Stanley McChrystal, a retired four-star general in the Army, says the ban on transgender people serving in the military is a mistake.
“I think it’s a mistake to lose that talent … somebody with those attributes, the willingness and the capability to serve, not being welcome, is a negative message to send,” McChrystal told David Axelrod on The Axe Files, a podcast from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.
From leading the Joint Special Operations Command and NATO forces during the war in Afghanistan to researching the qualities of successful leaders, highlighted in his book, “Leaders: Myth and Reality,” McChrystal knows a lot about the common principles of leadership.
Spoiler: He says there aren’t any.
Here are three leadership myths McChrystal debunked:
1. Leaders have a certain set of qualities in common
McChrystal found that the public has a “mythological” view of leadership, including the idea that good leaders must have “the right behaviors or traits.”
In his research, McChrystal profiled 13 different leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Walt Disney. Instead of focusing on their commonalities, he tried to determine why they had emerged as leaders in the first place.
“Over time, we find people who’ve got (the ‘right’ traits) fail, in many cases, and people who have almost none of (them) succeed. We were able to prove to ourselves that that’s a myth, but we hold on to it.”
2. Followers’ success is determined by their leader
Another myth McChrystal identified is the belief that “the leader determines whether you succeed or fail.”
Putting full responsibility onto leaders if their followers fail, whether it’s a US President or a CEO, is missing the point, according to McChrystal.
“What we found is (leaders are) part of the equation, but they’re often not even the dominant part. It’s this interaction between them and followers in the context of the moment. … If we are going to solve the problem by getting a new leader, often that’s not the problem. The problem’s very different.”
3. Movements generally are started by leaders
“What we found in all of these leaders was almost none of them started the movement,” he said. “They all took advantage of a series of factors that were intersecting at the time.”
Although they don’t necessarily create movements, leaders make the the same decision when they witness a movement taking place, according to McChrystal.
“Leadership is this result of this interaction between individuals, the moment, context and followers. … In many times, the biggest common factor is when all of those things happen, those leaders did choose to lead.”