Listening and Learning: Conversations on Leadership

Posted by Arnold Chacon
May 4, 2016
A view of Director General Chacon and Counselor Kristie Kenney recording the first podcast in the "Conversations on Leadership" series in December 2015.

One way to think about the art of leadership is as a dialogue.

For centuries there has been an ongoing conversation between practitioners and experts and across different generations on what constitutes leadership. At the Department of State we work with world leaders – heads of state, ministers of foreign affairs, CEOs, chairs of non-profits and religious institutions – in an effort to advance U.S. values and foreign policy interests.  As a result professionals at the State Department develop a truly global perspective on leadership.

Most aren’t born leaders.  We learn to lead by doing, observing, and—yes—talking and listening.  It’s in this spirit that we launched the Director General’s “Conversations on Leadership” podcast series back in December.  Each podcast episode features a conversation between two State Department leaders on issues as varied as workplace leadership, work-life wellness, diversity, and managing workplace relationships.

In a large, decentralized organization such as ours-- with employees in every corner of the globe and across different time zones-- it can be a challenge for senior leaders to communicate directly with our people.  The podcasts gives a behind the scenes insights from Department leaders who are willing to share their experiences on these and other key topics in a more relaxed and personal way.  These “conversations” offer a window into various thought and decision-making processes, from which we can all learn and develop better leadership skills.

Our latest edition of the series is a unique conversation between Secretary of State John Kerry and emerging leader Michelle Los Banos, a Foreign Service Officer serving as Human Resource Bureau’s Advisor for Diversity and Inclusion.  Listening to the thoughtful exchange between these two outstanding public servants seems especially fitting during Public Service Recognition Week, which runs from May 2nd through May 7th.  

Harry Truman, our 33rd president, reportedly once said “not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”  He might have added that all leaders are good listeners.  We invite you to listen and enjoy the conversation.

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