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Preparation, service, and respect: critical building blocks for a lifetime of leadership: The Honorable Elaine Chao

The Honorable Elaine L. Chao

I recorded Episode 91 with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao just before social distancing recommendations went into effect to halt the spread of coronavirus. My prayers go out to everyone impacted by this terrible virus. I hope you are safely at home in an effort to support health care workers on the frontlines of this battle. I also hope you will enjoy the conversation that follows as a brief, but inspiring distraction during a stressful time.

Secretary Chao and I don’t talk about coronavirus. Instead, we engage in a wide-ranging conversation about her life, her journey, and how adversity coupled with a positive mindset laid the groundwork for tremendous accomplishment. She was only eight-years-old when she set sail with her pregnant mother and younger sister on a ship bound for America. She didn’t speak the language, wasn’t familiar with the culture, and had no idea what would be in store for herself and her family.

Secretary Chao is modest about her significant and long list of accomplishments — the first woman of Asian descent to be confirmed to a President’s cabinet; service in four Presidential Administrations, and cabinet positions in two of them; President of the United Way and Director of the Peace Corps. For her, it isn’t accomplishment for accomplishment sake, but rather doing her best out of respect for her family and the country that has given her so much. That respect is largely what inspired her work in public service. In our conversation, Secretary Chao reflects on what she’s learned and shares tremendous insight and advice into how she prepares for and approaches leadership.

My tremendous thanks to Secretary Chao for her candor, and for hosting us at the Department of Transportation.

(See source for podcast.)

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