‘Open Secret: The Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5’ by Stella Rimington

I love crime stories, detective books and spy novels. I’ve read quite a few of Stella Rimington’s novels featuring Liz Carlyle and so it was about time that I found out more about the author herself. So here are my favourite quotes from ‘Open Secret: The Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5‘.

Of course there is not that much detail about her time at MI5 – the secret service needs to honour its name. But what does come across is the story of a woman not afraid to disturb the status quo and who realised that, to gain the public’s confidence you have to pay less attention to being “secret” and more to how you go about your “service”. More transparency in how MI5 operated seemed to be the only way to gain the public’s trust.

An inspiring read from someone who, no doubt, made life easier for all the women who followed in her footsteps. If nothing else, read her introduction. 

open secret book

“I was not socially at ease, except with my own friends, I had no small talk and I found meeting new people difficult and embarrassing.”
(I could have written this one myself…)

“It was a far cry from my appearances in St Joan at school as the Executioner, when even though I did not have a speaking part, I found my time on stage so traumatic that I had to be provided with a stool to sit on, in case I fainted. I was probably the only executioner so weak that he has been unable to stand up.”

“It is vital not to over-supervise, to ensure that decisions are delegated to the appropriate level, so that staff will not lose their initiative.”

“The fact that I was a female had almost ceased to be relevant to the progress of my career by this time.”

“It was clear that dealing with the building industry was just as tricky as dealing with the KGB.”

“There are still too many around who appear to believe that in order to lead, it is necessary to know the answers to all questions immediately; that listening is a sign of weakness. Such people have little idea how to lead by delegation, how to place power and responsibility at the appropriate level or how to use the skills of the frequently very talented and enthusiastic teams they have assembled around them.”

“It does seem to me to be a characteristic of contemporary thinking that when something goes wrong, rather than addressing ourselves to the reason for failure, we instinctively rush to add another layer of regulation and oversight.”

“Excessive secrecy harms the position of our vital security services rather than protecting it. Being more open is a risk that has to be taken in the 21st century, if the support and understanding of the public are to be obtained.”

All quotes from Stella Rimington’s ‘Open Secret: The Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5′. Kindle Locations 775-776, 1304-1306, 2882-2883,3519-3520, 3617, 4324-4327, 4382-4383,  4459-4460 Published by Random House. Kindle Edition.


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