Booted Army Gen. Stan McChrystal Has Lessons to Teach

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Rolling Stoned and former Army General Stan McChrystal is now leading the McChrystal Group, and has replaced defeating the Taliban with a new assignment: “McChrystal Group’s mission is to bring world-class leadership solutions to public and private organizations to help them solve problems, manage risk and be more effective,” according to the outfit’s new website. An associate concedes the wording is deliberately vague. “Just like Bain and McKinsey,” the colleague says, referring to a pair of top-drawer consulting firms that like to keep the particulars of their business — and clients — murky.

But they’re not shy about where a third of their nine-person staff comes from: they’re former SEALs. “From Navy SEALs to legislative and policy experts, the McChrystal Group brings a wealth of practical leadership experience in running multi-national, multi-agency, culturally diverse, and geographically dispersed organizations,” the site says. In fact, McChrystal’s co-founder is David Silverman, “a combat decorated veteran and former U.S. Navy SEAL Officer” (the other two SEALs get the same description). The group, located just down the subway line from the Pentagon in Alexandria, Va., also includes a retired three-star Army general who led the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan, and McChrystal’s top enlisted adviser during his Afghan command.

Since submitting his resignation to President Obama a year ago this month — after aides privately disparaged members of the Administration in front of a reporter for Rolling Stone — McChrystal has lectured at Yale and enlisted to help combat veterans through the non-profit Yellow Ribbon Fund and the White House’s “Joining Forces” initiative. We noted his early days out of uniform last summer. He has also been writing, like this piece in Foreign Affairs on the importance of networking in war, and working on his memoirs.

But things now seem to be moving into a higher gear. The McChrystal Group is offering a five-day Yale Executive Global Leadership Course this fall. It’s designed “for high-performing executives on how to lead complex, networked organizations in a fast paced and challenging environment where failure is not an option.” Per-person cost: $15,000, which includes “lodging, meals, and materials,” and apparently buzzwords. The course is built around something called CrossLead, a leadership style “developed on the battlefield.” Each day dawns with two hours of “physical training” beginning at 0500 — 5 a.m. — thankfully labeled “optional” in the brochure.

Although McChrystal’s fall from grace goes unmentioned on his website, it seems he took some of its lessons to heart. Indeed, those participating in the Yale program, according to the passages in italics below, will achieve:

Dramatically improved shared consciousness and purpose (“Hey sir — does it make any sense to have this reporter hanging around? He’s taking a lot of notes.”)

Faster and more inclusive decision-making (“We should probably discuss the wisdom of letting the reporter shadow us, especially when we’re getting tipsy in Paris.”)

Better data and knowledge management (“Did you say he worked for Rolling Stone? Is that more like Aviation Week or Armed Forces Journal?”)

Rapid dissemination of best and worst practices (“Keep your mouth shut around reporters until the ground rules are nailed down.”)

Optimized utilization of technology (“Take away his pen.”)

Increased organizational transparency to enable accountability in execution (“Mr. President, I hereby submit my resignation.”)

Click here to register. “Spaces,” the website warns, “are limited.”