Good Lessons Come from McChrystal Debacle

General Stanley McChrystal's loose lips and ultimate downfall can teach us all some valuable lessons.  He was a career military man (West Point Graduate) who rose to the top of the heap as Commander of the International Security Assistance Force and Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan.  People are scratching their heads about how a man who was in such an esteemed position could be so stupid as to publicly criticize the only three people who had the power to sack him!

First, he was on thin ice in 2009 when he publicly suggested that 30 to 40 thousand more troops were needed to "win in Afghanistan".  At that time many people thought he should be fired for insubordination for disclosing information that should have been said in private to the President.  Flash forward to the June article in Rolling Stone  where he mocked civilian government officials (including V.P. Joe "Bite-me" Biden), the Ambassador to Afghanistan and the National Securing Advisor and finally the Commander in Chief.  His frat boy attitude toward a serious war where thousands of lives have been lost was sickening to read.  And he was the Commander!

In medicine we know that communication gaps and lack of teamwork leads to medical errors and poor outcomes for patients.  The culture of a hospital organization comes from the top leaders.  If the leaders can't set a vision of "Patient Centered Care" and inspire all of the team to work toward that vision it won't happen.  And a code of conduct that lets everyone in the hospital know what is accepted and what is not, comes from the top.

Forget whether this war is right or wrong.  Forget whether you are republican or democrat.  This is not an issue that points to any ideology.  This is about character and leadership and the self control to know when to speak out publicly and when to hold your tongue.  When things are going poorly (as they are in Afghanistan), it is not the time to blame others, especially when you are the one in charge.  The best leaders praise others and take the blame themselves when things go wrong. That is true leadership.

Some have said that McChrystal wanted to be fired so he wouldn't have to take the blame for a failure.  One can only hope that his dismissal will now allow more of a spotlight to be shined on the War and what is happening on the ground.


Yes, Toni, the general's comments to Rolling Stone (of all newspapers!) is mind boggling. I can't figure it out. However, we are all amazed, from time to time, when seasoned smart folks, shoot their mouths off at the wrong times. Sometimes, their speech is outrageous; sometimes their actual conduct is inexplicable. While I agree that those in leadership need to set the tone, everyone is setting an example for somebody.
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