Beyond Diplomacy: What I Really Learned from Dr. Condoleezza Rice

Last week at Citrix Synergy, I had the distinct honor of interviewing Dr. Condoleezza Rice during one of our Super Session keynotes. From the end of the Cold War and the

collapse of the Soviet Union to the ongoing struggle for human rights in the Middle East, the former U.S. Secretary of State has truly been on the front lines of history.

So, it’s not surprising that attendees were captivated by Dr. Rice’s depth of knowledge and well-informed opinions on some of the world’s most pressing affairs, including protectionism at home (which she is vehemently against), managing emerging leaders in Russia and North Korea (with diplomacy and caution), and combatting global cyberattacks (through stronger, more open partnerships between government and tech companies).

But it was her personal stories about leadership in the face of adversity that stood out for me. As an African American growing up in the segregated South, Dr. Rice is no stranger to prejudice. As the first female National Security Advisor and the first female African American Secretary of State, she has also personally experienced the bias of competing in a male-dominated workplace.

Despite having to clear these hurdles, Dr. Rice has broken through the glass ceiling and squared off against some of the most powerful and controversial (and largely male) figures in modern history. She credits her success to following her family’s three mantras:

  • “You have to be twice as good [as the next person]; so, they have to accept you one way or another. This, in turn, will boost your confidence to succeed even further.”
  • “There are no victims. As soon as you think you’ve lost control, you’ve, in fact, given control to someone else.”
  • “Don’t let someone else’s prejudice become your problem. If someone else doesn’t want to sit next to you because you’re black, that’s fine. So long as they are the ones who move.”

These principles transcend race and gender and provide invaluable guidelines for success in life and business. (In fact, I have already shared her advice with my daughters.)

Considering Dr. Rice’s personal views, it’s no wonder she is so optimistic about the future. She told the Citrix Synergy 2018 audience that her positive outlook is fueled by confidence that we have the technology to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges — from improving the quality of healthcare to enhancing education to providing economic opportunity in all corners of the globe. Dr. Rice is also encouraged both by the emerging generation of global leaders — whom she describes as more open-minded and worldly — as well as the millennial generation, which she lauds as the most socially conscious generation in history.

I, for one, share Dr. Rice’s optimism — and am personally committed to putting her principles into practice. I am confident that, together, we can power both a better way to work and a better world to live in. As Dr. Rice told the Citrix Synergy audience, the future is what we make of it: “It doesn’t matter where you come from. It matters where you’re going.”

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