Published October 2018 on Spotfiy

111: General Stanley McChrystal | Deconstructing Myths of Great Leadership

1. Introduction

Jordan talks with General Stan about the myths surrounding leadership and how to deconstruct the characteristics of leaders we admire to become better leaders ourselves. They also discuss how to stay focused under pressure.+

2. Leadership Insights

Leadership Lessons:General Stanley McChrystal discusses his book "Leaders: Myth and Reality" with Jordan, sharing insights on the research process and the controversial choice of including Robert E. Lee as a hero in the book. McChrystal explains how Lee was a personal inspiration for him and why he felt it was important to include him in the study of leadership.+
Leadership Lessons:General Stanley McChrystal discusses the cautionary tale of Robert E. Lee and how his decision to betray his country in defense of slavery serves as a reminder for leaders to make good decisions. He also talks about the importance of being a good leader and how bad leadership, even if it works, is still bad.+

3. Leadership Insights

Vision vs People:General Stanley McChrystal discusses the balance between putting the mission or the people first in leadership. He highlights the importance of being flexible and organic in approaching each case, and how the most valuable resource for any leader is their people.+
Humbling Leadership:General Stanley McChrystal shares his humbling experience of writing his memoirs and realizing that his role in events was often much less than he had imagined. He discusses the importance of humility in leadership and how the central player in history is often not the leader.+

4. Sponsors

Jordan Harbinger shares how FreshBooks makes accounting and paperwork easier for business owners, saving them time and hassle. He also offers a free 30-day trial for listeners.+

5. Leadership Insights

Leadership Styles:General Stanley McChrystal discusses the importance of understanding that there is no one right leadership style and that it should be based on who you are as a leader and who your followers are. He emphasizes that leaders should have an empathetic connection to their followers and understand the constantly changing environment around them.+
Leading with Humility:General Stanley McChrystal shares his insights on leadership, emphasizing the importance of genuine humility for effective leadership. He also talks about his rebellious nature and how he created an environment where the right answer could come out.+

6. Leadership Myths

Leadership Myths:General Stanley McChrystal discusses the three myths of leadership: formulaic, attribution, and results. He explains how these myths can be dangerous and why there is no set formula for being an effective leader.+
Leadership Myths:General Stanley McChrystal debunks three myths about leadership: the great man myth, the attribution myth, and the results myth. He explains that leadership is contextual and that the connection between leaders and followers is more human than strictly outcome-based.+

7. Sponsors

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The Future of Toilets:Jordan and Jason discuss the benefits of using a high-tech toilet that eliminates the need for toilet paper and saves water and electricity. They also mention the importance of sustainability and reducing waste. Get a discount on your order at

8. AI and Leadership

AI and Leadership:General Stanley McChrystal discusses the potential for leaders to rely too heavily on artificial intelligence in decision-making processes. While AI can aid in decision-making, it's important for leaders to use their judgment and experience to make the final call. Effective leaders will be those who can balance the use of AI with their own insights and understanding of the situation.+
Leadership Myths:General Stanley discusses the three myths of leadership and how they are not effective in the military. He emphasizes the importance of analyzing the intersection between an individual's qualities and the situation to understand why they emerged as a leader.+

9. Effective Leadership

Examining Effective Leadership:General Stanley McChrystal discusses the complexities of effective leadership and how it's not as simple as identifying certain traits or characteristics. Instead, it's about the intersection between opportunity, commitment, and adaptability. He also challenges the notion that good or bad leadership is based on virtuousness and shares examples of leaders like Harriet Tubman and Maximilien Robespierre who didn't fit the traditional mold of what we expect from leaders.+
Staying Focused:General Stanley McChrystal discusses how to stay focused on what's important despite external distractions and competing interests, whether it's running a war or a business. He emphasizes the importance of understanding the politics and competing interests involved and figuring out what works for you as an individual.+

10. War and Adversity

War and Politics:General Stanley shares his insights on how politics and war are intertwined and how leaders at many levels should understand the political reality of war. He emphasizes the importance of giving people enough political context without subjecting them to too much political pressure.+
Overcoming Adversity:General Stanley McChrystal shares his experience of being relieved of his position as the top commander in Afghanistan and how it affected his identity and credibility. He talks about the doubts he faced and how he overcame them with the help of his wife and friends, focusing entirely forward and defining their lives in the future by what they want to be.+

11. Choosing to Lead

Choosing to Lead:General Stanley McChrystal shares his experience of making the decision to lead and the impact it can have. He emphasizes the importance of humility, class, courage, and persistence in leadership. McChrystal also reflects on the role of personal choice in determining one's response to failure and adversity.+
General McChrystal's Next Book:General Stanley McChrystal talks about his experience writing his latest book and hints at the possibility of a new one in the works, despite his initial reluctance. He also discusses the importance of leadership and the hard work that went into his book, "Leader: Myth and Reality."+

12. Outro

Jordan Harbinger shares his insights on building a strong network and the importance of starting before you need it. He offers a free course on how to build a network using systems and tiny habits. He also encourages listeners to apply what they learn from the podcast and share it with others.+