By Ryan Kamauff
The opening keynote at this year’s FOSE conference was delivered by General Stanley McChrystal. General McChrystal was formerly the Commander of International Security Assistance Force as well the United States Forces in Afghanistan. General McChrystal has also commanded the Joint Special Operations Command and the 75th Ranger Regiment. He recently retired from the US Army, and is now a Senior Fellow at Yale as well as an author. General McChrystal’s speech was on lessons in agile leadership and how a mutable leadership environment helped USFOR-A succeed in the fight against insurgencies in Afghanistan.
General McChrystal was a part of US SOCOM for years, and played a major role in their evolution from hijacking reaction force to the tip of the spear of in the fight against global terrorism. As the commander of a disparate unit (US SOCOM) with military, civilian and intelligence personnel under him, he had to use influence in the stead of traditional military reinforcement or coercion. Instead, they created a shared consciousness and purpose at SOCOM, sharing knowledge and information to increase the situational awareness of every invested body.
After examining the fluid network-like hierarchy of the adversaries in a post-9/11 world, General McChrystal realized that his organization must shift as well. Instead of attacking by trying to take down the “top 2 plus 7″ leaders of the insurgency, they had to go after individual cells in the network. As well, to meet these threats, they had to change the way they communicated and made decisions. General McChrystal opened up lines of communication several layers deep through video teleconferences in Afghanistan. He had subordinates and their subordinates all call in, which cut down on tribalism and schisms that previously characterized SOCOM.
These lines of communication opened up air and reconnaissance assets to more users, and created new relationships. By empowering these groups to take advantage of all their fellow warfighters and assets, they were a more effective fighting force. He believes a great deal of success came from the trust that the instilled in his chain of command, as well with leaders of other nations (specifically Harmid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan). His long and successful military career has endowed him with a vast amount of leadership knowledge and experience. General McChrystal sees leadership as a key force multiplier we can choose to exploit, or fail on it and leave our warfighters underprepared and ill-led.