Corporate Security Lessons from an Ex-CIA Operations Officer


Marc Polymeropoulos is a former CIA Operations Officer who gave 26 years of service where he learned a great deal from the pressure of making decisions in some of the most stressful situations. He retired from the CIA in July 2019 at the Senior Intelligence Service level as one of the CIA’s most highly decorated operations officers, serving in multiple field and headquarters assignments for the U.S. government. 

I recently had Marc join me on The Protective Intelligence Podcast for an interesting discussion on how he applies the leadership skills outlined in his new book, Clarity in Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the CIA. Marc shared his learnings from decision-making in unique (and often dangerous) situations over the years and core principles for leading in times of crisis.  

Marc also shed light on the suspected nation-state-directed energy attacks and offered suggestions on countermeasures that can be taken to protect executives and personnel.   

While every corporation may not face international counter-terrorism, teams can apply Marc’s leadership principles when faced with decision-making amidst a crisis. We’ve all seen the consequences of how mishandling a crisis can rapidly escalate, leaving irreparable damage to the business’s reputation as well as disrupting business continuity. 

Overcoming adversity

Marc coins adversity as the ‘performance-enhancing drug to success’. One of the most important lessons he shared was how critical it is to overcome adversity and learn from previous mistakes. Embracing conditions that are less than ideal and leading without fear in those scenarios set businesses up for the most optimal outcome from challenges.

Gaining situational awareness

Leaders need to collect all the available data, understand the conditions of the situation, and then decide on a course of action. Decision-making during times of ambiguity where the stakes are high can be extremely difficult, especially when under a time constraint. Gaining situational awareness supports a proactive response by fully understanding the nature of the threat.

Sharing information

One very effective way to gain situational awareness and therefore assess threats more accurately is to open the lines of communication and encourage the flow of intelligence. Doing this cross-functionally ensures there are no intelligence gaps due to siloed information. Findings shared across departments allows for a more holistic view of your organization’s threat landscape.

Taking countermeasures to prevent crisis

This sharing of information allows teams to be aware of previous incidents and therefore create countermeasures to be taken when in vulnerable positions in the future. Having knowledge of previous attacks gives the opportunity for briefing on possible incidents beforehand so that security teams can minimize the impact of the threat. Avoiding predictable moves that an adversary would rely on in setting up an attack keeps potential victims safe.

Download our whitepaper to learn why a central source of truth is needed to gain situational awareness and take action.