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Photo courtesy of ASIS International

Remote Leadership Lessons from the Battlefield

Retired four-star U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal is the former commander of U.S. and International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan and the former commander of the U.S. military’s counterterrorism task force—the Joint Special Operations Command.

From June 2009 until his retirement in August 2010, McChrystal served as the commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan and NATO ISAF. He oversaw more than 150,000 troops, synchronized digitally 24/7 across 27 countries. If this disparate, remote workforce sounds familiar right about now, McChrystal has some words of wisdom for you.

In his GSX+ keynote on Wednesday, 23 September, McChrystal will share some of his experiences leading through turbulent times, providing practical and actionable guidance on what it takes to lead successfully in a rapidly shifting global landscape. The challenge requires context, self-discipline, and a commitment to foster a cohesive, trusted culture, including within a newly remote workforce.

Crises demonstrate the value of experienced senior leaders who can provide context and a longer view when confronted with challenges, McChrystal says. That often means driving the organization to focus on its foundational pillars, culture, discipline, and the development and retention of newer employees.

“No generals win battles. Young soldiers led by sergeants win battles,” McChrystal says, emphasizing the need to encourage feedback, foster initiative, and support up and coming employees—not just established managers—both during crises and peacetime.

Self-discipline is also essential in crisis leadership, and in his keynote McChrystal will share guidance for how to present a genuine, inspiring version of yourself in the face of myriad challenges.

One particular challenge many organizational leaders are facing today is managing a largely remote workforce. While many companies have been pleasantly surprised at how smoothly the transition to remote work has been, McChrystal warns that the shift has largely been supported by preexisting culture built through in-person relationships and workplace structures.

For example, many young professionals learn by listening and watching mentors, leaders, and colleagues in the workplace, whether that’s in meetings, hallway discussions, or chats around the coffeemaker. Remote work has changed that dynamic, requiring forward-thinking leaders to foster new mentorship, educational dynamics, and team cohesion over the long term.

“The difference between good military units and not good military units was always the culture of the organization—the habit that this is how we do things. And if how we do things is good, that organization can accomplish things without a lot of micromanagement from leaders,” McChrystal adds.

To learn more about how to foster resilient organization culture and develop leadership skills to weather crises, attend GSX+ Wednesday morning to watch General Stan McChrystal’s keynote and discussion.