Former CIA director Hayden speaks to cadets

Ex-CIA director Michael Hayden speaks to cadets from the stage  at Arnold Hall Theater, Jan. 24, 2017, at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Hayden spoke to an audience of cadets first class about the challenges of leadership. Hayden, a retired Air Force four star general, also served as head of the National Security Agency and is a former principal deputy director of National Intelligence. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)

Ex-CIA director Michael Hayden speaks to cadets from the stage at Arnold Hall Theater, Jan. 24, 2017, at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Hayden spoke to an audience of cadets first class about the challenges of leadership. Hayden, a retired Air Force four star general, also served as head of the National Security Agency and is a former principal deputy director of National Intelligence. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --

Ex-CIA director Michael Hayden told senior cadets here Jan. 24 that leadership is often like baseball.

 

“You might not think you’re ready to be at bat but you’re there at home plate,” he said. “Something beyond you has put you there and you’d better be ready to swing.”

 

Hayden said the lessons cadets learn about leadership at the Air Force Academy will be tested throughout their careers as officers.

 

“You’re going to be really busy,” he said. “No one else can do the things you’re going to be called upon to do for your country.”

 

Hayden, a retired four star general, also headed the National Security Agency and is a former principal deputy director of National Intelligence. He spoke to cadets for an hour about the importance of empathetic and self-aware leadership.  

 

The top challenges Hayden said he faced after 9/11 were directing NSA intelligence resources toward al-Qaeda; encouraging the administration’s 35,000 employees; and working to balance national security with freedom.

 

“Even good people, when they’re scared, begin to gnaw on their neighbor’s freedom,” he said.

 

Hayden spent time with NSA staff at the administration’s headquarters Sept. 13 at Fort Meade, Maryland, all while blackout curtains were being placed over its windows. 

 

“I walked to each station and tried to encourage as many people as I could,” he said.

 

Hayden also hosted a video-teleconference with NSA staff stationed around the world.   

 

“I had to let them know that we’re not just doing things right, but we’re doing the right thing,” he said.

 

Hayden said cadets will one day lead diverse teams. Diversity, he said, often leads to success.  

 

“We had a CIA counterintelligence shop in a ‘high rise,’” he said, referring to the NSA’s headquarters. “People with headphones doing intercepts … Most were Arab linguists, most were Arab-Americans.”

 

Cadet 1st Class Jonathan Schiller said Hayden’s advocacy of empathetic and self-aware leaders can be applied across the cadet wing.   

 

“He showed us the qualities and values of genuine, committed leaders,” Schiller said

 

Before Hayden began his presentation, the Anschutz Foundation of Denver presented a $100,000 donation to the Academy to support cadet character and leadership programs in his honor.

 

Fifty-thousand dollars will be given to the Academy Assembly, $12,000 to the Cadet Wing Exemplar Program, and $38,000 to the Peak Performance Center.

 

Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson said Hayden exemplifies leadership.

 

“General Hayden is genuine and inspiring leader,” she said. “His experiences and leadership challenges he faced bring home the importance of the Academy’s mission of developing leaders of character. He really connected with cadets.”