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A Reflection on Leadership with Gen. Stanley McChrystal

On April 9, the MAM cohort had the pleasure of having Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal—who served as Commander in the International Security Assistance Force and in the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan—as a guest for the Colloquium in Advanced Management.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal

Gen. McChrystal had an intimate conversation with MAM students about the different perspectives of leadership. During the conversation important issues emerged like: What matters in leadership for organizational change? Can people be better leaders in times of crisis? How does spirituality influence leadership?

During the conversation, he asked students to reflect on the situational nuances of leadership. He compared the impact of episodic leaders like the “turn-around CEO” vs. leaders that build a legacy. He went on to reflect how great leaders emerge in the face of crisis, or how external factors like a situational group dynamic can play a role in a leader stepping down from his position.

During the conversation he went further and made students think about leadership motivation and drivers. He asked pointed questions like: Is  money all that matters? What do you have left when you are stripped of all external layers: money, rank, title, prestige? The conversation reached a peak, and students started discussing how values play a role in leadership.

Gen. McChrystal was keen to point out the subtleties of the issue. He spoke on how values play out in our daily behavior. How we should reflect on our personal values and act with them in mind.  He recommended we work on developing a strong, clear set of core values as this will help us be better prepared for the moments when life brings harsh conditions and all you have is a strong core to rely on.

The conversation was very collegial, and Gen. McChrystal was generous to share many anecdotes of leadership while commanding US forces in the Middle East. We were lucky to have the opportunity to speak with someone who was literally in the line of fire for more than 30 years, with the responsibility of many lives on his shoulders. A very inspiring talk that you don’t always have the chance to hear.