“The question I am often asked,” began Hank Crumpton, in his recent talk to Zillow employees, “is why did I want to be a spy?”
Crumpton wasn’t just any old spy, but he was the former head of the CIA Clandestine Service and the CIA officer who led the covert operation to overthrow the Taliban. Retired from the CIA, he is currently the chairman and CEO of Crumpton Group LLC, a global business advisory firm. His book, “The Art of Intelligence,” documents his role in the CIA.
Recently, he stopped by the Zillow headquarters in Seattle to talk about how he got into his career, as well as to share his thoughts on successful leadership, on assignment and off.
So why did Crumpton want to be a spy? He blames James Bond.
“I saw Sean Connery playing James Bond. I was maybe 10 or 11 years old and it just came out. I walked out of the movie and thought — I want everything in that movie,” he said.
At the age of 23 he went into the CIA Clandestine Service and spent 24 years there, mostly stationed in overseas locales from Africa to Europe. After 9/11, he led the operation in Afghanistan.
He chalks up the success of his career, and the initial success against al-Qaida due to specific leaders Crumpton hand chose. Each displayed the characteristics that Crumpton valued.
“I wanted leaders that understood themselves, first and foremost, and … had the humility to lead and the humility to know what they lacked,” he said.
Once you have the right leadership, he explained, a mission is successful, whether in the office or out in the field.
Previous Zillow Speaker Series guests include:
- Robert Scoble, Rackspace Startup Liaison Officer
- Laureen France, FTC Senior Investigator
- Rand Fishkin, Moz Founder & CEO
- Matthew Winkler, Bloomberg News Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief
- Exec and Justin.tv Founder Justin Kan
- Scripps Networks Interactive CEO Ken Lowe
- Darrell Cavens, CEO of Zulily
- Georgetown Brewing Co-Founder Roger Bialous
- Cinnabon Co-Founder Greg Komen
- TrueCar CEO Scott Painter
- Joel Spolsky of Stack Exchange
- Tom Douglas, chef and restaurateur
- Steven VanRoekel, White House Chief Information Officer
- Jay Inslee, then-candidate for Washington governor
- Gabe Zichermann, author and consultant
- Rob McKenna, former Washington attorney general and candidate for governor
- Ronnie Chan, chairman of Hang Lung Properties Limited
- Hadi Partovi, angel investor, startup investor
- GrubHub co-founders Mike Evans and Matt Maloney
- Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn
- Adam Goldstein of Hipmunk
- Adam Lashinsky, author of “Inside Apple”
- Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
- John Cook of GeekWire
- FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski
- Gordon Stephenson of Real Property Associates
- Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital
- Richard Tait of Cranium
- Adrian Hanauer of Sounders FC
- Steve Souders of Google