Leadership From Four-star General Stanley McChrystal
I am a HUGE supporter of our military! I praise God for our men and women who fight day after day to keep me safe. And while I will bite my tongue when I hear people make a lot of comments, not so much when they say something about our troops. If I’m having a bad day, I try to think of what they are going through. My PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) from Starbucks not making my coffee correctly, just doesn’t seem to compare.
Not only do I love our troops, but I love to learn leadership principles from its officers and senior officers. Recently, I watched General McChrystal give a speech for TED talks called, “Listen, learn…then lead.” It’s a fantastic talk, and I wanted to share a couple of nuggets that I got out of it with you. It may take me a couple of posts, but here we go.
He started off talking about how 10 years ago he was doing a routine parachute jump, just like he had for 27 years. It was a nice Tuesday morning in September. They began with a refresher course, then put on their parachutes with a buddy being very careful to pull all the straps together. Then a jump master comes by to recheck everything and crank down the straps even tighter. It’s painful enough now, and he believes it’s designed this way, so that you want to jump!
They all hooked up to the static line. This is the point where they realize there’s probably no getting out of this. We’re jumping today. Then the green light comes on and they all “fall” one by one out of the plane. Soon the parachute deploys and slows their rate of descent to the ground. But make no mistake, with tons of gear on, and a parachute that doesn’t steer, there’s no delicate way to land.
General McChrystal hit the ground, rolled around and made sure he didn’t break anything he needed. That’s when he asked himself the eternal question, “Why didn’t I go into banking?” As he jumped up, he looked around and saw young paratroopers pulling out the equipment they needed, and putting away the stuff they didn’t, and he realized that they were doing exactly what they were trained.
In that moment, he had a revelation: If the paratroopers went into battle, they would do exactly what leadership trained them to do. And if they came out of battle, it would be because leadership trained them well. That Tuesday morning, September 11, when they boarded the plane, the world was right. When they hit the ground that day in 2001, the world had changed.
What amazes me is that every day our troops are trained by their leaders not to survive battle, but to succeed and come out alive! Every day! As leaders, what are we doing to make sure our troops are completely trained? Not just trained, but taken through refresher courses as well? I, as a leader, have to understand that my team goes through battles. And while they don’t come out with the physical scars, many times they come out with the mental and emotional ones.
Over and over I say that it is your job to make your team successful. Well, let me add to that. It’s your job to make sure your team is redundantly ready for battle! And to the extent that you have led them correctly for it, great job. If you have put them out there without spending your time training them, then don’t be surprised if you end up with a severely wounded team. Don’t just hope your team is able, make sure. It could be the difference between life and death. Even in business.
Questions: Have you ever felt like you haven’t done a good job in preparing your “troops” for battle? If so, how did this post change that?