Robert Gates Speaks

Courtesy: Michael Reardon
Courtesy: Michael Reardon

Last Monday, Thunderbird had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Robert Gates, former CIA head and Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, on campus.

Dr. Gates spoke much about leadership, drawing from his experiences running some of the largest organizations in America, including Texas A&M University.  His humor in addressing some points, like removing a popular football coach (stating it was easier removing heads of middle-sized nations), helped the audience stay engaged to his equally interesting talking points.

For one, he distinguished the difference between managing (using accounting, finance, and other business skills to run an organization) versus leading (which takes other qualities, like astute people skills).  One talking point I appreciated was Dr. Gates’ views on treating those working under you in an organization, that you are viewed by others by how, in the words of Lyndon B. Johnson, “you talk to those that can’t talk back.”

The question and answer section was equally insightful, with answers addressing political polarization to Eric Snowden.  However, I believe that his final words to the audience, about the United States being more judicial in the use of force around the world, make the most impact that afternoon.

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