General (ret) Stan McChrystal is the founder and CEO of McChrystal Group. During his 34-year military career, he commanded all forces in Afghanistan, the Joint Special Operations Command and served as Director of Operations for the Pentagon. His command included more than 150,000 troops from 45 allied countries.  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, (also a best seller).  Robert Gates (former Secretary of Defense for America) called him “one of the most incredible warriors and leaders I’ve ever met.”

FORBES recently called, WELCOME TO MANAGEMENT, “the best leadership book of 2020.”

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  • “As we lead through this time of crisis, leaders are more important than ever:
    • 1) Communicate relentlessly
    • 2) Match your internal operating pace with that of your external environment
    • 3) Continue to reiterate what ‘winning’ looks like to your organization.”
  • Foreword from his book Team of Teams, legendary author Walter Isaacson wrote: “Whether in business or in war, the ability to react quickly and adapt is critical, and it’s becoming even more so as technology and disruptive forces increase the pace of change. That requires new ways to communicate and work together. In today’s world, creativity is a collaborative endeavor. Innovation is a team effort.”
  • Stockdale Paradox – (named for Admiral James Stockdale – the highest ranking POW of the Vietnam War who described how leaders survive terrible ordeals) “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
  • From page 104 in my book, Welcome To Management — General McChrystal extended a gracious invitation for me to tour the hallowed grounds at the Battle of Gettysburg alongside the students he teaches in his leadership class at Yale. We learned a lot about the history of the battle over the course of two days with General McChrystal and some of his friends as tour guides. However, one teaching point that I specifically remembered was this, “The real lesson is . . . it’s not tactics, not strategy; it’s always about the people.”
  • Uncertainty — What’s most scary for people.  While you can’t predict the future, you can be that sense of calm, cool, composed (QB in the huddle in tense moments).  General at war. The quarterback at Yale (where Stan teaches) said, “When you throw an interception, don’t say ‘My bad.’ The guys know it’s your bad. Say, ‘here’s what we’re going to do next.'”
  • Recent events:  “These observations remind us of our early months fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq: We struggled to keep up with the pace of events, needed to unlearn conventional management rules and had to learn to lead in a totally new way.”
  • From James Clear – “The most useful form of patience is persistence. Patience implies waiting for things to improve on their own. Persistence implies keeping your head down and continuing to work when things take longer than you expect.”
  • “You have to navigate from where you are, not where you wish you were.”
  • From Stan — The German Army had a say, “feel the cloth.” They were referencing when the men were walking so close to one another they could literally feel the cloth on the person next to them. Right now, we don’t have that luxury with our co-workers, and it’s a challenge. But what we do have and what we need to utilize are communication platforms to stay connected to our teammates. This is our new normal and it’s our time to be a leader and help our team get the job done.
    • Communicate — Losing these in person interactions in a remote-work environment means leaders need to start communicating with more regularity and breadth to their organization.
    • Set Realistic Goals – This is not business as usual, but you can still succeed. Your role as a leader is to be brutally honest about what is achievable in the coming weeks and months as this disruption continues to ripple across the economy.
    • Be Patient – Many of your employees, especially the younger ones, have not experienced turmoil like this in their careers. Be patient, but start communicating now. It is your responsibility as a leader to be a source of calm and steady for them. (from CNN)
  • Questions from members of my Leadership CircleNicci Bosco –What values can we hold in our mind/should we be thinking about/allowing to guide our own actions with when speaking to a group/leading a group/etc in uncertain times? What can we do to re-fill our own reservoir when we notice we’re depleted? If we don’t know the answer to something, but still want to provide guidance and a response, what are some options? Tom Carvelli — If you had to sum up your leadership principles into a single unified concept, what would that be?  What does your your daily fitness routine look like in times like these when resources and activities are curtailed? Matt Spitz — In a world that is incredibly uncertain is there anything in his life that never changes?  Matt Mullins — In times of adversity and uncertainty how do leaders ensure that their people are prepared and confident to thrive and maintain character through those moments?  How does one develop the ability to maintain composure in stressful situations? How?
  • Stan’s daily routine – It always starts with a workout in the early morning hours. “Always start the day lifting. Do a lot of Abs. Work on your core.” That discipline creates consistency and that creates confidence. Stan weighs exactly the same today as he did when he was 17! He’s only eaten one meal per day for 40 years.
  • If you have to fire someone (or lay them off) — “Explain it, be honest, do it with grace.”
  • Roosevelt during Pearl Harbor – “We are going to do whatever it takes to prevail. It’s an unthinkable time, but we will get through it.”
  • “You exist for the team… To give them what they need.”
  • People are watching what you (the leader) is doing at every moment. How do you respond to good news? Bad news? What is you facial expression on that video conference call? The “Say-Do” gap. As a leader there should not be a gap between what you say and what you do. You must LIVE your values.
  • Building a committed team — Top CIA agent said to Stan when they were overseas… “I don’t know what the Ranger way is, but I will commit to YOU as a person.”
  • A two-thousand-year-old Stoic phrase (from Ryan Holiday’s Daily Stoic): What is up to us, what is not up to us? And what is up to us? Our emotions. Our judgments. Our creativity. Our attitude. Our perspective. Our desires. Our decisions. Our determination.
  • Here is WHY joining a Learning Leader Circle is a good idea…


More Learning:

Episode 078: Kat Cole – From Hooters Waitress To President of Cinnabon

Episode 216: Jim Collins — How To Go From Good To Great

Episode #300: AJ & Keith Hawk – How To Instill Work Ethic & Curiosity In Your Children

Episode #303General Stanley McChrystal – The New Definition Of Leadership