SpyCast 2.27.24
Ep 622 | 2.27.24

A CIA Psychologist on the Minds of World Leaders, Pt. 2 with Dr. Ursula Wilder


Erin Dietrick: Welcome to "SpyCast", the official podcast of the International Spy Museum. I'm Erin Dietrick and your host is Dr. Andrew Hammond. Each week we explore some aspect of the past, present or future of intelligence and espionage. If you enjoy the show, please consider leaving us a five-star review so other listeners can find us. Coming up next on "SpyCast".

Ursula Wilder: His first school experience, he was beaten severely, bruises all over his back and legs. And his nurse finally showed it to his mother who just quietly moved him to another school. You think of a five-year-old going through that and yet he became Churchill. [ Music ]

Erin Dietrick: This week is part two of last week's episode with CIA clinical psychologist, Dr. Ursula Wilder. We enjoyed this interview so much, we just couldn't cut it down into one episode. Be sure to check out part one first, if you haven't already. In part two, Andrew and Ursula dive deeper into psychoanalytic theory, where it comes from, why it can be so useful and how contemporary practitioners can utilize it to nation state advantages. They also take on a couple more historical examples, including the clashing personalities of Charles de Gaulle and Winston Churchill, and the fascinating correspondence between King Philip of Macedon and Spartan leadership. The original podcast on intelligence since 2006, we are "SpyCast". Now sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

Andrew Hammond: Just before we go on to the next example, Ursula, I think it would be good for our listeners that are unfamiliar with some of these terms that we're using, if we could just clarify them for them.

Ursula Wilder: Of course.

Andrew Hammond: I realize this is very complex, but for a beginner's cliff notes version, what's the difference between psychology and psychiatry?

Ursula Wilder: Oh, of course. So I'm a psychologist, so of course, psychologists are better than psychiatrists.

Andrew Hammond: Of course.

Ursula Wilder: So to be a psychiatrist, you are a physician, you begin with an MD, and your specialization is in people with severe mental illness, schizophrenia, people who are hospitalized because you have a medical degree, and you can also provide medical type treatment, medication, electroconvulsive therapy.

Andrew Hammond: Medication management.

Ursula Wilder: All of that. And we shouldn't fool ourselves, there are many world leaders who do have genuine psychiatric conditions like they do any other physical condition. So a psychiatrist in this business would be looking at what medication profiles a person, for example, is using, or perhaps would work with the psychologist to look at the person's cognitive decline, or if the person has a stroke, okay, you can remember that a current North Korean father had a stroke. That's just an example. So the psychologists, so I'm a clinical psychologist, there are different kinds of psychologists, there's industrial, organizational, developmental, educational, some are qualified to get a medical license to practice, provide psychotherapy, and clinical psychologists such as myself do that. Now our training is more philosophical and in personality development. So although we know how the brain and the mind can become unwell, can have conditions, you mentioned paranoia, for example, we also look at normal, healthy personalities and look at also, for example, what would characterize genius. So if you think of world leaders, they're outliers, by definition, to a degree.

Andrew Hammond: Yeah.

Ursula Wilder: And then women world leaders, by the way, are outliers of outliers, and any world leader that's in a disadvantaged group from his or her context would be an outlier. So you study what would make a person stand out like that, motives, drives. A psychologist would study development through the lifespan. So we would be looking at what happens in childhood, what happens in puberty and adolescence, and then all the way through the lifespan, right before you die, there's developmental aspects that happen. So when you're assessing a world leader, first thing you have to do is place them in those adult developmental patterns and figure out where they are. You can't assess a 60-year-old as if they're a 20-year-old and vice versa. So that's what the psychologists do. Now social psychologists and industrial psychologists look at broader patterns of human behavior. And that's necessary in this arena as well, but they're not licensed clinical psychologists because they don't provide treatment. So there's that group. You have to put in anthropologists as well and cultural theorists in this mix. So leadership analysis is engaged oftentimes with a social psychologist because they're looking at conflicts, they're looking at violence, they're looking at broader group factors. They might do assessments of the inner group dynamics. This great book on Lincoln called "Team of Rivals", it's a beautiful book, it was awarded the Pulitzer.

Andrew Hammond: One of Obama's favorite books.

Ursula Wilder: Yeah, it was one of Obama's favorite books. And she's written other Pulitzer Prize-winning books, Doris Kearns Goodwin. So that kind of is the field, okay, of psychology and psychiatry. Does that help?

Andrew Hammond: That's really helpful.

Ursula Wilder: And just very briefly, tell our listeners, Carl Jung, why he's significant, Jungianism. I know this could be a hundred-hour conversation. I will keep it succinct, okay. I won't geek out too much on the kind of inner wars of psychology. So there are two main approaches and both are needed in the work of leadership analysis. There's behaviorism and then there's what's called depth psychology, and Carl Jung is in that group. Behaviorism looks at behavior, something that can be measured. And it's hard to do actually. And they look at behavior and what the drivers are of that behavior, both external, environmental, and internal. Because thinking is behavior. You can force yourself to focus on something or to get distracted, okay. So they're very focused on predicting behavior and studying behavior. And of course, it's a truism, but it's true, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If that's all you have, then you work with that. Depth psychologists looked at everything else I just spoke about, which is the inner life of an individual. And that includes what's unconscious. That's why it's called the depth. And the two schools there are, although there are many sub schools of this, would be the Freudian approach and the Jungian approach. But Jung is more generally useful in leadership analysis because he didn't think that the unconscious was just an individual factor. He felt and wrote extensively about how there's a collective unconscious that we all share with archetypes in them, which is why we're intelligible to each other across cultures. So to make this kind of amusing, you see all these cartoons about aliens landing on earth and saying, take me to your leader. And the alien, this one Far Side cartoon where the alien is shaped like a human hand and so the leader comes up, grabs the alien and pounces on the ground and starts this big war with the aliens. But the core concept of take me to your leader will happen anywhere because there's this archetype of the leader in everyone's minds. So that's a collective unconscious. And that is really necessary and important to be aware of when you're assessing leadership, particularly the parts that are germane to the culture that you're in. Great charismatics, the charismatic leaders for good or ill, the Hitlers, Dr. King, Kennedy, Reagan, Lincoln, Caesar, you can just go through history and find them, obviously Cleopatra, they have a gift to perceive and manipulate the collective unconscious of crowds and like artists that way. So you have a performing artist who walks into a room, intuits the mood of the crowd and then starts manipulating it for the good, right? Well, leaders can do that too if they have that gift. But to be able to do that, they have to understand the collective unconscious and the particulars of that collective unconscious in that particular group. So that's a very quick rundown through theory. I hope that helps.

Andrew Hammond: Yeah, that's really fascinating. And let's move on to another example. So we've got a letter from Charles de Gaulle to Winston Churchill's daughter. So can you tee this one up for us?

Ursula Wilder: Of course, I'd be happy to. Okay, so Charles de Gaulle was obviously one of the great French leaders. He, from an early age, was absolutely fascinated with the military. His father was a philosopher. He fought with distinction under Marshal Pétain, actually, in World War I, the first war to end all wars, right? And was a prisoner of war for two and a half years and tried to escape five times. Okay? He is known to have been famously irascible, imperious, arrogant. He said in his memoir that he had all his life a vision of France, and that was his true north. And he felt that embodying that as needed and protecting that was what he had to do. So after the fall of France in World War II, he became -- he was one of the last military leaders out of France. He became a refugee, essentially, in London. And didn't get along with most of the leaders, except for some of the more preternaturally gifted leaders with tact and calm. But he wasn't that way. He was high-handed, imperious, aggressive, and highly effective at it, okay, for France. So it worked for France, which was his duty. So there he is in London, and he and Churchill, I think, predictably, didn't get along. At one point, he's quoted saying about his relationship with Churchill, says Charles de Gaulle, when I am right, I get angry. And when Churchill is wrong, he gets angry. So we're both angry a lot. He's very witty. He wrote some classics, also another great military leader. And so that's Charles de Gaulle. So there he is in London, in the middle of the terrible war in London getting targeted. And he's insisting that he's the leader of France. He's not a humble refugee. He's the leader of France. And I'm pushing this. And yet, there was respect for that. Churchill understood that vision because, of course, Churchill was a visionary, too. But he also had a daughter. He had three children, and one, his youngest daughter, Anna, had Down syndrome. And friends and family who saw the great general with Anna said he was a completely different man. He was tender. He was kind. He played games with her, pantomime with her. There's a beautiful picture of her on his lap. She has this cute little cap on there at the beach. And he's in a uniform looking like a stiff general, but he's holding her hands with such kindness. It's clear there was great love there. She died of pneumonia when she was 20, and her last words were, Papa. That was the only thing she could say. And he carried a picture of her for the rest of his life, and he credits it for saving his life during an assassination attempt because it was on the shelf of a car behind him, and it deflected a bullet. So that's Charles de Gaulle. Now the letter that you're going to be reading was a letter that he wrote to the daughter of Winston Churchill Sr., the Prime Minister Winston Churchill. She had a son who was one year old also called Winston Churchill. So that's Winston Churchill, a young Winston Churchill. It refers to a book that he's giving as a gift. I'm not going to say too much of this because I don't want to ruin the letter. And it also talks about Marlborough. So I'll just tee up Marlborough because he's going to be mentioned in the letter. So Marlborough is one of the most famous generals in British history, and if I remember correctly, he's undefeated. He has a very obscure war, the War of the Spanish Succession, which we're not going to go into. But the most famous battle there is the Battle of Blenheim, and he gets elevated to the peerage. So he becomes a lord in Britain, and his ancestor happens to be Winston Churchill. He's built a palace called Blenheim Palace after his most famous battle, and it's at that palace that Winston Churchill was born. If any listeners get a chance to go to England, I would strongly recommend going there. And not too far from Blenheim Palace, there's actually a very modest churchyard, a blading churchyard where Winston Churchill is buried, which I would also recommend going to. Here's the letter from de Gaulle. Dear Madame, I permit myself to send you an old book of pictures of Marlborough for your son Winston. It is about the only thing I brought with me from France. When the young Winston Churchill later looks at these Carane d'Achre sketches, he will possibly think about a French general who was, in history's greatest war, the sincere admirer of his grandfather and the loyal ally of his country. Kindly accept, dear Madame, my very respectful regards. Charles de Gaulle. So how do you respond to that, Andrew?

Andrew Hammond: Like the things we've discussed earlier, Veni, Vidi, Vici, the Gettysburg Address, lick them tomorrow, though, I think that there's a lot that's said in a very small number of words, and there's a lot that you can draw out there. The only thing that I've brought with me, one of the few things I brought with me from France, but I'm giving it to you as a gift. And here's someone who's a general, who's in the greatest war in history, who's an admirer of your grandfather.

Ursula Wilder: What it captures is that tender side that no one would associate with de Gaulle. It's not sentimental, because that trivializes the depth of feeling in this, and also the adept politics, of course, because this was the grandson of the Prime Minister that he was feuding with to a degree. But it communicates respect, kindness to the daughter, because many of the men of the Churchill family were in the war. So was de Gaulle's son in the Navy. And it communicates the love of family, mother to child, Winston Churchill, Sr. to grandson. Maybe there's some sadness that he's missing his own family in this mix. So all of that is there. And it's a more complex picture of this person, who we generally only see as Charles de Gaulle, the imperious, arrogant, Brits and Americans fought to France, but he wanted to be the first one into Paris, Charles de Gaulle, although he was right for France doing that. The rest of us weren't perhaps necessarily happy with the arrogance. So if you're working with, let's say, a leader like Churchill, or others, and you have a copy of this letter, let's say -- I don't know how this was released. Okay, I'm not implying it was in clandestine -- it wouldn't be. But you get something like this let's say in clandestine sources, you have a window into the person that can be worked with. And if the person the psychologist is talking with is a senior political leader, that person will know how to work with these sentiments. They will know. You just have to point it out and explain it. Would you have thought before you read it that he could write a letter this tender?

Andrew Hammond: No. I mean, one of the main things that I remember, the relationship between de Gaulle and Churchill as the symbol of Free France during the war was the Cross of Lorraine. And de Gaulle saw himself as the manifestation of the Cross of Lorraine. And Churchill said, the heaviest cross I've ever had to bear in my life was the Cross of Lorraine. In other words, de Gaulle.

Ursula Wilder: Yes, that was de Gaulle.

Andrew Hammond: This is interesting, because in this letter, there's deference, but there's also pride. I'm deferring, but I'm not on my knees, but I am respectful, or that's what I'm reading from it as well.

Ursula Wilder: It's military royalty to military royalty.

Andrew Hammond: That's a good way to put it.

Ursula Wilder: And it's royalty of European countries, ancient European countries, to royalty of other countries. It's the exclusive club, both on the military level, but also on their world level. And also, it doesn't say anything directly, but there's a constant competition between France and England always, okay, always. And it cuts through that in interesting ways, too. It's a highly effective piece of politics, but it's far more than that, too. [ Music ]

Erin Dietrick: Here is a short interlude to help you digest this episode. Why were de Gaulle and Churchill feuding during World War II if they were on the same side, you might ask? Well, there are lots of reasons, one of which is mentioned in the letter in the form of the Duke of Marlborough and the ancient Anglo-French rivalry. John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, was Winston Churchill's ancestor and arguably the greatest European general in the period before the rise of Napoleon. Marlborough led a coalition against one of the most prominent kings in French history, Louis XIV, whose goal was to make his country the dominant power in Europe, which he seemed to be on the way to doing. Marlborough's famous victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704 changed the balance of power in Europe, and he would remain undefeated as a general. Marlborough was awarded a dukedom and a palace in Oxfordshire called Blenheim after the battle, which is where Winston Churchill would be born in 1874. Besides centuries of inherited Anglo-French rivalry, these two were strong-willed and proud people who were united to defeat Nazi Germany, but who also had some divergent interests, such as the future of their respective countries and empires. They also had different views on allied strategy, and in terms of leadership, de Gaulle's position was somewhat different from Churchill's. Marlborough's ancestor was the prime minister of a country that was not at the time divided and occupied by the enemy, while de Gaulle, on the other hand, had started the war as a colonel and was the leader of a government then living in exile in London, which, as you can imagine, complicated the situation a fair bit. [ Music ]

Andrew Hammond: So let's just use this to talk about the difference between open source intelligence, so things that can be found out there in the world quite easily.

Ursula Wilder: Okay.

Andrew Hammond: So these days it would be things online, but back then it could be newspapers, radio, books, et cetera. The difference between that and things that are clandestine or secret or that are just not meant for public consumption, so this would be one example. It's not that it was a top-secret letter, but it wasn't meant for general public consumption. So what's the difference? Is one more valuable than the other, or does it depend? Walk us through how you think about these different types of information inputs, please.

Ursula Wilder: Okay. The very first thing you have to do -- and you add in your experience to the extent that you're able to talk about it. You and I both have impediments because of our background in intelligence, but the first thing you always have to do with any piece of data that you get, open or not open, is make sure you understand the validity of it, how close is it to the person. If it's valid, then you know that, and it's personal, then you have a goldmine as a psychologist to work with, like this letter as an example. A good psychologist will work with all information. We do all spectrum, all source analysis, and you want as much as you can get of the individual as long as it's valid. So that's an important first consideration. What you get in the clandestine channels is hidden behavior, like sadism, and I have a good story to tell in a second about that. That's fully cleared, so I can tell the story. And so you get behavior that isn't public, but you also get the opinions of expert interlocutors about the individual, diplomatic engagements, maybe some health engagements. So things that cannot be said publicly, you assume that whenever there's a diplomatic engagement, each goes home and writes the cable. But those cables, those communications are most helpful. Think Plutarch, but if that was a contemporary description of Cleopatra, how useful that would have been. So let me give you an example of how this can work. I'll give two examples, and they've both been cleared. I want to make sure everybody knows that, okay? There was a leader who was famously physically fit and very masculine in his presentation, and he routinely got Botox, which was obviously hidden, okay? That's interesting. That's an interesting contrast between the focus on health and care of the body, and then injecting for purposes of vanity, okay, if you want to put it that way, or maybe the opposite, not feeling so secure in self, and so wanting to keep a youthful appearance. So that's kind of an interesting piece of data, and you can extrapolate forward about aging and how aging might affect this person, because age catches up with everyone. Then there was another assessment I was doing on a leader who spoke multiple languages, and his communications had been translated, captured and translated for many years. And I thought I'd go and speak with the linguists who were doing this, because of course, if you want culturally-versed people, then linguists are the best. So I went and spoke with them, and they were kind of uncertain, like, what is this all about? We've never done this, and a little bit shy about whether they had anything to offer. So I started us off by saying to them, well, listen, what is the most interesting engagement you have heard in your years of, in different languages, translating this person? So the first one said, it was listening to the leader abjectly apologize to his leadership for not a mistake, but a getting-out-of-the-box kind of act that he had engaged in, and it created big problems. And this person who'd been listening to him was struck by this tone of apology, which she felt was genuine, and she didn't know what to do with it, because that's the first and only time she ever heard any kind of lack of confidence or apologies. So that was interesting. The next one said, she heard him flirting with his mistress, and it was such a different tone, she thought maybe the recording came from somebody else, and it had been mistakenly put in her translation queue. So she went and checked it, and sure enough, it was this person, and it's like, this is not the person I know, okay? And it was the one and only time this fluid, playful, pleasure-centered style came out. The rest of the time, it was all business and very rough. And then the last linguist said it wasn't the content, but what he called the con laugh, the sadistic laugh that is featured in Hollywood movies and psychopathic prisoners, but apparently Manson of the Manson family had a very distinctive laugh that was of this type. The context was that a subordinate of this person had handed some materials to the person who had, and the subordinate had warned that the content was gruesome, a massacre of innocents, and the response was this laugh. The linguist told me the hairs on -- he was a military veteran, said the hairs on the back of his neck went up, that it was this eerie kind of evil sound coming out of the belly of the individual. And right there, you have three pieces of behavior that'll keep you as a psychologist busy for a good long time, okay? And you put that against all the other things that we've been talking about, the history, the culture, the background of the person, what's known, and you have to account for each one. So the abject apologizing suggests that the person can yield, even though the person was not one to yield on anything. The flirtation merely confirmed the fact that there was nothing else in this person's life other than this little moment that was in any way self-indulgent, and a sadistic laugh speaks for itself. There was this kind of, in the depth of the person was this violence just seething there in pleasure. And it was also contempt for softness, and he was laughing at the subordinate who dared to imply that he might be disturbed by really graphic images. So that's the kind of thing you can get in clandestine channels, and they're useful.

Andrew Hammond: And it must be so much easier now, like for example, let's just say for me, there's a ton of YouTube videos for programs I've done with the museum. There's hundreds of podcasts, there's things that I've written, all kinds of things that are out there in the world. Before, those types of things have been much more difficult to gather or to round up, but now you can probably sit and through using the internet, you can probably gather so much data. How do you boil all of it down? Because it seems like now the problem may be the abundance of data as opposed to, you know, we're struggling to get enough.

Ursula Wilder: What you need more than anything is spontaneous behavior when the person is not observed, like the Charles de Gaulle letter. And that will give you that different optic that is not part of the public persona. But the public persona is in and of itself interesting.

Andrew Hammond: And I'm not suggesting anybody would be interested enough to observe me, I just thought that was a good example.

Ursula Wilder: Well, you know, what Zelenskyy said on this front. He said publicly in the press, that -- I think it was a New York Times interview, that every leader now needs to be attuned to in a way of technology. Because in part of what you're describing, that all of this can be crunched together in an algorithm, and fairly superficial assessments can be made. Where it's more telling right now anyway, is health, if the person is in good health. Okay, so next time you're watching a leader watch if the person's out of breath after they've walked up some stairs. And so there is a lot of information, every effort is being made to contain that by the entourage of every leader. That's difficult to do. You can't use speeches now as you used to, because a speech is written by others, but old speeches were not, they were written by Caesar himself, and by Lincoln, et cetera. So it's a good thing if you can get private correspondence or a memoir that is more revealing of private moments. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Liberian leader, spoke about what it was like to be an abused wife. She carried scars on her body from having been beaten, and how, when you think how that might have informed her approach towards women, and how she was a leader of women in general who were advocating, other women leaders who were advocating to focus on women's issues throughout the world. You can kind of begin to draw lines that are useful in an engagement with her or with others like her. So, there's a lot of information, but I have to tell you, personality is consistent if you've done a good psych assessment. It's when you see something that's completely different than anything else, that you have both a challenge and usually a fake.

Andrew Hammond: I'm just thinking, even from someone like you, you get the average person's smartphone, I mean, there's so much of the mediated and unmediated self on there.

Ursula Wilder: That's right.

Andrew Hammond: Say someone's had a phone for 20 years, you can have a catalogue of the emails from all of their relationships, text messages, voice memos, all of that stuff. I mean, it's absolute gold dust in some ways, isn't it?

Ursula Wilder: Well, if you want me to scare you a little bit, this is from a different life, okay? The technology focus that I have. We are now our own baseline. So if you have sufficient records of my voice haptics, not the content actually, but the intensity, the vocabulary, the pace, all of that, then there's more that you can look at, and how different voice haptics coincide with different stress levels in my life, both positive stress, like buying a new house or having a baby, and negative stress, like getting fired. Not that I've ever been fired, but that would be a stress if I was, or having arguments with people. You can, just based on the haptics of a voice, predict the emotional state of the person. So this has already been done, not by government, although it probably is, but by corporate sector types, okay, to look at sentiment analysis, to do targeted advertising. So the data that we are emitting is, there's a reason why it's being collected so ubiquitously. And of course, that would feed into leadership assessments too, but you have to be really careful with data because you don't know what the fantasy is that's driving that, okay? So much of behavior is unconscious, and like I told you earlier, that if you have a meeting and you're looking at the psychodynamics, and let's say you're using an algorithm to look at this, you might make a mistake because if one person in the room is having an affair with another person's spouse in the room, those dynamics are going to be driven by that. And now that's key intelligence, if you're in that room, but no algorithm is going to pick up on that. So these are powerful tools, but ultimately our behavior, inner and outer, is driven by our personality. That is a constant thing we each walk around with.

Andrew Hammond: Just before we move on to the next example with King Philip to the Spartan leaders, I'm just wondering, how do you turn this off, the training that you have, the sensibility? I mean, if your son says -- you mentioned your son earlier, if he says, I'm going on a date with someone I really like, are you like, turn your phone on and I'll listen and I'll tell you what's going on with this person? Or if you meet a new boss, or if you're getting interviewed by the historian from the Spy Museum, are you sitting kind of judging me and Erin just now?

Ursula Wilder: That's a very good question. Okay. The truth is, it's hard to turn it off, and it's this way of looking at the world you're born with to a degree, so you might as well go with it and make it a profession. You could look at it that way. But I also am human, and so I'm emitting all sorts of unconscious quirks and attitudes the same as everyone else. When you're a graduate student with other psychologists, you quickly learn that it gets tiresome, as we all said, analyzing each other, because we are no more aware of our unconscious than any other person is. So what you do is, when you're on task, you enjoy the craft and you're doing it. You're using the tradecraft, you're using the focus, you're using the knowledge, but you also turn it off so that you can enjoy the people around you. It's an occupational hazard to not be able to do that. You know how I said paranoia is a political disease? Well, voyeurism is a psychological disease. All you do is watch, but you never live, right? So you have to know your own limits, you have to love what you do, and another way to manage it is to make sure -- I make sure that I, for example, assess psychologically healthy leaders every time I do one who is more broken. If all you do is focus on the Stalins and Hitler, then your baseline will get thrown off and you'll forget that there are really magnificent leaders. So you have to take care of yourself that way, but ultimately, my son will tell you that he learned long ago to tell me to knock it off and just be his mom. And so, you know, there it is, and I do that.

Andrew Hammond: Okay. That sounds like good advice. [ Music ]

Erin Dietrick: In the last interlude, we spoke about de Gaulle, the leader of Free France, the government in exile in London during World War II. The symbol of Free France was the Cross of Lorraine, which looks almost like a regular cross but with an extra horizontal bar. So one vertical bar and two horizontal, usually the top bar being shorter than the lower. The name refers to the region Lorraine in northeastern France, which has borders with Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg, a location that has meant Lorraine has been at the crossroads of modern European conflict consistently. Germany twice annexed Lorraine from France, first in 1871 after German unification, which came to an end after World War I, and then again during World War II when it was occupied by the Germans until the liberation of France. While its roots are much older, the annexation of Lorraine by an ascendant Germany in the modern period is where much of the Cross of Lorraine's power as a symbol of resistance comes from. [ Music ]

Andrew Hammond: Well, let's move on to this next example, which is fascinating. So a historical example. So the Spartans respond to a letter from Philip II of Macedon. So tee this one up for us. Why did you choose this one?

Ursula Wilder: Okay. So Philip II of Macedon was Alexander the Great's father. And as we said earlier, he was consolidating Greece, all of Greece under his kingship. And a very good warrior, truly, he was one of the first to use military engineers, which Alexander mimicked when he conquered the rest of the known world. So he had a famous holdout, and the famous holdout were the Spartans. And the Spartans are one of the great warrior cultures of the world, okay? At age seven, the boys were given to the state, and the state would train them to be warriors in the rigorous, sometimes deadly, regime of training, including literacy, actually. But they were taught, and they were punished if they didn't follow through. Remember, I talked about analytic style, that very specific tough style? Well, the Spartans were taught a very specific style of communicating. So that's kind of part of what you're seeing here. And I thought this was really interesting, because there's one that is a famous example of communication between Philip, who is trying to get the Spartans in line, and the Spartans, and then the second one that is not so well attributed, but is in the same vein.

Andrew Hammond: In 346 CE before the current era, Philip wrote a letter to the leaders of Sparta, giving them the chance to give up without a fight. Quote, you're advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city. It was a cheeky offer. Sparta had been the dominant fighting force in the ancient Greek world for 300 years. But his letter is chiefly remembered today for the reply that he received from the Spartans. Sparta simply replied, if.

Ursula Wilder: Succinct as can be.

Andrew Hammond: I like that.

Ursula Wilder: If, yeah.

Andrew Hammond: A big if.

Ursula Wilder: Yeah.

Andrew Hammond: A bit if. Philip is reputed to have approached the Spartans on another occasion, writing, quote, should I enter your lands as a friend or as a foe? Close quotes. This time the reply was just as terse, neither. Then he's ultimately assassinated, Alexander takes over. But the postscript is that the Macedonian army never did invade Sparta.

Ursula Wilder: No, they didn't.

Andrew Hammond: So what do you take from that? Well, two words.

Ursula Wilder: Yeah, they're just two words, but so consistent and also defiant, consistent with their succinct way of communicating. But you could almost say they were parodying themselves, okay? And the if has behind it a whole lot of insulting kind of content that they just can't be bothered to say. So it's very consistent with the Spartan culture. Also because of all the domestic turmoil, you'd have to say now they're so defiant, if you were the psychologist to Philip, or it would be more like Aristotle to Philip, right? Assessing how all of this domestic turmoil that Sparta was enduring, internal squabbles hadn't cut their fighting spirit and their vision of who they were. So you'd start with that. And now Alexander the Great would send back -- he couldn't get the Spartans to send warriors which he'd really wanted to conquer in his conquests, okay, in his many, many campaigns of conquests. They refused. The rest of Greece ponied up lawyers -- not lawyers, warriors. So Alexander would send back the armor of captured leaders to be put on display in Greece, okay? And then there'd be a note, this is the armor of so-and-so captured by the glorious fighters of, I'm paraphrasing here, who are with Alexander. And he'd always said, except for Sparta, okay, because they hadn't been used. That shows Alexander's kind of wit, too. And so the psychology behind this is very, very interesting. And we apply it now to Khrushchev versus Kennedy and others.

Andrew Hammond: I mean, you mentioned there like your understanding of who you are, whether that be a collective group like the Spartans or an individual like Alexander the Great. I mean, I'm just wondering, it's really fascinating, how much of the way in which we understand ourselves is determinative of the outcomes that we end up with. So for example, if I think that I wasn't treated very well growing up, I don't have a very good sense of self, I don't think I'm going to make very much of myself, I'm probably going to get by and be okay, then that is what's going to happen. But if I think that, you know, I am amazing and I'm going to do amazing things with my life and I'm going to make lots of money and, you know, lead, et cetera, like how much does that then lead to that outcome or how much of the -- I mean, this is like a $64,000 question, right? But how much does our thinking determine the outcome?

Ursula Wilder: It's a necessary precondition to whatever unfolds, but it's not necessarily sufficient, because events do intervene, so you really need both to understand both. But somebody who has low self-esteem and doesn't think that he or she can account to anything will not try, unless somebody steps in and says, you have something, let's make something of that, and then it changes because the external stepped in, okay? So let me give you a very good example. There have been studies of personality using twins, identical twins separated at birth, and it's uncanny how much their personality and their choices mimic each other, unlike other siblings who are separated at birth and don't have the same overlap, okay? And so the studies have concluded that 50%, 5-0, 50% of personality is inherited, okay? It begins with temperament, but where that goes depends on the nature of the upbringing, okay? So let's talk about Saddam Hussein. His mother rejected him at birth. She wouldn't cradle him, and in that culture, the baby suckles immediately. She just rejected the baby at birth. She was depressed, and he went through an abusive, rejected time with her until about age two. Remember, you're not thinking chronologically even at that age. And was sent off to an uncle who abused him, perhaps sexually, and then he's sent back to another uncle who sees something in him and gets him educated. Saddam Hussein was driven to be educated. He was one of those, he knew he had something, like Lincoln, right? It's funny to say both names together, but they have this vision of themselves. And then he became the Saddam Hussein that we know. Clearly, he had psychopathic features in his personality. He had two sons, Uday and Qusay, if you remember them, they were very disturbed. But they told stories about how their father took them at age seven, which is the age of maturity or first step of maturity in their culture, as a kind of a birthday present to participate in tortures and to kill people in the basements of the dungeons. Now, those who didn't have a chance to become anything other than what they became, that doesn't mean they're not responsible for that. But it's a combination of genetics and circumstances and will and drive, because Lincoln was also abused. Churchill had very serious neglect growing up, what we would call neglect, okay, although it was a standard way of raising children then. His first school experience, he was beaten severely, bruises all over his back and legs. And his nurse finally showed it to his mother, who just quietly moved him to another school. You think of a five-year-old going through that, and yet he became Churchill. And so what carried him through was a beloved nanny who became his mother figure, and he loved her till the end. So it's both, okay? The danger is in saying it's one or the other. It's both. Like chicken and eggs, it's always both.

Andrew Hammond: It's an interplay. I mean, Churchill's a fascinating example, because he said, I remember he said, all men are worms, but I do believe that I am a glow worm.

Ursula Wilder: Yeah.

Andrew Hammond: So even from when he was young, he believed that he was destined for greatness. And he encountered so much, you know, failures. Lincoln's another good example. So many failures along the way, but they have this vision of themself. And I guess for every Lincoln in Churchill, there's probably a thousand people that don't end up manifesting that vision, but for those, they actually did do it.

Ursula Wilder: Well, I would say that world leaders are genuine geniuses, and it's a lonely thing to be a genius. You know you're different. You know you see things differently. You know that you can work with people differently. You know you have gifts.

Andrew Hammond: All four of us are nodding our head.

Ursula Wilder: Yeah.

Andrew Hammond: If you could see us, yeah, we are. Yeah.

Ursula Wilder: Hey, being a genius is not fun. Okay. They really suffer. At one point, Einstein and Freud were in a room together, and they just sat with each other, because Einstein didn't know anything about psychology or psychiatry or neuropsych, and Freud didn't know anything about physics. But they were just so comfortable with each other because of the burdens that they carried by being so lonely. Because when you have that, Churchill knew that he was a glowworm because he was. I mean, he just was. Lincoln knew that he had the mind he had. He almost killed himself and drove himself into depression because he knew he had a mind that was unique. So when you're dealing with world leaders, you're dealing with outliers, the good ones and the evil ones. And we always have to remember that. But we're also dealing with humans, and we have to remember that as well.

Andrew Hammond: Okay, so let's wrap up here. I think it would be quite interesting for our listeners to know, say they want to go into this field, what should they do? I imagine there's probably not like thousands and thousands of jobs for people that do this. But if they're interested in this more generally, or if they genuinely do want to go into the intelligence community to do this, what do they do? I'm assuming they have to get a PhD in clinical psychology to start with.

Ursula Wilder: Right. If you want to do pure leadership assessment and be part of that unit, then you do have to have a degree in psychology that's relevant to assessing world leaders. So that can be developmental psychology, so how people develop through the lifespan. It can be clinical psychology, such as myself. It can be social psychology or industrial organizational psychology is useful as well. The good news is -- well, the bad news is it takes a decade to get there. But the good news is that there are other jobs, okay, as well. So that's to do the psychology assessments, okay? But to be a leadership analyst, you can go a different route. Now, you have to remember you'll be working with psychologists to do the psychological part, but you get to do the political part. And every great biographer -- I say to people, if you want to understand what this feels like, pick a leader that you love or love to hate and find a very good, it's got to be a good biography on that leader and read it. They all say, well, psychology doesn't help, and then every other word they use is psychology, which is kind of funny. They've read a lot of bad psychology and they don't want to ever go there. But that is more akin to how you would be thinking if you were going to be a leadership analyst. And having a job in political theory and economic, really anything that gets you in the leadership analytic track would get you doing this. But some move on to other things because analysis, at least at the agency, you rotate through different types of work or some just love it so much that they stay there. Wow, that's really, really fascinating. And just briefly to close out, where could they go just so that they can make this decision or so they can educate themselves more? Is there somewhere they can go to, is there like a V book that's on this, or I know you mentioned Gerald Post. Gerald Post is my dissertation advisor along with Lynn Offerman, and he is the classic psychiatrist on this topic. And some of my work too is oftentimes used now, my unclassified work. You can always tell when the semester has started, because people start reaching out to me on LinkedIn because they've been assigned my work. So any of his works, particularly though the one on illness and leadership and what that does and the dynamics around that, that's a true classic. There are just so many. I mean, Eric Hoffer, he was a longshoreman and a farm worker and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his writings on politics. And he's written the book on charisma in 1958, I think. So that would be a place to go. If you want to learn more about the different types of job at the agency in particular, I would suggest the website. The website describes the specific jobs and what you would be doing. Okay. So that's just a place to get some practical information. I think it's CIA.gov, CIA.gov. And no, we don't monitor people who come to it unless they make threats. So don't make a threat.

Andrew Hammond: It's pretty easy to find, isn't it, the website.

Ursula Wilder: Yeah.

Andrew Hammond: Just put in CIA. If you go to the Culinary Institute of America, you've reached the wrong place.

Ursula Wilder: Yeah. That's right. Culinary Institute. We sometimes, you know, do that ourselves. So for a while there, they were working in our agency dining room. It was fun.

Andrew Hammond: Oh really?

Ursula Wilder: CIA and CIA. We had experts there. Well, thanks ever so much for your time. This has been fascinating and stimulating and could easily go on for another four hours, but I think we've done a pretty good job. I think so too. And I really enjoyed chatting with you Andrew.

Andrew Hammond: Thank you so much, Ursula.

Erin Dietrick: Thanks for listening to this week's episode of "SpyCast". Please follow us on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Coming up next week on "SpyCast", we'll begin our month-long series on James Bond to celebrate the International Spy Museum's new temporary exhibit, Bond in Motion. If you have feedback, you can reach us by email at spycast@spymuseum.org or on Twitter at @intlspycast. If you go to our page, thecyberwire.com /podcasts/spycast, you can find links to further resources, detailed show notes, and full transcripts. I'm Erin Dietrick and your host is Dr. Andrew Hammond. The rest of the team involved in the show is Mike Mincy, Memphis Vaughn III, Emily Coletta, Emily Renz, Afua Anakwa, Ariel Samuel, Elliott Pelzman, Trey Hester, and Jen Eiben. This show is brought to you from the home of the world's preeminent collection of intelligence and espionage-related artifacts, the International Spy Museum.