LINCOLN — Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal said he carried “scar tissue” for 41 years until his speech Tuesday night on leadership at the Lied Center for Performing Arts.
The former commander told a story of his first year at the U.S. Military Academy, where he was a football player whose father, a two-star general, had high expectations. He said his quality of life as a plebe was dependent on how well the Army football team did.
“The first week of my plebe year's football season,” he said, “I'm a little worried about my quality of life, and who do we play?”
The audience laughed after McChrystal showed a photograph of Nebraska football players during the Nebraska-Army game in 1972, won by the Huskers 77-7.
Hundreds of people gathered for McChrystal's speech, a part of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Engineering “Building the 22nd Century” Conference.
“So many things are changing, but the requirement for leaders is not going to change,” he said.
McChrystal was the commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan in 2009. He submitted his resignation in 2010, after the publication of critical remarks he had made about several Obama administration officials.
He also was the leader of Joint Special Operations Command, which is credited with both the 2003 capture of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the locating and killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.
McChrystal stressed that talent isn't enough for a team's success. He outlined his speech with the importance of trust, decision-making, communication and a common goal.
“You have to be smart as a group, and you have to make decisions as a group.”
The retired four-star general also spoke about adaptation and how it helped his team locate and kill al-Zarqawi in 2006.
“The only way we can beat them is if we are able to do what they do, but do it better,” he said. “We started changing.
“It wasn't technology, straight courage or anything else, but it was our ability and willingness to adapt.”
McChrystal teaches a leadership course at Yale University's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.
In 2011, he co-founded the McChrystal Group, a management consulting business that offers leadership solutions to organizations.