Discipline, Self-Respect, Decision Making, and Leadership | General Stanley McChrystal on Freedom Pact

Check out the Freedom Pact Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Being a good cadet and being a good soldier aren’t the same thing:
    • “The people in my class from West Point who turned out to be really good soldiers were not the people who were at the top of the class academically, they weren’t the people who had the most shining cadet records” Stanley McChrystal
  • Leaders need to surround themselves with good people and leverage their team to get the best outcome
    • “What we should be doing is looking for a good person who will surround themselves with good people and therefore we can get a realistic outcome”Stanley McChrystal
  • Traits of a great leader: competent, honest, respected, and empathetic
    • “You’ve got to be able to, in an organization, turn the lens around and see things through other people’s eyes” – Stanley McChrystal
  • To build self-discipline you need to take action, even if you don’t feel like doing it: “Sometimes you have to be forced to do that which you do not want to do and then it becomes a habit” Stanley McChrystal
  • What is the military decision-making process?
    • Identify the task or mission
    • Gather facts about the problem
    • Develop a series of actions that could tackle the problem
    • Identify the pros and cons of each course of action, and compare them
    • Act on the best course of action
  • What makes a life worth living?
    • “I think it’s the satisfaction that you did your best. That you contributed in a way that was not about you, it was about others.” Stanley McChrystal

Intro

  • Stanley Allen McChrystal is a retired United States Army general best known for his command of Joint Special Operations Command in the mid-2000s
  • Hosts: Joseph Newton and Lewis Franielczyk (@FreedomPactPod)

Books Mentioned

Stanley McChrystal’s Upbringing

  • Stanley’s father and grandfather were both soldiers so he followed in their footsteps and went to West Point. However, Stanley got into a lot of trouble and fights as a cadet.
    • Fortunately, he learned that being a good cadet and a good soldier wasn’t the same thing:
      • “The people in my class from West Point who turned out to be really good soldiers were not the people who were at the top of the class academically, they weren’t the people who had the most shining cade records” Stanley McChrystal
        • Your grades aren’t that important, but your reputation is:
          • “People do care what kind of person you are”

Thoughts on Leadership

  • “The leader is not necessarily the decisive thing” 
    • Leaders need to surround themselves with good people and leverage their team to get the best outcome
      • “What we should be doing is looking for a good person who will surround themselves with good people and therefore we can get a realistic outcome”Stanley McChrystal
  • You don’t need to have the title of leader to lead a team. And sometimes, you can have the title of a leader but the team won’t respect your decision and will choose not to follow it.
  • If you’re leader, it’s important to remember the pandemic is a chance for you to demonstrate your leadership skills and if you do well, people will remember you in a positive light:
    • “Crisis are special times and they are special opportunities for friendships, for leadership, because we will all remember our lives before and after COVID-19” Stanley McChrystal

How To Be A Great Leader

  • Traits of a great leader: competent, honest, respected, and empathetic
    • “You’ve got to be able to, in an organization, turn the lens around and see things through other people’s eyes” – Stanley McChrystal
  • A great leader knows to treat people differently
    • E.g: Treating people differently on a Monday morning than on Friday afternoon or treating younger subordinates differently from older ones
      • One way to have a special relationship with each person on your team is to have a private joke that only you and the other person know about
  • A great leader keeps you humble when you’re getting too confident and lifts you up when you’re too hard on yourself
    • They’re also direct and realistic when having a hard conversation:
      • “You’re not going to do anybody any favors by not being realistic about it and not being somewhat direct” – Stanley McChrystal

Discipline & Self-Respect

  • When you’re helping other people, you get two benefits: you forget about many of your problems and you get a unique sense of satisfaction from contributing to society
  • One of the best ways to develop a strong bond with other people is to do hard things together
    • Even if you do something hard but yourself (like exercise) you’ll feel better about yourself at the end of the day: “If you do a series of things, when you go to bed that night, you just feel better” – Stanley McChrystal
  • To build self-discipline you need to take action, even if you don’t feel like doing it: “Sometimes you have to be forced to do that which you do not want to do and then it becomes a habit” Stanley McChrystal
    • E.g: Most people who join the military don’t love working out but later develop a lifelong habit of exercising

Decision Making Process

  • What is the military decision-making process?
    • Identify the task or mission
    • Gather facts about the problem
    • Develop a series of actions that could tackle the problem
    • Identify the pros and cons of each course of action, and compare them
    • Act on the best course of action

Additional Notes

  • Stanley reads a lot of books about coaching and leadership
    • He enjoyed reading about Ulysses S. Grant and Field Marshall Slim
      • “I like to get first-person descriptions of what happened in a case so I can understand the complexity” – Stanley McChrystal
  • What makes a life worth living?
    • “I think it’s the satisfaction that you did your best. That you contributed in a way that was not about you, it was about others.” Stanley McChrystal
Freedom Pact Podcast : , , , ,
Notes By Alex Wiec

More Notes on these topics

Top Insights and Tactics From

31 Best Podcasts of All Time

FREE when you join over 12,000 subscribers to the
Podcast Notes newsletter

No Thanks