Our top leader in Afghanistan was summoned back to Washington today by his boss for remarks he and others made during an interview with a magazine reporter. According to the Wall Street Journal, there has been conflict and tension between the Army brass and the current administration regarding General McChrystal’s strategy in Afghanistan. So much so, that General McChrystal and his men have made some defiant and disparaging remarks about the President, his National Security Advisor, the Special Representative and Ambassador to Afghanistan and the Vice President. This is serious enough that McChrystal could lose his job. Which could mean a serious loss of momentum with our relationship with President Karzai and our insurgency strategy and efforts. Let alone,this would put our fighting men and women in greater harms way.
As leaders what lessons can we learn from this unfortunate situation?
1. When you get promoted or take on a new responsibilities clearly understand who your new stakeholders are both inside and outside the organization. Get clarity on their expectations of you in your new role and think about what new skills you need to develop or refine to interact with your new stakeholders.
General McChrystal before he became our top leader in Afghanistan spent most of his career in secretive special operations where he rarely dealt with the media or received views, advice or orders from outside 3rd parties. His current position requires not only military strategy, but international diplomacy and Washington politics. All very new and different from his previous leadership roles.
In my post yesterday, I talk about leaders being adaptable and re-inventing their skills when they get promoted or assume new roles. My advice is for leaders to seek help and advise from others who have filled a similar role, understand the land mines, stakeholder issues, politics and then create a development plan on the skills you need to develop to continue to be successful.
2. When you are in disagreement with your stakeholders, don’t have a conversation about your frustration with outsiders; don’t vent to your team about how you feel about leaders you report into. Tackle the issue yourself with confidence, courage, and an open mind. I am sure General McChrystal has been frustrated with the micro-management and the undermining of his strategy by others in the Administration. Get on the same page! Have the courage to have a candid conversation with each stakeholder collectively or individually. Get the issue on the table, talk candidly and honestly, resolve your differences and move positively forward as one team.
There exists a wonderful conversation model in Susan Scott’s book called Fierce Conversations. I encourage everyone to read this book and apply the principals to your culture and work environment. You will see profound positive changes in your leadership and business results.
3. Take responsibility for your actions. Don’t blame others for your predicament. Look into the mirror and take ownership. Admit your mistakes, apologize if necessary and move on and get better. Winners take responsibility, losers blame others.
What leadership lessons have you learned from General McChrystal situation?