomplished. We are able to overcome personal and professional challenges and obstacles both faster and easier. We are also able to make bigger strides towards our goals if that be protection and peace in the military or productivity and profitability in the workplace.
Are there any take-aways you can share from your work with the U.S. military and/or from your daughter and son that illustrate how leaders can leverage soft skills to enable and empower their teams to achieve mission success?
Communication is key. Poor communication can create doubt, misunderstanding, mistrust, low morale and ultimately mission failure. In the case of military that can mean loss of lives. That’s heartbreaking to me. In the office environment, poor communication skills can mean higher turnover and loss of top talent who don’t feel included, appreciated, heard and valued so they go elsewhere to work taking their talents and skills with them to the competition.
When a leader demonstrates great communication skills you find employees and people who will follow them anywhere and dig deeper than they ever thought possible. Healthy and positive communication skills develop bonds of trust, respect, dignity, motivation and raise-the-bar accountability. When this happens, each person is encouraged to dig deeper and become their best version of themselves. My personal favorite example of this happening is my daughter. There were Marine leaders starting with Drill Instructors at Boot Camp who saw something special in her and with soft skills and tough love they helped her develop and achieve her ultimate goal of serving on the Presidential helicopter squadron. Mission achieved!
Frederick (Rick) Hotchner
Già membro del Senior Intelligence Service della Central Intelligence Agency, si è ritirato dall’attività nel 2018 dopo 28 anni di servizio presso la Direzione delle operazioni. Ha ricoperto il ruolo di vicedirettore delle operazioni globali antiterrorismo presso il Centro di missione antiterrorismo ed è stato il primo vice direttore di un programma nazionale strategico con un budget multimiliardario ed il coordinamento di migliaia di risorse umane.Collabora attualmente in Italia nell’ambito del progetto HM Management, finalizzato all’attività di consulenza in materia di gestione della sicurezza e servizi di formazione in Italia e altrove in Europa.
Abigail G. Manning
Fondatrice di Create Awareness ... Change Lives Inc., ideatore del curriculum Authentic Health. Lavora con i clienti per costruire proattivamente organizzazioni sane e prospere attraverso l'intelligenza culturale e le soft life skills. Fornisce dinamicamente contenuti comprovati e unici che sono facili da integrare per aumentare il coinvolgimento, l'empowerment e la responsabilità dei team.Combina una doppia specializzazione in Comunicazioni dell'Università dell'Indiana (Teorie cognitive, sociali e comportamentali), ampi studi sulla salute mentale e la ricerca sulle modalità di guarigione con le sue esperienze di vita in prima persona sul superamento dell'abuso infantile, della violenza domestica e del PTS. Lavorando principalmente con aziende militari, governative e legate alla sicurezza nazionale, Abigail ha una profonda passione per le persone che contribuisce a formare.