May 13, 2015
McChrystal: Leaders Create an Environment Where Organizations Can Thrive
General Stanley McChrystal, who spoke at last week’s MSCI Annual Meeting in Chicago, once held a traditional view of what leadership means. When he assumed command of the U.S. armed forces in the early days of the Iraq War, he envisioned himself playing the same role held by other famous military leaders.
“I thought leaders were heroic. I would be a brilliant strategist to defeat the enemy, a chess master moving my pieces around the board,” McChrystal told the attendees. What he found, however, was that the insurgents his troops faced were not playing the same game. In the new world of modern warfare, there are no rules.
So McChrystal modified his view of leadership to adapt to the new realities of war. He no longer saw himself as a heroic leader making the call on the movements of his troops, but rather a gardener who created an environment suitable for growing, with the plants doing the work.
In Iraq, he realized that the traditional top-down hierarchy, “the kind of thing you’d draw on your whiteboard,” would not work. Instead, he put in place a more organic, free-flowing system, able to adapt to new challenges quickly and, if necessary, autonomously.
The lessons he learned are ones business leaders should also consider, he said. “In today’s complex environments, things move too fast for the leader to micromanage as he once did.”
Don’t expect Big Data to solve the problem. While it’s true business leaders have more information at their disposal than ever before, that data is actually moving too fast for any individual to fully embrace. “The solution is shared consciousness,” he said, “a network with some of the same attributes of the human brain. That allows your organization to operate in a new way for a different environment.”
For more from the MSCI Annual Meeting, see the June issue of Metal Center News.