This morning on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS (Fareed Zakaria GPS – Aug 30, 2015), U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal (Ret.) was interviewed about leadership in the context of Gen. McChrystal’s recent book. His interview starts at [10:36:10], a little over halfway into the program.
I liked how Gen. McChrystal started by clearing up a misconception about leadership in the U.S. military–one that I’ve heard from people with no military background and summarized from the transcript here:
Zakaria: …[in] the U.S. Army, you give orders, people listen, your job is to appear imposing.
McChrystal: …everybody thinks that a sergeant tells you to do something and you immediately do it. … In combat, soldiers are much more frightened of the enemy than they are of the sergeant. So they do things for their leaders and their comrades. …so the ability to influence and persuade and build confidence in you as a leader and in what they’re doing becomes the key task.
Zakaria: So, when you looked at…successful examples of leadership, what you found…was a guy who really was able to win the trust of people?
McChrystal: You win the trust of people, and then you unleash their initiative…
Unleash their initiative.
That has a nice ring to it. He went on to describe how to accomplish this.
Zakaria: Somebody wants to be a leader in their organization, in life. What advice would you give?
McChrystal: One, it’s going to take personal discipline… The next thing is empathy. …those core, fundamental, almost value-like traits are the key.
It’s nice to hear that empathy is a core, fundamental, trait…even for an Army general.
Now, to go and unleash some initiative!