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Season 2, Ep 7: Stanley McChrystal- What I’ve Learned about Leadership

Joe and Jacob dive into the green notebook of retired Army General Stanley McChrystal. He discusses how his time out of the Army has further shaped his thoughts on leadership and what major life lesson he’s learned since the publication of the infamous Rolling Stone article in 2010.

Click here to listen to the episode on iTunes or anywhere you listen to podcasts. Don’t miss McChrystal’s book recommendations from the episode!


About Stan

A retired four-star general, Stan is the former commander of US and International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) Afghanistan and the former commander of the nation’s premier military counter-terrorism force, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). He is best known for developing and implementing a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, and for creating a cohesive counter-terrorism organization that revolutionized the interagency operating culture.

Throughout his military career, Stan commanded a number of elite organizations, including the 75th Ranger Regiment. After 9/11 until his retirement in 2010, he spent more than 6 years deployed to combat in a variety of leadership positions. In June 2009, the President of the United States and the Secretary General of NATO appointed him to be the Commander of US Forces Afghanistan and NATO ISAF. His command included more than 150,000 troops from 45 allied countries. On August 1, 2010 he retired from the US Army.

Stan is a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, where he teaches a course on Leadership. He also sits on the boards of Navistar International Corporation, Siemens Government Technology, and JetBlue Airways. He is a sought-after speaker, giving speeches on leadership to organizations around the country. In 2013, Stan published his memoir, My Share of the Task, which was a New York Times bestseller; and is an author of Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, which was a New York Times bestseller in 2015. Stan also co-authored Leaders: Myth and Reality, a Wall Street Journal Bestseller based on the epochal Parallel Lives by Plutarch.

A passionate advocate for national service and veterans’ issues, Stan is the Chair of the Board of Service Year Alliance. In this capacity, he advocates for a future in which a year of full-time service—a service year—is a common expectation and opportunity for all young Americans.

Stan is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and the Naval War College. He also completed year-long fellowships at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Council on Foreign Relations.

3 thoughts on “Season 2, Ep 7: Stanley McChrystal- What I’ve Learned about Leadership”

  1. Hey Joe and Jacob,

    What an awesome opportunity for you both to interview such an iconic leader military members. I want to highlight one takeaway I grabbed from this interview.

    The takeaway is mentorship from subordinates. I think this point had two avenues. The first was mentorship from another future “successor” (i.e. a junior officer). The other avenue is more widely known, find a good NCO/Senior NCO that will provide guidance and honest feedback, but we don’t readily label it as mentorship (at least from what I’ve witnessed). If I were to apply some leadership traits to this concept it would probably be active listening and humility. I’d say active listening because it’s too easy to think the leader needs to be the one speaking and providing the guidance, when a subordinate might have the better guidance, or advice that sparks a paradigm shift. Humility allows for a good ego check, which in turn helps with the active listening.

    I found the introduction interesting that we view military and business worlds as polar opposites with vastly different approaches and end-states in mind. Gen Votel even mentioned how surprised he was to learn businesses aren’t all just out for the all mighty dollar, and that patriotic virtue abound within organizations. As too was mentioned, we in the military don’t always take the right path or approach and stumble like any other organization which is again a good lesson to check the ego.



  2. Forgot to add this to my original post; I liked that Gen McChrystal ended with self-discipline as a value to strive for. I heard a saying from an mentor about comfortable circumstances vs. desired results. This was intertwined with the importance of written, specific goals and ties well with self discipline. A disciplined daily regimen reinforces the mind to tackle hard issues when the times get tough. Discipline leads to routines that leads to habits, is the way I look at it. Thanks again.



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