Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Shared Purpose

Four-star General Stanley McChrystal shares what he learned about leadership over his decades in the military. How can you build a sense of shared purpose among people of many ages and skill sets? By listening and learning -- and addressing the possibility of failure.

General Stanley McChrystal is the former commander of U.S. and International forces in Afghanistan. A four-star general, he is credited for creating a revolution in warfare that fuses intelligence and operations.

Why You Should Listen to Him (taken from a TED video)

“With a remarkable record of achievement, General Stanley McChrystal has been praised for creating a revolution in warfare that fused intelligence and operations. A four-star general, he is the former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan and the former leader of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which oversees the military’s most sensitive forces. McChrystal’s leadership of JSOC is credited with the December 2003 capture of Saddam Hussein and the June 2006 location and killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. McChrystal, a former Green Beret, is known for his candor.

After McChrystal graduated from West Point, he was commissioned as an infantry officer, and spent much of his career commanding special operations and airborne infantry units. During the Persian Gulf War, McChrystal served in a Joint Special Operations Task Force and later commanded the 75th Ranger Regiment. He completed year-long fellowships at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1997 and in 2000 at the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2002, he was appointed chief of staff of military operations in Afghanistan. Two years later, McChrystal was selected to deliver nationally televised Pentagon briefings about military operations in Iraq. From 2003 to 2008, McChrystal commanded JSOC and was responsible for leading the nation’s deployed military counter-terrorism efforts around the globe. He assumed command of all International Forces in Afghanistan in June 2009. President Obama’s order for an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan was based on McChrystal’s assessment of the war there. McChrystal retired from the military in August 2010.”

"One of America’s greatest warriors."
----Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

Wildland Fire Perspective
As we reflect on all the losses we've experienced in the month of July…think about what the General has to say about "Shared Purpose". How is our environment similar to those who are serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere abroad? The wildland fire environment changes rapidly, our troops and fire ground leaders must have the ability and empowerment to act with speed and focus, positioning, and simplicity. Our environment evolves faster than people have time to reflect or react…

Leading a dispersed force in the wildland fire environment occurs daily for us…what techniques or technology do you use to communicate and empower your people? How do you build their confidence, trust and faith in you as a leader when you do not have the ability to be face to face during daily operations? How do you empower your people to take advantage of "merging opportunities"?...or as Col. Eric Carlson states, "Fleeting windows of opportunity".

How do we/ you lead a group of firefighters with the current generational differences…or "gap"? Our firefighters have changed…they are smarter, stronger, quicker and need more information…

One question that Gen. McChrystal asks during his speech is similar to the one the "Commander" (Jim Cook) asks during Redding IHC's annual staff ride of the 1994 South Canyon fire: “Where were you in 1994? How many people were fighting fire in 1994?” This year…the answers were similar to what Gen. McChrystal found out….."sir, I was in the 6th grade!" So, where were your firefighters in 1994? Where were they in 2001? It is the 10 year anniversary of the 30-mile fire…how many of your firefighters even know about the 30-mile Fire, or the South Canyon fire?

Similar to our Armed Forces of America (God Bless and thank-you for your service), we are operating a force of firefighters that must have a sense of shared purpose and shared consciousness...they have a different skill set (digital media) that we must capitalize on and which we can learn from this generation.

Through all this, we must also be mindful of the cumulative pressure on ourselves as leaders as well as our fire ground leaders. WE must watch out and take care of each other. We are in the business of Growing leaders and we must give back as our predecessors did for us…get engaged at the entry level, get engaged at the junior leader level, get engaged at the senior leader level…never lose sight of the most important asset the wildland fire service has….our firefighters.


Unknown said...

Well said Randy... Thanks

Pam McDonald said...

Great reflection, Randy! Thanks for your contribution to the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program. You have inspired many a firefighter.

I look forward to your next blog!