The Leaders Notebook

Hard questions, ambiguity and opinion for leaders

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Why General McChrystal Had to Go

June 28th, 2010 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Any top team needs debate and even conflict- but only at the right time and in the right setting.  That time and that setting are before the matter is decided.

Given how long it took President Obama to set the strategy, there was plenty of time for disagreement and even advocacy.  Great leaders know that this debate helps assure that they have heard and had the opportunity to consider all points of view.  In cases where consensus is unlikely, the debate informs the decision made- in this case by the President and Commander in Chief.  At that point, debate about how to accomplish the strategy should supplant further discussions about the direction.

While clearly a brilliant and dedicated officer, General McChrystal was evidently unable to let go of his strong dissension about the strategy- or his need to be public about it in a number of forums, including The Rolling Stone.    Last October, I wrote here about the 4 toxic team behaviors.  These are the ones that will destroy both productivity and team culture even in small doses.  The team that tolerates them does so at its peril.

To disagree so publicly and with such derision demonstrates 2 of the 4 toxic behaviors.  Even the most skilled team member at a particular job is a detriment to success if he cannot discipline his own communications and attitude, especially in a forum as public as a national magazine.  Ignoring clear contempt and and criticism of the strategy and team members shows tacit approval by the team’s leader or sponsor.  It is an invitation for compromised results.

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