This week I spoke with Dr. Lawrence Spinelli, who is acting president of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) which helps U.S. businesses invest overseas, fosters economic development in new and emerging markets and supports U.S. foreign policy. Prior to assuming this position, Spinelli was OPIC’s public affairs director. He previously spent more than a decade on Capitol Hill as a policy adviser and communications director for three members of Congress, including then senator and now Vice President Joseph Biden.
Q: What leadership lessons did you learn from working on Capitol Hill?
A: Vice President Biden had the most incredible ability. He would go to the Senate floor and recount his experience as a defense attorney when he would tell a jury after many days of trial, ‘You’ve heard all of these terrible things about my client and maybe you don’t want him to date your daughter. But that’s not really the issue here. The issue is whether or not he is, beyond a reasonable doubt, guilty. So keep your eye on the ball.’ He would use that story to say to the Senate, ‘You’ve heard all of this stuff for days and days of debate. Put it all aside. Let’s focus on what really is the essential point.’ There is not a day since I stopped working for him, but particularly during my year and a half as OPIC’s acting president, that I have not heard him in my head, saying, ‘Larry, keep your eye on the ball.’