I own two Washington DC-based firms (Successful Culture and Information Experts) that proudly support our war-fighters through the creation and facilitation of training programs to help our military men and women stay safe. I have the privilege of facilitating leadership training programs for our Air Force.
In my custom programs, I incorporate various TED Talks that validate various leadership philosophies I share with my students. One of the most well-received talks is General Stanley McChrystal's 2011 TED Talk on leadership.
In honor of our upcoming July 4th holiday to celebrate our freedom and independence, here are General McChrystal's top 8 leadership lessons. May he inspire all of you to rise to a higher level of leadership within your own organizations.
- Great leaders can let you fail, yet not let you be a failure. Our greatest leadership lessons come from difficulty. In one of his failed missions, after McChrystal apologized to his commander, he said, "Stanley, I thought you did great." Reflecting on that feedback, he said that "in one sentence, he lifted me, put me back on my feet, and taught me that leaders can let you fail and yet not let you be a failure."
- Our environment now evolves faster than people have time to learn or process. Someone downloads an Apple app every millisecond. The pace of technology and information transmission continues to accelerate at breakneck speed. McChrystal shares how important it is to surround yourself with others that can help you keep pace with the changes, because one leader can not process all of the change alone.
- Leaders must make an extra effort to build confidence, trust, and faith with geographically dispersed teams. Most organizations today have people spread out across the country or across the globe, in various time zones. To keep people emotionally connected to an organization, leaders can't delegate the relationship building.
- In times of failure, it's very hard to rebuild trust and confidence on an electronic medium. When things go wrong in an organization, leaders have to work twice as hard to keep employees engaged. After one failed mission, McChrystal shared, "I had to reach out to try to rebuild the trust of that force, rebuild their confidence -- me and them, and them and me -- all without the ability to put a hand on a shoulder."
- A multi-generational, diverse workforce requires leaders that can build consensus and a shared sense of purpose. Following 9/11, McChrystal found himself leading a very diverse platoon. "It was men, women, young, old -- not just from military; from different organizations, many of them detailed to us just from a handshake. And so instead of giving orders, you're now building consensus and you're building a sense of shared purpose," he explained.
- Leaders must accept an "inversion of expertise." McChrystal asks, "How do leaders stay credible and legitimate when they haven't done what the people they are leading are doing?" Today's leaders must be transparent about their own limitations, be willing to listen, and be open to reverse-mentoring.
- In the digital age, personal relationships are more important than ever. "You have to watch and take care of each other. I probably learned the most about relationships. I learned they are the sinew which hold the force together." McChrystal further shared that having deep personal relationships turned out to be "critical" in many points in his career.
- Finally, on what makes a good leader, General McChrystal shared this: "A leader isn't good because they're right; they're good because they're willing to learn and to trust. This isn't easy stuff. And it isn't always fair. You can get knocked down, and it hurts and it leaves scars. But if you're a leader, the people you've counted on will help you up. And if you're a great leader, the people who count on you need you on your feet."
In honor of everyone who has dedicated their lives to protecting our freedom and independence, including all military veterans and first responders, thank you for your service.
Wishing everyone a happy and safe Independence Day.