Nov 9, 2016
On this Mastermind episode, part 1, co-hosts Jan
Rutherford and Jim Vaselopulos interview retired four-star General
Stanley McChrystal, former commander of the nation's premier
military counterterrorism force. General McChrystal (Ret.) is best
known for developing and implementing a comprehensive
counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, and for creating a
cohesive counterterrorism organization that revolutionized the
interagency operating culture. Founder and Managing Partner of
McChrystal Group, an elite leadership advisory team, and New York
Times best-selling author, General McChrystal (Ret.) shares his
insights into learning to lead, sharing power while maintaining
ultimate responsibility, the necessity of adapting to external
change, and growing from mistakes.
Listen in to discover what it takes to create an
adaptable team of teams in today’s demanding environment.
[6:16] No plan survives contact with the enemy. Plan,
prepare, and then adapt the plan to fit.
[8:07] Entering unknown territory means learning
lessons (almost failing), and then turning back and finding a
better path. Seeking too much data can delay decisions and cost the
[8:50] Create an environment that says, action is
essential — in fact, action is demanded. Failure is not sought, but
failure goes with the business.
[11:05] Leading is when you’re tired at the end of
the day, when it’s frightening, when you have to make those very
hard decisions, and you subordinate what you’d like to do to what
you know you ought to do.
[23:02] If you want people to like you, there is
first a business-like, respectful way in which you treat people,
and then you show people you like them.
[26:15] General McChrystal (Ret.) explains the role
of competition — It's about the big organization winning, it's
about everyone’s success, not just one team. Competition is a human
trait, but it's got to be competition more against a standard than against each other, or you get
[31:30] Changes have to be done close to the point of
action by people who understand the big picture. This means
preparing and empowering front-line staff.
[32:55] Jim cites Team of Teams as a
must-read for leadership and personal development.
[36:32] General McChrystal (Ret.) explains he allowed
an informal authority within his command organization to make
group-to-group trades of low-availability, high-value resources
without clearing it through him, the Commanding General.
[40:11] It's important for leaders to be effective
communicators. They first have to understand what they're doing in
the short-term and in the long-term, and they've got to communicate
that to people inside and outside the organization.
[44:41] Leaders have to think of themselves as
leaders, and carry responsibility for others and responsibility for
tasks, and to accept those responsibilities which will include some
“There are a lot of misperceptions about the Special
Operations community from the outside, as there are about business
from inside the military. They are a cut of average Americans ...
bound together by a common purpose and a trust, which gives them
"As Heraclitus said, you’re never going to step in
the same river twice — and that river is flowing faster than
“If I told you, you can’t go home until we win, what
would you do differently from what we’re doing now?”
“I said, Hey, if you want me to slow this command
down, if you want us to do less, I can have perfect knowledge. …
But I don’t think that’s what you want.”
“What is my role, and what is my contribution? I try
to define myself by living by a certain set of values. … And I try
to engage with people so I am a trusted comrade.”
On personal self-discipline and
“Subordinate what you’d like to do to what you know you ought to
Books Mentioned on the Show
Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex
World, by General Stanley McChrystal
My Share of the Task: A Memoir, by General Stanley
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: A Round Table Comic: How
Successful People Become Even More Successful, by Marshall
Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating
Lasting Value, by Bill George
General Stanley A. McChrystal (Ret.) served in the
U.S. Army for 34 years and founded the McChrystal Group in 2011 —
an elite advisory team that improves the performance of
organizations and develops the men and women who lead them. Drawing
from shared experiences gained while transforming the U.S.
counterterrorism effort from a siloed, hierarchical apparatus into
a high-performing team, McChrystal Group partners with businesses
to build a resilient and adaptable team of teams that can win in
today's dynamic environment. He is the author of Team of Teams:
New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, and My Share
of the Task, both New York Times best sellers. A passionate
advocate for national service and veterans' issues, General
McChrystal is Board Chair at Service Year Alliance, and 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.