Myth and Reality

Stanley McChrystal, Jeff Eggers, Jason Mangone

Portfolio, October 2018

Retired four-star general Stan McChrystal has studied leadership his whole adult life, from his first day at West Point to his most recent work with the corporate clients of the McChrystal Group. In this follow-up to his bestsellers My Share of the Task and Team of Teams, McChrystal explores what leadership really means, debunking the many myths that have surrounded the concept. He focuses on thirteen great leaders, showing that the lessons we commonly draw from their lives are seldom the correct ones.

Chief among the leaders profiled is Robert E. Lee, one of McChrystal’s heroes and is an icon to this day at West Point. On paper, Lee was the ideal leader. He excelled in every way possible for an Army officer in the decades before the Civil War. Yet Lee ultimately made the wrong choice about which side to serve—and then failed to lead his side to victory. Exploring Lee’s life and leadership style, McChrystal explains how his idol’s downfall forced him to rethink his own core assumptions.

He also profiles pairs of unlikely leaders from diverse eras and fields, showing that leaders often use dramatically different tactics to achieve similar results. These include:

Founders: Walt Disney built his empire thinking he was a man of the people, but was actually a bit of a tyrant to the working man. Coco Chanel hid her plebian background to pretend she was an aristocrat, but was obsessed with making clothes for the common people.

Zealots: Maximilien Robespierre whipped his revolutionaries into a frenzy through his writing, while Abu Musab Zarkawi moved on the front lines of the battlefield, winning over his followers through his personal charisma.

Powerbrokers: Margaret Thatcher and Boss Tweed, whose respective reigns depended on the networks they cultivated.

Other leaders profiled include geniuses Albert Einstein and Leonard Bernstein, reformers Martin Luther and Martin Luther King, Jr., and heroes Harriet Tubman and Zheng He.

Ultimately, McChrystal posits that different environments will require different leaders, and that followers will choose the leader they need. Aspiring leaders will be best served not by cultivating a standard set of textbook leadership qualities, but by learning to discern what is required in each situation.

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About the Author

Stanley McChrystal retired from the U.S. Army as a four-star general after more than thirty-four years of service. His last assignment was as the commander of all American and coalition forces in Afghanistan. He is a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and cofounder of The McChrystal Group, a leadership consulting firm.

Jeff Eggers is Executive Director of the Leadership Institute, where he focuses on organizational performance and leadership.

Jeff was formerly a Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, and worked at the White House from 2010 through early 2015, principally as the National Security Council’s Senior Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2013, after serving over 20 years as a combat veteran Navy SEAL. Jeff was Strategic Advisor to General Stanley McChrystal, Special Assistant to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen, Branch Chief for Combating Terrorism on the Joint Staff, and White House Fellow and Director for Combating Terrorism at the National Security Council.

Jeff’s operational tours included several SEAL Teams, commander of the Special Operations Task Unit in western Iraq, and Operations Officer and Mission Commander for the U.S. Navy’s undersea special operations command.

Jeff is a senior fellow at New America, conducting research on the intersection of behavioral science and public policy decision-making and a member of the NationSwell Council, a forum for advancing innovative solutions to the most pressing challenges in America. He also serves on the board of a non-profit that cares for and assists the families of veterans killed in action.

Jeff received a Master of Arts from Oxford University and a Bachelor of Science from the United States Naval Academy.

Jason Mangone worked for the Department of Veteran Services spending over a decade in New York City Government. “J.P.” as most know him as, spent the majority of his tenure in City Government at the world class NYC311 Call Center, where he started as a Call Center Representative and worked his way through the ranks and becoming a Call Center Manager. After reaching a pinnacle at the Call Center, he moved the NYC Build it Back (BIB) Program, where he provided assistance to homeowners that fell victim to Superstorm Sandy.

Jason spent nearly two years with the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery, playing an instrumental role in getting BIB homeowners through the application phase of the program to the Design & Construction phase. He then joined the newly created NYC Department of Veterans’ Services in the Winter of 2016, in which Jason assumed the role of Director of Administration and serves as the agency’s primary Personnel Officer. In this role, he oversees the new-hire onboarding process as well as the design and implementation of our integrated new administrative system, which supports a series of ambitious initiatives and programs aimed at improving the lives of NYC Veterans and their families.

Jason was proudly born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and is considered by friends and coworkers as a true veteran of public service.