Legends & Losers

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026: American 4-Star General Stanley McChrystal on Confidence, War & The Paradox of Leadership

May 2, 2017

The army is overweighted in military capability but underweighted in the other things. What are the lessons that can improve this? What can the military teach businesses? What is the paradox of senior leadership? On this episode we are joined by the legendary General Stanley McChrystal, who shares his life journey, his military career and his company.

When you don’t have a discipline in a system, and there’s not a way to fail, then it’s hard for anyone to really succeed. -Stanley McChrystal

Takeaways

  1. When you become Captain you get to discover if the work is for you, and if you’re good at it.
  2. Military training has always been skewed to the war fighting tasks, and not the softer, community skills that are also necessary.
  3. General McChrystal asks soldiers “if I told you you couldn’t go home until we win, what would you do differently to what you’re doing now?”
  4. The paradox of senior leadership is displaying confidence while also being honest.

At the start of the show, General Stanley McChrystal shares how becoming a grandfather has impacted him, and the lessons it taught him about fatherhood and having a career. “When we say work-life balance, I don’t think we mean it on a daily basis.” Next he shared on how he came up in the army, and how he joined the US Army at a time where it was looking for its identity. We also talked about why younger soldiers aren’t affected by the need to make things look good, his book and the work his company does. Towards the end of the show, we talked about the importance of discipline.

We also discussed;

  • How soldiers develop bonds with the people they are helping
  • Leading soldiers as a general officer
  • The paradox of very senior leadership
  • If information technology drives more transparency

Senior leaders walk the line between not BSing while also conveying confidence to the people who look up to them. The best path to take is to be as honest as you can all the time - so your credibility never comes into question. In military and in business, it’s important to focus on the human element as much as you think of the capabilities and technical side of things. Technology is something we can leverage to create understanding. We tend to hate the people we really don’t know, so the right tools can make us a better society.

Guest Bio

Stanley A. McChrystal was born on August 14, 1954, in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. In 1990, he became action officer for Army Special Operations, working in Joint Special Operations Command. In 1991, he saw action in the Desert Shield and Desert Storm tours. He was commander of the Joint Special Operations Command from 2003 to 2008. He became top commander in Afghanistan in 2009. Stan founded McChrystal Group in January 2011 to deliver innovative leadership solutions to American businesses in order to help them transform and succeed in challenging, dynamic environments. As Founder and a Partner, he advises senior executives at multinational corporations on navigating complex change and building stronger teams. Go to McChrystalGroup.com for more information.

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