Susan Rice on Leadership During Crisis

Susan Rice and Katie Haun

You can’t let anyone define you. That’s a mantra Ambassador Susan Rice lives by. From becoming the youngest assistant secretary of state to her role as US Ambassador to the United Nations, she’s learned what it means to drive forward in the face of challenges. In this discussion with a16z General Partner Kathryn Haun, Susan reflects on the many lessons she’s learned throughout her career, on issues including early diplomacy, protecting national security, and tough yet compassionate leadership. 

Show Notes

Susan shares how she learned to leverage the characteristics of her personality early in her career as assistant secretary of state [1:50]
Important conversations Susan had with a mentor that changed the trajectory of her career [4:45]
How the legacy of her parents shaped her life and career [7:06]
Her parent’s commitment to education, their personal backgrounds, and the legacies they created [8:10]
The result of instilling self-belief into children and mastering “psychological jiu jitsu” [10:22]
What the early lessons of diplomacy taught her [14:00]
The importance of strategic compartmentalization [16:48]
How to approach crisis during high stakes situations [18:29]
How to practice compassionate leadership while maintaining effectiveness [20:20]
Hacking the concept of “work-life balance” [21:10]
The required characteristics of powerful leaders [27:14]
The hard things about leadership and the idea of being liked [30:55]
The “middle finger story” — the time Susan stood up for herself in an important meeting [32:45]
China’s intelligence collection in the US [38:40]
A call for unity between the private, public, and academic sectors [43:12]