Michèle Flournoy

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Michèle Flournoy

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (2009-2012), Co-Founder and CEO Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Co-Founder and Managing Director of WestExec Advisors

Whether it is unpacking a complex national security challenge like North Korea, assessing how cyber and other new technologies are transforming the global security landscape, explaining national defense strategies, or assessing the effectiveness of U.S. counterterrorism efforts since 9/11, Michèle Flournoy breaks down the most difficult international challenges facing the country and puts them in a broader strategic context, distilling lessons for today’s leaders.

Michèle Flournoy Profile Photo

Michèle Flournoy, the highest-ranking woman to have served as a Senate-confirmed Presidential appointee in the Pentagon, is known for her strategic insights, clear and candid analysis, and leadership experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Woven into her talks are personal anecdotes and lessons learned from her time serving as the principal policy advisor to the Secretary of Defense and as a regular member of the National Security Council “Deputies Committee” – from what it was like to be in the Situation Room during the raid on Osama bin Laden to how an environment that welcomes debate and dissent can help a President make better decisions. As one of the highest-ranking women in national security, she can also speak to the experiences of women as they seek to excel and lead in historically male-dominated sectors. As a successful entrepreneur, she draws from her experience as the co-founder of both a top bipartisan think tank and a new strategic advisory firm to offer insights on how to build mission-centered organizations with a collaborative high-performance culture, and a reputation for excellence and impact.

Flournoy appears frequently in national and international media, including CNN’s State of the Union, ABC’s This Week, NBC’s Meet the Press, BBC News, NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered and PBS’ News Hour and Charlie Rose, and is frequently quoted in top tier news outlets. She has edited several books and authored dozens of reports and articles on a broad range of defense and national security issues. She also serves on the boards of several corporations and major non-profits.

Michèle Flournoy’s Speech Topics

  • Leadership Lessons Learned: Effectively Managing Dynamic Organizations

    From transforming the culture and performance of a large Pentagon bureaucracy, to turning an idea into a high-impact non-profit, to starting a successful new business from scratch, Flournoy shares insights from her experience as a leader and entrepreneur in the public, non-profit and private sectors. Drawing from more than 30 years working with Presidents and Cabinet members, CEOs and nonprofit leaders, Flournoy offers 10 lessons on how to lead change and create collaborative, high performance teams and organizations.

  • Women in Leadership

    Study after study has shown that more diverse teams make better decisions and that organizations that include women in their senior leadership ranks outperform those that don’t. Nevertheless, women still face numerous obstacles and challenges in advancing in their careers and reaching their full potential in nearly every sector. Drawing on her own experience as the most senior woman in the Department of Defense and her work with other organizations to enhance the diversity of their leadership, Flournoy details the challenges that remain as well as some of the most promising approaches.

  • Innovation and National Security in a Time of Technological Change

    With the emergence of competitors like a resurgent Russia and a rising China, the advent of new technologies and military capabilities, and increased competition in domains like space and cyberspace, the United States can no longer take its technological edge for granted. Decades ago, most significant technologies originated in the United States, with the bulk of research and development sponsored by the Department of Defense. Today, while the government remains an important sponsor of innovation, the cutting edge of technological innovation in many areas has shifted to the commercial sector. And with a technology base that is now truly global, other countries are investing heavily to catch up. Flournoy will discuss the critical questions these new realities raise for industry leaders and policymakers: How can our national security community better access and leverage new commercial technologies to keep the country safe? How can we restore trust and improve the partnership between government and the tech community in the post-Snowden era? And how can traditional technology sources for government (e.g., defense contractors) be part of the solution in helping the government access and adapt cutting-edge technologies?

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