Zillow Speaker Series: Hank Crumpton, Former CIA Spy

Hank Crumpton, the former head of the CIA Clandestine Service, appeared as a special guest as part of the Zillow Speaker Series.

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“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.

Hank Crumpton, left, and Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff.
Hank Crumpton, left, and Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff.

“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.

Want to see more speakers like Crumpton in person? Come work for Zillow! See openings on Zillow’s job pagewe’re hiring!

Previous Zillow Speaker Series guests include: