Watch this video: http://www.ted.com/talks/stanley_mcchrystal.html after which, I would like you to reflect on the topics of creating a vision, setting the tone, handling conflict and team leadership.
Then, thoughtfully tell us, How you think the themes of creating a vision, setting a tone, handling conflict and team leadership are relevant to General McChrystal’s presentation? Please pay particular attention to the way in which he must communicate to those who report to him. What ways must he use to communicate and how might these themes be connected and critical to his success in leading his team?
Despite its conventions and traditions, particularly the levels of discipline and commitment involved, the American military is very much a reflection of the society it serves. Just as that society has evolved in a certain direction over the span of many years, so has the military, comprised entirely of volunteers, evolved in many ways. Prior to the abolishment of the draft and its replacement with an “All-Volunteer Army” in 1973, the U.S. Armed Forces functioned very much as an antidemocratic establishment in which obedience to superiors and unquestioning commitment were the mantra by which that organization functioned. The All-Volunteer Army, however, changed some of the culture of the military. No longer were drill sergeants and junior officers responsible for conscripts over whom they enjoyed total control; now, they were responsible for the recruitment and care of volunteers no longer subject to enforced servitude in life-threatening situations.
General Stanley McChrystal’s presentation is firmly rooted in the transformations that have occurred in both the military and in the broader society. Leadership in today’s armed forces, as in much of the civilian world, is no longer a simple matter of issuing edicts compliance with which is nonnegotiable. Today, leadership involves greater emphasis on teamwork, cordiality and, most importantly, increased receptiveness to input from others, both up and down the chains of command. One of the most important points General McChrystal mentions in his speech on the principles of leadership is his comment: “Leaders can let you fail, and yet not let you be a failure.” What this means, is that success in most endeavors can only be achieved if individuals and teams are permitted to mess up in practice so that they can learn from their mistakes and, when the situation is real, whether on a battlefield, in a surgical operating room, in a courtroom before a judge, or when playing in the big game on Sunday, those lessons can be applied and success prove more probable.
Another of the general’s points is the importance of being able to communicate to one’s employees, subordinates or teammates in a world where the means of communication have evolved astronomically. Not only must a good leader be sensitive – a word previously anathema to institutions like the military – to the diverse backgrounds and experiences of others, but he or she must be adept at communicating effectively through a wider variety of mechanisms than has ever existed, for example, teleconferencing, email, texting, etc. Finally, leaders must be more open to developing more personal relationships than in the past. As General McChrystal put it, “I’ve learned personal relationships are more important than ever.” The requirement for the successful completion of a task, whether in business, sports or the military, is to ensure that everyone is working towards a common goal; in effect, the general notes, there is a need to “build consensus, a sense of shared purpose.” All members of the team or organization, irrespective of their individual responsibilities, must be in agreement on the goal and must recognize the imperative of working together to achieve that goal.