“Leadership is not a talent or a gift. It’s a choice. It’s not complex, but it’s very hard.”, General Stanley McChrystal explains to a packed auditorium of 600 at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. McChrystal shares his perspective on leadership and influence discussing the importance of understanding culture, leading by example, building trust, and creating a common goal within a team. McChrystal is a four-star general and former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan. He also served as the former leader of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
The video is 51 minutes long, but is well worth it. One of the common theme in the whole presentation is that its about doing things. Its not management, its leadership. General McChrystal talks a lot about the American Civil Rights Movement, one of whose leader was Martin Luther King Jr. he adopted the strategy of M.K. Gandhi, the father of India. I am big fan of Gandhi, actually I was born on October 2nd the same date as Gandhi. I know, I know I should be old now… coming back to the video at about 23:58, General McChrystal alludes to the American Civil Rights Movement as the most disciplined strategy of non-violent movement that succeeded. I am not sure if that is accurate because the Indian Independence from the British was won through the same strategy. Every movement needs inspirational leaders, Leaders lead and they don’t follow opinion. It is important to involve people and being inclusive. The heart of leadership is Communication, keeping everyone informed, being transparant and open. There is one common theme in all these movements, Truth, I say there is no other way to build relationships. I tell entrepreneurs, you should be prepared to play the truth game, because you cannot fool yourself into building a business. The same is true when you want to lead change. The title of Gandhi’s autobiography is “The Story of My Experiments with Truth”. Just like leadership, live truthfully is very hard, I know I struggle with it everyday and I work very hard to be honest with myself.
In addition to Truth, I want to emphasize the importance of inclusion, General McChrystal gives the example of him being part of a basketball team and he never got to play, the 15 seconds he got he made one shot and still cherishes the perfect 100% shooting record, however he never felt any passion for his team, he could not contribute… that made him just another observer of the team. I think everyone has daily opportunities to be inclusive. Lets strive hard to live by that principle. I am big fan of Dr.Steven Covey, I have written about his work before, Dr.Covey is the author of the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “The 8th Habit – Find your voice and help others to find theirs”. I may have listened to these books about 100 times, and everytime I listen to them I get a pearl of a wisdom out of it. I highly recommend it. Those are books about Leadership.
- GENERAL MCCHRYSTAL: Here’s What Does And Doesn’t Work In An Organization (businessinsider.com)
- When the Tide Turned for the Taliban (waronterrornews.typepad.com)
- Marine Didn’t Get The McChrystal Memo (pinkbananaworld.com)