While beginning the fall semester at Sam Houston, LEAP students had a lot to look forward to: new classes, LSAT preparation, moot-court practice, and meetings with four-star general Stanley McChrystal. This semester, we started the semester off right with a visit to The Woodlands to meet and speak with General Stanley McChrystal as a kind of kick-off to our two-day retreat.
When we first met General McChrystal, we immediately felt how his presence dominated the room.
Very calm and relaxed, he reminded us more of the laid back, logically thinking dad more than the head command of JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command), the force credited with the elimination of many terrorists. General McChrystal began the small-group question-and-answer session,we learned that he followed in his family footsteps and attended the United States Military Academy, where he learned to be the disciplined officer turned four-star general we know today. While in command in Iraq, General McChrystal noticed that while our system of war making decisions and standard operating procedures was efficient, it was not appropriate for a new world that was “faster, flatter, and more flexible.” After reviewing the organization and its strengths and weaknesses, McChrystal re-organized the JSOC and implements a new system of communication that connected 7,600 people and their teams in 76 different counties and nations.
While much of his story and later on speech involved his role in the Iraqi war, General McChrystal spoke mostly on his leadership style and how he became the leader he is now. When asked about his views on leadership, General McChrystal compared his job to being a gardener. This was an intriguing analogy, but McChrystal explained that a gardener isn’t responsible for nature. He’s responsible for ensuring that the environment is favorable for growth–removing obstacles (e.g., weeds) and providing resources (e.g., water). While commanding the JSOC, McChrystal ensured that his direct reports and troops (1) knew their mission, (2) had the information they needed to make good decisions on their own, and (3) had the resources they needed to fulfill their mission.
What made General McChrystal’s speech applicable to LEAP was his outlook on leadership as well as his courage to adapt to an evolving world of communication and technology within the framework of a “team of teams”. As an organization made up of different kinds of students with different strengths and weaknesses, LEAP students strive to follow this “team of teams” concept and look forward to using it this year to become a more productive and efficient organization at Sam.
We ended the evening by following the pull of our ravenous bellies. The Black Walnut Café was calling our name and we graciously decided to answer. The lighting and warm colors of mahogany and magenta, as well as the smell of the fresh seasonings in the air greeted as we entered the door and invited us to sit down and enjoy time with each other, while bonding over a delicious meal. We enjoyed great diversity in the menu in the form of salads, burgers, and pasta, and even some very impressive garlic bread. We closed the evening, cherishing our time with General McChyrstal and with each other, amidst discussions of the next LEAP adventure.