Stanley McChrystal: Leadership is a Choice
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Stanley McChrystal: Leadership is a Choice

[SOUND] Joel thanks for overly kind words,
and thanks for your all for letting me be here
today. As Joe mentioned I’m one of about 200 four star generals, and I’m sure I’m in the top
196. I wanna ask you to do something for me
though. I’ve gotten to speak since I retired at
some amazing places. And I went to the UK and spoke at Oxford. And that’s an amazing experience, so I
went in and they took me in a historic room, a lot of polished wood
and stuff like that, and right before you go in, they show you a
picture of Teddy Roosevelt, speaking right from where you’re gonna
speak, just to remind you’re not Teddy Roosevelt. So I go in to speak and I’ve, I’ve done a
little prep and I think I’m gonna do pretty well but, right in front of me, as soon as I started talking, a person
falls asleep. And if you’ve ever tried to speak
publicly, and right in front of where your gaze is a person’s
almost snoring. [LAUGH] It’s really distracting, so I
don’t think, I haven’t been invited back. So, and that was Annie, my wife. [LAUGH] So, if anybody here, could help me
just kinda poke her if you see her nodding off. That, that would be good. But, you know, she’s been special to me,
and as Joel mentioned, you know, go through a military career there are points
in life that are pretty, pretty big deals. And for, in the Army when you get selected
for brigadier general, when you’re promoted to
that it’s a big step. Get about 24, 25 years in service. It’s a big step. And it’s designed to pump your ego up. And I was a systems division commander for
an old friend of mine. So, I’m in this ceremony with my parents present, Annie’s parents present, a bunch
of friends. An old friend of mine pins this general
star on me, so I am feeling very good about me. And so, I slide up next to Annie and I go,
Annie in your wildest dreams, did you ever think you’d be standing next to me as a brigadier
general? And she said Stan, you’re not in my wildest
dreams. [LAUGH] So, [SOUND] yeah. So, my ego is well in check, and it’s,
it’s right there, so. Thanks thanks very much for letting me be
here. What I thought we’d talk about a little
bit today is leadership, because it’s something that we
all know a lot about. We all know most of the right answers. But, we as a group, and as a, nation, tend
to struggle getting the answers right. So, sometimes we gotta set, and look at
very strong statements. A lot of people say this now. And if you believe that, whether you do or
not, you’d have to believe this. And then we gotta look inside, because we go
okay, what would cause that, why would that be
the case? Or is that really true? No, we’re great leaders. But, then you look at some of the things that have happened over the last even
decade, some of the challenges we’ve faced and you ask,
whether we’ve as effectively dealt with them as we would
like to. And it’s arguable whether we did. So you come to the question okay, why? Have we gotten stupid? Have we gotten lazy? Have we gotten selfish? What has caused us, to be so concerned
about the level of leadership in America? And I’ve got a few thoughts. First off, I don’t think we’ve gotten
stupid. I don’t think we’ve gotten soft. I don’t think we’ve gotten of bad
intentions. I think we still wanna lead well. But, I think what has happened is we had
many, many years in which one model, and one style of
leadership was rewarded with success. The things that worked well, worked well
for generations, and, so they were reinforced by people wanting
to use those more. And that’s natural, you do what works. But in fact, as things start to change, sometimes you find they don’t work as
well. Sometimes you get more competition we do. As Tom Friedman will tell you about the
world being flat it’s much closer than it used
to be. We’re not competing with the people next
door, we’re competing with everyone now. Also things happen faster. We communicate faster. It all goes at a speed. You can’t be in a front office and let
things come up at the speed of paper, through a
bureaucracy and be relevant anymore. They’re more complex. They’ve always been more, they’ve always
been complex, but I’d argue it’s probably more than
ever. And you know when you tell everybody to do
something. If you’re the great leader in the front
office, they don’t always do it with quite the speed, or dedication
that you wish they were. The discipline of a lot of things in our
society, look at our political parties, don’t respond like we think they
did, or like we think they should. And so what I think we’ve got now is a
gap. We had a very successful model, or at least it was successful for many people
and suddenly we’ve got a requirement that’s different
from what we had, and so it’s not working so well. Now this was something that I think I personally experienced in my career in the
military. And so maybe I can put it in that context. For me, where it began. In April of 1980, I was a young special forces officer, a Green Beret, in
Thailand. And thousands of miles away from where I
was, something happened that changed the rest
of my career. And I had no idea, at the time, that it
would. And what occurred was, in the deserts of Iran, a mission called Eagle Claw which
was President Carter’s directed rescue attempt, to bring
Americans captured, held hostage in the American Embassy in
Tehran failed. [BLANK_AUDIO] And it failed very publicly, and failed
very painfully. What happened was, the raid force went in,
and two groups, it went in in helicopters. And it went in in C130 aircraft. And on the ground, the helicopter
maintenance got to the point where they had to abort the mission, and
that was disappointing. Then as they were moving to pull that
force out a C130 fixed wing aircraft and a helicopter collided, produced a
fireball, killed eight Americans, and caused the mission to have to be
aborted of course publicly now. The tragic loss of life, the failure of an
American mission to bring Americans home. And put this in context for you, this was
about five years after America had pulled out of
Vietnam, in great frustration. And it was four years after Israel had pulled off the raid at Entebbe, with
tremendous success. So what happened was, you had America. The forces that I was a part of called, to
do a National mission and end in failure. It was extraordinarily important. It was extraordinarily important not just,
because what happened, but, because what people did
about it. To a degree I would argue that, had that
mission been successful, America’s special
operations forces now which you read and see so much about, wouldn’t be what
they are, because people would have been satisfied
with the status quo. Instead, what happened in that community
is people said, never again. We’ll never be called on and not be able,
to do what the nation asks us to do and needs us
to do. And, so a change began. And it started by taking some units which
has existed, and some units which were stood up, very specialized
forces like the Seals, Rangers, et cetera. And those forces were honed for the
missions that people thought were gonna be required, and very quickly
they became world class. I mean, they became as good or better than
what anyone had in the world. And they became successful in a number of places around the world, Panama, Grenada,
other places. They had extraordinary success in doing
what the nation asked. [BLANK_AUDIO] But they were also stove-piped. They tended to grow separately. When they grew separately, as a lot of
cohesive organizations do, they tend to become a
bit tribal. I mean, look at any organization that’s
got great pride in itself, any team, any
University. Any element for turning it feels great,
you tend to become, so cohesive that nobody’s quite as
good as you. So you’re not really comfortable dealing
with anybody, but you, so we had this very effective, but very
tribal organization. And to solve this problem a headquarters
is created called Joint Special Operations Command, and this was
to create a team of teams, to take these organizations and make them
into a cohesive organization that could do whatever the nation did, and it
was very, very effective. Extraordinary so, but it was, also,
narrowly focused. It was designed for hostage rescue. It was designed for going after people like the Palestinian Liberation
Organization. Very finite challenges to specific
problems that the nation faced. And that was fine, until things changed. Actually things changed a bit earlier than
we think on 9/11, because although a lot of people don’t realize it, Al Qaeda
declared war on the United States in 1996. Most Americans didn’t know that. Most Americans think it began with the
attack on the world trade towers. On September 11th, when in fact we had a
different challenge in the world. Lots of causes for it, room for about
three more long-term discussions. But it was a different requirement for a force designed for counter-terrorist
operations. Suddenly we had something that was
culturally different than what we had faced before. And it was difficult to understand. It didn’t have a finite doctrine that was
as a clear as some of the previous organizations that
we structured ourselves against. And we geographically dispersed it. It wasn’t in one place. It was in a bunch of places. And it moved around all the time. [BLANK_AUDIO] It also had a tendency to change
everything it did would be, for a very short period of time, if you dealt with Al Qaeda in
associated movements one month, three months later,
it was extraordinarily different. And so you had to constantly update your
thinking on how you dealt with it. And they operated differently. If you’re old enough to remember or read
about the terrorist operations in the 1970’s and the
1980’s, they tended to be high profile things like hijackings
or hostage taking, and then there would be a series of
demands made. And the demands would say release people from prison, and we’ll release the
hostages. Or, put a certain amount of money, or do
something like that. This was an era in which terrorists didn’t
do that. They made a demand like get all Western
forces out of the Middle East which was probably ill
illogical. Or, at least, not gonna happen. But then instead of making hostages and
making demands, they simply kill people. They crashed aircraft into towers. They blew things up and then they looked
you in the eye and said, It’s a tough world, how do
you like that? So very different challenge faced us. So there’s a gap. There’s a very narrow, very effective,
focused capacity against a very wide, very different kind
of problem. And it took a different approach to deal
with it. And the approach is probably pretty common
sense. There were a number of organizations that
had to become part of the solution. They were a whole of government approach. Different intelligent agencies, Department
of State, FBI and what not, all had to become a part of this. And partner Nations as well, if we were going to understand and deal with the
problem. So, that’s pretty straightforward, just
get all of these entities, bring them into a single team, and go accomplish
a complex, requirement. [BLANK_AUDIO] If you’ve ever been a part of this, I’ve
never seen that happen much. Because, that’s just not the way that
people operate. It works on paper even on a key note
slide, but this took us several years to pull of, because
there were some real challenges. First off, we had a counter terrorist task
force that had all these forces in it, and I was the leader, but I
wasn’t in command. I commanded the military part of it, but
everybody else was there on a handshake. So, everybody else was there basically on
a volunteer basis from their organization or individually, so you
can’t tell them what to do. I didn’t have statutory control. I couldn’t hire them. I couldn’t fire them. I couldn’t give them a pay raise. I couldn’t give them a bonus. I couldn’t do anything like that, so
they’re there working as part of this task force. But I don’t have the kind of coercive
control, or reinforcing things, that we normally attach to management or commanding
control. So, it required us to lead by influence. Now, if you think military, you think we
don’t lead by influence, we lead by tell everybody to do this and
everybody does that. That’s never been the truth in the
military. But in this kind of organization, it was
particularly not gonna be the truth. So, you had to convince people that what
they, you wanted them to do was something that they wanted to do,
and it was in their interest. And so, we came upon something that was
very different from what we expected. The real solution to this, was something
we came up with, called shared consciousness
and purpose. And if you think about, I grew up with
sort of, barrel chested, big knuckled commandos, and you throw something like
that up there, you’ll get your ass kicked. You know. [LAUGH] So. You had to go back and remind them what
it’s about, cuz this is what it’s about. It’s about winning. And I’m not talking just military. If you’re in a business, it’s about
winning what you do. If you’re an educator it’s about educating
kids. There’s some standard of winning in
whatever you do, and that’s what it’s about. So the first thing if you think about,
with winning, it’s results. You gotta figure out what results you are
and you gotta identify them. In our case, we had to prevent Al Qaeda
attacks. The second, we had to be effective. And that meant, for us, very precise
operations. The kind you’ve gotten used to seeing, the
raid that got Osama Bin Laden, extraordinarily
effective in its execution. In this case shade would be on the right
target at the right time, every time. But suddenly, you had to do this not once
every three months, you had to do this, ten
times a night. Because it had to be scalable. The size of the problem that Al Qaeda and
associated movements, gave us was extraordinarily different, than anything we’d focused
before. We were an organization that was designed,
to be a very deliberate in its planning and
execution, been very successful. But instead suddenly we had to do that on
a speed, that didn’t allow you to have centralized control of
operations, in the way that you were used to. This is one month in Iraq, October, 2007. That is just key leaders captured or
killed. The scope of violence at that point in
Iraq was such that, that level of effort was
required. [BLANK_AUDIO] So how do you get there, how do you do
that? The solution’s pretty clear. In a very complex, constantly changing
environment, you gotta be operating at the highest level ever, faster than
anyone ever even thought about it. Now how do you get that mission statement
from somebody? Do cold fusion by morning. [BLANK_AUDIO] So what’s the, the approach to fixing
this? How do you get there? [BLANK_AUDIO] This is the first, reflexive way most
organizations, and ours did. We’re gonna do what we already do, we’re
just gonna do it better. We’re gonna become the best shots, the best pilots, the best everything in the
world. And we’re gonna execute so well, and we’re
gonna work harder than ever before. The problem with this is there is a limit
to physics. You can get better and better and better. At a certain point you can’t get that much
better. The the assembly line can’t get that much
more efficient and faster. Some other way has got to be found. And, this is what we came up with. Shared consciousness and purpose, we
didn’t put it in a big, fuzzy, red ball.>>[LAUGH].>>For obvious reasons. So, we spring this on people, and this is
great. Cuz, you know, that’s the obvious answer,
right? And then that’s the obvious question. I got it boss. We’ll do that, and oh by the way what is
it? So what do we think it is? This is what we think it is, or what I
think it is. It’s everybody understanding everything. Obviously that’s an unobtainable standard,
but everybody having all the same information. Not to draw the same conclusions, but so
that everybody has all the pieces of the puzzle and the
combined wisdom. Gives you the opportunity not to be
dependent upon a single person or, a few people, to direct
this organization. And then the second part of it is all
these people across the organization, feel like
they own the mission. If you ask what people what their mission is, it’s not, hey I’m here cutting this
stone. It’s I’m part of a team building a
cathedral. And it’s really a big change, in many
organizations. And it was big change in our organization. So we came up with really breaking it into
three parts. The first was designing it and that’s
understanding what you’re doing. We’ll talk quickly about it, what. Executing, and how do you actually do it. That’s where most organizations, struggle. And then finally, leading it because
that’s the most important but the most difficult
part. So think about defining winning. We went to Afghanistan in the fall of
2001. We’ve been there ever since, and yet if I
asked everyone in this room what the definition of
winning in Afghanistan is. We’d probably get many, many different
answers. When I went there in the summer of 2009 to take over, I had different mission
statements from different headquarters. I was a NATO General, and I was a US
Commander. And I had two different mission
statements. Which is great, just pick the one you
want. You’re always gonna to be in trouble. So you gotta define winning and then the second is, you gotta rely on your strategy
in. We had 46 nations in Afghanistan. The bottom line is, everybody’s gotta
understand not just where you’re going, but how you’re gonna
get there. And if you think about any organization,
if you don’t have an agreement on how you’re gonna get
there, you’re gonna struggle, en-route. And then defining team. What’s your team, for something? Typically when we define team we want to
say it’s the people who wear the uniform we
wear. It’s the people who operate in the same
organization. It’s the people whose paycheck are signed
by the same person. People in the same school, same hat, same
sweatshirt, you name it. But I’ll argue that’s way too small. The team is whatever community is required
to get the task done. So if you think about it, the team
required to put this talk on today, the business school,
obviously me. Somebody had to get me here. Somebody had to turn the lights on,
somebody’s got to produce the power for this, somebody’s got to do
all the different parts. I’d argue that’s the team. And it’s much more complex than you think
and one of the problems is, everybody’s got to understand they’re on
the team, and feel like a part of it. So unlike just the group that is on the
target, all the people, the Medevac, the people flying, predator UAVs
and whatnot, they’re just as important as the
people. Doing the actual task because if they’re not successful, the endeavor’s not
successful. We’ve got to reward and motivate people as
part of that wider team. [BLANK_AUDIO] Then building a network. We talk a lot about building networks and
that’s building, typically we confuse that with
just the information technology. We build connectivity to everyone, we give everybody a cellphone, iPad,
computer, whatever it is we’re gonna use, and we say, okay,
we’ve got a network. Well in reality, you’ve got the potential
for a network. A network is that connection that actually
occurs that does something. Do people communicate, do people,
collaborate, do people operate more effectively because of
that connectivity? And I would say that, that’s the goal but
they don’t automatically. You’ve gotta foster and force
communication. This is a picture of Mike Bloomberg. That’s where he works in New York City. That’s a place called a, the bullpen. It’s a room a little smaller than this,
and he sits in the middle. He doesn’t have a private office. This is a billionaire mayor, of America biggest city, and he doesn’t have an
office. And you go in and talk to him, you say,
well, where do you really meet people? He goes, right here. And if people wanna talk to him, they talk to him right there, and it passes
information. And it’s extraordinarily effective. There he is. [BLANK_AUDIO] Then, you gotta do what you say is
important. We talked about discipline and pret,
prioritizing the effort. This is, a tool we used, it’s a
synchronization matrix. The bottom line is, if you take most people’s schedule, and you say, first you
ask them, what’s important to you in your life
or your job, and they, they list it out. Then you take their calendar or their
daily schedule and said, where do you actually spend your
time? And you’ll find, we’re very, challenged,
to spend our time against what we think is
important. Similarly our money or anything else we’ve
got, to spend our real assets against what’s
important to us. And it takes rigorous discipline to make
that occur. [BLANK_AUDIO] Then you gotta lead this thing. You gotta build relationships. There’s a picture here, of two gentlemen. President LeClerc, obviously, of South
Africa, and Nelson Mandela. Now they had 2 organizations. A white apartheid government, and the
African National Congress, and they were the leaders of organizations that
didn’t want to come together. Those two organizations were polarized,
and it was producing violence and it was likely to produce a lot more
violence. So you had 2 leaders, who had to make the
personal decision. To pull themselves into a personal relationship, at great risk to themselves
politically and even physically, so that their organizations would be pulled toward the
center. Now my mind that’s leadership right there. Because they led not only their
organizations they led the nation, but they did it through a
personal relationship. And these are not two guys who met in a
sports bar, and hung out. One had to let the other out of prison, so
that they could build a relationship. Extraordinarily, challenging, but
extraordinarily important. Something that I’m very interested in is
the, the American Civil Rights Movement. My family’s from the South, and I got to
watch it as a boy. And it was an extraordinary strategy. This is one of the few movements that ever followed a disciplined strategy, of
non-violent protests, that was successful. And it was a great strategy, and it was
disciplined for people. But it didn’t succeed just because of
that. It took an inspirational leader. In fact, leaders. We think of Martin Luther King, but
they’re actually more than, one person. But it took extraordinarily inspirational
leaders, who were willing to stand up and take that role. [BLANK_AUDIO] People who are willing to realize that
leaders actually lead. They don’t follow opinion. And there’s the requirement to change. In combat, if you don’t change, you pay
price. If you’re at Liebman Brothers, and you
don’t pay a price, you get a cardboard box. [BLANK_AUDIO] So, the organization either learns, and
adapts, or it’s gone. [BLANK_AUDIO] So, what is this? It’s shared consciousness and purpose. This is, it’s not a cycle that happens in sequence, it’s a height, cycle that
happens all the time. At the heart of it, it’s communication. Without a doubt, it’s more than
communication, it’s really leadership. And then in reality and this is what scares people when you actually talk about
it. It’s culture change. Because why do people, form a culture? Because it’s comfortable and for them it
works. And why do they defend it? Because it’s worked for them. So now as we go forward to what we call this now is CrossLead, but it’s really
some common sense. Forms of leadership. Now I want to talk just about a few
leadership intangibles. Then we’ll open it up for discussion. Because, there’s an awful lot of this that
is enduring. But it’s worth talking about. That’s my only, Rowan poet quote. It’s the only one I know. But it’s also important because if you
think about leadership. Think about people who’ve actually
experienced it, and had challenges. If someone cruised on to success from birth, they’re probably not going to have
learned as much along the way as someone who’s had
to climb over a number of things. In business, politics, you name it. So let’s talk about some of these. First is your personal interactions. [BLANK_AUDIO] You are, as a leader, extraordinarily
important. You don’t think of it. We’re not raised to have big egos. When I was young, I never thought, I
thought of myself as any other of the knuckleheads, and I was,
and I still am. But when I was a battalion commander I used to write personal notes, and one
time. I wrote a note to some wives, in the unit, that Andy had recommend I do because
they’d done a lot of good work for it, and went over to their quarters, and one of the notes
was framed. It was a handwritten note, just a thank
you note, and they had it framed on the wall, the
wife did. And you suddenly realize, how important
thanking people are, is, and how important you as a leader can
be. You can have that impact. It doesn’t mean you think you’re a cool
person. But it does mean, you can touch people,
and you should do that. So every time you have interactions,
you’ve gotta figure out, how can I get this right? And you may have 150 in a day. And if you’re a senior leader, for me, the
litmus test I always told people was. If you talk to someone and they’re gonna
go home that night and tell their spouse about the
conversation, then you’re a senior leader. And every comment you make to someone
matters because if you’re, flip, or you’re tired, or you’re cranky or whatever,
they’re gonna go home and tell their spouse that. But if you’re positive and upbeat and, and
do the kinds of things you wanna do as a leader,
they’re gonna do that. And that’s what you want to be. But your interactions are hard. I remember standing next to the, the
hospital bed in the center and that young Afghan soldier
had lost both legs. And guess what? He’s not gonna to get the kind of medical care there, that we give our
veterans here. He gets, pretty good medical care but then
he goes back out into society. He doesn’t get the kind of prosthesis that
we would give our forces cuz they can’t
afford it. This kid asked me if he could, if we could get him legs so he could go back into the
fight. [BLANK_AUDIO] So your personal interactions, not only
affect them, but if you’re human, they affect
you. Then there’s time and energy management,
you’ve only got a certain amount. These are two brothers that worked for me
for a number of years. This is their typical pose. [BLANK_AUDIO] There’s only so much of you, and you can’t
create any more. You can’t drink energy drink and get three
more hours out of the day. You can try that for a while, but pretty
soon what you’ll find is you run out and the people around
you fall down. So suddenly you gotta do a couple things. One, you gotta realize you’re human, and
the second, you gotta realize that people around you
are human. And you gotta take care of them just like
you take care of yourself. Obviously I did a good job with them. You’re gonna work up and out as well. We all get very comfortable dealing with
the people that work for us. Because they typically are gonna be,
cheerier and more pleasant to us because we pay them or, we rate them or
whatever. But you’re gonna have to work up and out. In many cases, as you get more senior, the
most important thing you do for people below you is to work well
with the people above you. And you owe it to ’em. You owe it to your, bosses and your peers to keep them informed, to develop the kind
of relationship. But every once in a while, you owe it to
them to just reach up, and say hey, thanks, you’re
doing a good job. And we think of that as being a sycophant,
or sucking up. No, sometimes it’s just senior people
supporting each other, because if, unless you’re not human,
you’re gonna need that. People ask me, when do I lead by example? I’ll tell you you’re leading by example
every moment of every day. Either a good example or a bad example,
but you are. People watch everything you do. They don’t watch just when you’re up on stage giving the talk they watch
everything else. If you double park your car out there when
it’s not allowed, come in give a great talk,
and then other people say that, that’s gonna get
out there and pretty soon it’s gonna be that sucker who
double parks. Hugely important. The guy on the left, I was talking to a British NCO he’d just gone into the
Helmand River valley December, 2009, had lost his
brother a few months prior in Iraq when I was there. So, as you’re dealing with people like
that, you’re showing them, not just that you
care, but you’re showing you’re willing to be in
helmet with them. You’re willing to be there when it’s late,
when it’s dangerous, when it’s cold, whatever it is people don’t
like, you’re willing to do that. And in inclusion, what’s most important? I played junior varsity basketball when I
was in high school at one point. And, I was like the seventh guy on about a
10 or 12 man team. But, he only played about six guys. So the whole year I got in a game one
time, for about 20 seconds. I got a shot off and I hit it. I had the highest shooting percentage in
the team. I haven’t gotten any phone calls asking me
to the NBA, but, but the funny thing about it is, when we drove to games I wasn’t
excited, cuz I knew I wasn’t gonna play. And when we won, I wasn’t excited or happy
and when we lost I wasn’t upset. Because I wasn’t invested in it like I
wanted to be. I wanted to be desperately. I wanted to have those feelings, but I
didn’t. Now think about it in your organization if
you don’t share information if you don’t make people feel a part of it, are
they gonna celebrate the big win? I don’t think not unless they are
different from what I was. It’s extraordinarily important to make
people feel like they are part of the whole and there are a lot of ways you
can do it. But the first thing is just tell them. Just bring them in. Just trust them. Just give them something. And then the final is really leadership
during crisis. If you haven’t had any crisis, hang on. They’re coming. You are gonna face some. And the problem with the crisis is not
that, it’s not like the movie where the crisis arises and you
know exactly what to do. If that happens, it’s not a crisis. It’s the crisis when it arises and you go, holy smoke, this has never happened
before. What do we do? And everybody looks at you. And that’s the first thing that happens. Everybody looks at you. The picture in the center, this was when
an American jet, at the request of a coalition force, dropped two bombs on
some fuel trucks that’d been hijacked by the
Taliban. The problem is they were surrounded by
civilians, when they dropped em. And about 100 civilians were killed. Nobody tried to do the wrong thing. There’s no evil. But about a 100 civilians were killed. So we suddenly had a crisis with the
Afghan people. We had a crisis with the Afghan president. We had a crisis with the coalition partner
who had dropped it because they were upset and they were worried about recriminations on
themselves. We had levels of crises, so what do you do? What I did was, the first thing I did was try to, across the force, communicate
what’s the right thing. I called President Karzai, I went on TV
and apologized to the Afghan people. I dealt with the Coalition Force as openly
as I could, but I said we’re gonna do the right
thing here. We’re not gonna try to hide it. We’re not gonna try to shape that it
wasn’t what it is, and the whole time you try to be the example cuz
everybody’s watching how you respond. Everybody watches, your body language,
whether you’re calm, whether you’re not, and whether you operate from a moral compass
that they wanna believe in. Cuz as soon as they see you, cutting
corners or shaving edges, your regard, even if you get away
with it, is gone. So this is what I came to believe, people ask me
often whether leadership is, something that’s born with
or whether it’s taught. I think you can teach it, the biggest
thing is people just have to make a decision to be a leader
because the thing about leadership, is it’s not that
complex, but it’s really hard. I can tell you all the right answers to be
a leader and you won’t write them down
because you’ll know them all. But it’s like knowing the right answer to
be in great physical shape or to be very well read or to speak
six languages. The difference is just doing it. And that’s where our leadership falls. Thanks, and I’ll open it to your
questions. [NOISE]. Sir?>>Hi, my name is, [UNKNOWN]. I’m an MBA 1. I wanted to ask you about, you mentioned
time and energy management. And I wanted to ask you about that in the
context of your own, personal routine. Some of us were talking before the talk. We’ve read that you only need four hours
of rest each night, that you eat one meal a day so
that you don’t feel sluggish, and that you run,
depending on the accounts we read 8 or 10 or 12 miles a
day. [LAUGH] And and we even, one of us read
that you went running with David Petraeus a couple years ago and he learned that he wasn’t the fastest person at that army
base. And so what I wanted to ask was, you know
what advice did you give to your, the officers who worked
for you and you would give for us even though most of us wont be
going into combat situations about staying fit and healthy and prepared
to take on the task of leading. How we structure our days so that we don’t
waste time and get the most out of every moment in
each day?>>That’s a, that’s really great. First thing is you should hire my publicist who comes up with all that
stuff. [LAUGH] no, the reality isn’t, you know,
be very, since I’m among friends here, I’ll be very
honest. yeah, I eat one meal a day, and that’s
just cuz I do feel sluggish if I eat more than
that. Now, that meal is a prodigious proportion. [LAUGH] It’s a, I describe it as anything
I can reach until I fall asleep. So, you know, it’s just a habit I got in
many, many years ago, and so, it’s just one of
those things. In terms of the amount of sleep, I slept about that, because that’s how much time I
had. If I had more time, I’d be happy to sleep
more. And I, you know, I certainly, when I get
the chance, I do. But I did find out that that’s about the
balance that I needed to, at that point, to do the
things I did. And so, what I tried to do was hit a
balance that made me feel right. I got up early in the morning and worked
out, cuz that was important for me to get the
day going. Then I had some quiet time alone to work. Then I did most of the day I’d visit
troops and all. And then in the evenings, I’d start to
fade in, in energy. And so what I learned to do was put those things that don’t require analytical
thought, later in the day. I mean, guys would learn not, my staff
would learn not to come to me for really good
decisions at night. But I could sign stuff. I mean, I could do, you know, those kinds
of things. yeah. I mean, you gotta know your limitations. But I also learned to have people around
me that really understood. I was very transparent about my batter rhythm, my strengths and weaknesses, that
could fill in the gaps but could also know when
I’m best in the day. How much sleep I need. I had a certain, you know, guy I worked with that just was very protective
of that. At times he’d say stop it, go to bed. You know, that sort of thing is important. I think all those things are really
important on a couple levels. One, when you’re in an organization,
people want to know that you are somebody that they have
respect for. I think if your life is, if your health is
in a shambles, if your finances are in a shambles, if your
personal life is in a shambles. You’re not gonna build as much confidence
in them, as if you got your act together. So, it’s just like, if they see you cheat on their tax, on your taxes and they
wonder how you’re gonna deal with them in a
business sense, they’re gonna do the comp, you
know, the calculation. If he lies to the US government, he might
lie to me, too. All those things matter. And I think you don’t need to make a big
publicity about it. People will watch you enough to know
whether you’re [UNKNOWN] but it’s not something just for you, you owe
it to them. Thanks.>>Hi sir. Rob Simmons class of 98 [UNKNOWN] C2. I’m here in the Ed school and thinking a
lot about unit readiness, and how leaders
assess their, their collective units. And, especially under circumstances where
they’re doing something new. Like, a new product or a new development
or an air case, you know? New Afghan unit, getting, ready to do
something. And kind of, what are the metrics and what
are your thinking, around that, that, that we
could benefit from?>>And I don’t know if you’ll benefit from
[UNKNOWN]. Thanks. The the key thing about metrics is we tend
to measure what’s easy to measure, and we tend to struggle what, with measuring
the things that really tell us what we want
to. What you’re trying to measure in the new
organization is can it do what the new organization is, is
designed for, and so until you get a chance to use it, you’re
trying to create the analog of that and how many ways can
you measure it? In military units we would measure how
much equipment they had, how much, how many senior
leaders, did they have the right number of people, did they
have the right ranks, did they have the right
amount of equipment. It tells you some stuff but it’s a
predictor but it’s not any guarantee that that organization can
function, and so obviously what I would do is, I would you know, those basic ones
are pretty empirical, I would then try to develop some test which
tell me how they do. The first would be cohesion though. Does that organization, can it do stuff
together? And so to a degree, even if the organization’s task was to do something
you can’t measure. Let’s say if their task is to put out
forest fires, but you can’t go light forest fires to check
if they can do it, I’d go, well you can, but but I would
do is, I would say, what do you really need to
fight a forest fire. You need people that are pretty physically
fit. You need people who understand the science
of it and you need people who work together as a
team. And if I had to go find something that
requires them to work together as a team, and maybe think a little bit in
the process, I’d do that. Some physical things that you know,
[INAUDIBLE] team sports I think would be very, very good. For more complex things in business,
you’re on your own. Thanks.>>Thank you General for coming my name is
[INAUDIBLE] and I’m curious about what actions do you think the US and Pakistan
can take to make Pakistan a safer place.>>That’s a great one. if, if you go back and you look at the
history between the United States and Pakistan, of
course Pakistan formed in 1947. It’s been uneven. There’s been a series of periods where
Pakistan felt as though they were the better partner for America during the
Cold War, during the 1980s when they were the conduit for support to the
Mujaheddin, during 1970 when the Henry Kissinger went through Pakistan in
preparation for the China trip it’s 71, I’m sorry. Preparation for the China trip that Nixon
took. Pakistan felt like they had done more than
America was doing in return. And then you have, it goes turnabout, and their periers where America thinks that,
that America’s doing more and Pakistan is supporting the
Taliban or supporting las kuri type or you name
it. So this huge amount of mistrust, I think
the most important thing we can do is, everybody step back
and do a reset. People think what’s the most important
part of our relationship with Pakistan and that’s Al Qaeda and I would
argue it’s not. Al Qaeda matters. But if you look at Pakistan’s strategic
interests, which are security from India in the
region. It’s economy, it’s management of water
which is a problem, it’s management of
electricity. And the fact that Pakistan had, has never had a civilian to civilian
government transfer. It’s always was it, of 64 years of
history, 32 have been military leadership, 32 have
been civilian. What Pakistan needs is help shaping itself
for its big, strategic challenges in the world, and I, I like to believe
American can be a partner for that, because America benefits
from the the idea of Pakistan being what is it, 117 million
people as a stable nation in that region. So I think we’ve gotta raise that
discussion a little bit higher to the strategic
level. And we gotta stop poking each other in the
eye on some of the more tactical things. There are different tactical objectives. But the biggest thing is trust. I mean, we are at this point now where the deficit of trust makes everything hard,
and if, if we could work on one thing before we work on,
on anything else it would just be trust over
and over. I know it sounds simple, but it’s like
leadership. Answer’s simple, executing it’s really
hard.>>Thank you. Ma’am.>>Hi, thank you so much for being here today, General McChrystal, my name’s
Rachel Burleigh. I’m, am a PHd student in political science
here and I actually had a little bit of a chance to
observe some of your great work when I was at
special operations through intensity conflict working on Afghan reconstruction under Colonel Dallas
Brown. But, I had a, a kind of more conceptual
question to ask you, going back to one of the final themes of your presentation on the importance of
cultural change. And so, I wanted to push you a little bit
more on that and to say, when your thinking about cultural change that’s not just between
individuals, who you’re not just talking about leading by example,
but you’re really talking about kind of you know, group level changes across
groups that you can’t influence or interact with
individually. How do you think you help to bring about reflection and really
fundamental cultural change?>>Yeah, great Rachel that’s tough. I really got Joe Felter here, you know
more about it than I ever will. Joe ran the counterinsurgency advise and
assist team in Afghanistan. I just listen to him, so that which went
well, I get credit for. That which doesn’t, there’s a scapegoat. No, and that, that is a leadership maxim I
would offer you all. The first thing you do in any endeavor is,
designate a scapegoat. You know, make sure it’s not you. But, and it’s good if you tell them in
advance. So. [LAUGH]. No, cultural change is huge. And it’s easy for me to say. The problem with culture is they’re there
for a reason. Look at the U.S. civil rights movement. When the case of giving all Americans
their rights, it wasn’t just a case of okay, we’ll give
everybody their rights. The problem is that comes at someone
elses’ expense. Whether it’s really them giving up money
or something, no it’s giving up… Some people in the South perceived that
they were going to lose their position in society if
everybody had equal opportunity. And so you have this great: why should I
buy into cultural change if my life’s going to
be harder? Or my part of whatever it is is I’m
interested is gonna be less? And you have to convince people that, one,
it’s typically not a zero sum game. The place can be better, and I think over
time people accept that, but, but near term they have a tough
time with it. And you have to make a very cogent argument that says you won’t be effective
otherwise. When we made the argument in Afghanistan
to, to really focus on counter-insurgency, we didn’t get
everybody together and say: guys, this is the right thing to do because we
love the Afghan people and we want to do the
right thing. Even thought that was true, the argument
was that we’ll lose if we don’t do this. This is the only way to succeed. And that’s interesting, because people
drop back and they go, wow! Really? I say, yeah, absolutely! And so then you can push cultural change
if they think that’s what has to happen to
move forward. You know the South had to chance. The Mubarak regime, Egypt, had to change. But a lot of people, Syria has to change,
but think about it now, there are a lot of groups in Syria for whom change will be cultural changes as well as
political change. So they’re holding on very strongly, to be
expected. So, you gotta make that argument to ’em. But then you gotta accept that there’s a,
there’s a group of people who are gonna lose equities in
the near term. And you have to, you kinda have to power
through that. It’s not gonna, most cultural change is
not entirely, voluntary on, on groups of
people’s parts. As you know. Thanks, Rachel. That’s alright. Ma’am.>>General Crystal, thank you so much for
your service to this country and for being here
today. My name is Coleen Mizuki and I’m a member
of a, a nascent institute looking at innovative ways to, to help our veterans after their deployment to a
combat zone. And very, I think importantly, I also
volunteer to work with soldiers and family members in
the reintegration process. So, you talked about, you know, leadership
not being complex but not very hard, and I
think that, for me, what underlines everything
you’ve talked about in, say, counterinsurgency approach in
Afghanistan, is mindset change. So I wonder if you have some words of
wisdom that I can pass on to soldiers that I work with
and helping them understand that after very difficult
experiences in combat, how do I, how do, how can they accept that
mindset change is possible? That it’s not complex, but it’s also not
very easy. Thank you.>>Why, that’s a great point. Thanks for what you’re doing. Yeah mindset is extraordinarily important. What you do, why you did it, and what you
did is important. And if you think about veterans sometimes,
they don’t have a problem going. But when we ask someone to go into the
military, and go to war, what have we really asked
them? You say, well, we’ve asked you to take a
job, and do whatever. No, we’ve really asked them to believe. We’ve said, we’re asking you to push the I
believe button in your nation, in your leadership, and the
fact will take care of you. And it’s a huge leap of faith for a young
person to go in the military and go forward to combat,
because the nation says hey, we love you. They, they bought into that. They believed. Now there’s the second part of that. I used to go around to battlefields and
places in DC and what not and I’d see monuments. And I’d say, wow, this is a monument to
the ego of the people who were there. They really just want their, their head
patted for the fact they did that and what not. That’s not it at all. As I get older I realize, that’s the
opposite of it. When you go to a monument like the World
War II Veteran’s Memorial there in DC. What you really see is of the 8 million
Americans who served in uniform and then all the families who
were touched by it. You know, war is pretty ugly. When you’re up close to it, it doesn’t
feel good. It doesn’t feel clean. It’s war. And it’s frustrating. It never comes out exactly like you want
it to. But at the end of the day, what we’ve
gotta reassure people and what monuments do is they basically tell
people, you did what we asked you to do. When the nation asked you to do something,
you did that. You stood. You served. You sacrificed. Whatever it is we asked. And that’s what I think people are lookin
for, they’re lookin for some reassurance that they did
what was asked. When we go to veterans now what, what i
think we’ve gotta do particularly, you know
these wars aren’t particularly popular. You know I’m not that excited about them. But I would tell you what we’ve gotta do
is convince the young people who suffer from different kinds of stress or physical
industries, injuries, hey, thanks. You did what we asked you to do. And that’s pretty darn good. And we don’t, that’s gotta be totally
separate from all the other things. Let me thank everybody for being here
today. I really appreciate it. [SOUND]

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