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Secretary Johnson Discusses Leadership and Personal and Professional Journey On “Thirty Minute Mentors” Podcast

July 27, 2022

Litigation partner Jeh Johnson is featured on episode 133 of “Thirty Minute Mentors,” a podcast series that features America’s most accomplished and insightful leaders for an intimate half-hour conversation on how they made it to the top. Joining podcast host and author Adam Mendler, he shares his professional journey and key lessons on leadership, personal and professional development, decision-making and managing pressure, among other topics.

Secretary Johnson shares how he has been able to make challenging decisions, both as a lawyer and as the leader of a very large government agency. “The hardest decisions are not necessarily the best-known ones. When I was the senior legal official of the Department of Defense, I had to make life and death decisions, literally,” he says--including legal signoff for many U.S. military counterterrorism operations, often with just a few minutes to spare. “If I say yes, somebody is probably going to die, and if I say no, then a dangerous terrorist objective might slip away,” he says. “Those are very tough decisions from a gut perspective and not necessarily always difficult legal decisions.”

Secretary Johnson also discusses the skills that have allowed him to succeed personally and professionally. Most important, he says, are “the ability to communicate, the ability to be honest and forthright with people—which even if they don’t agree with what you’re saying they will ultimately respect—and the ability and willingness to grapple with hard choices and not delay them,” he says. He adds that “the ability to deliver a hard message or make a hard decision and not take the easy way out” are skills that have aided him throughout the journey of his life and career.

» listen to the podcast

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