Fives years ago, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal was rocked by a scandal: He and several members of his staff made cringe-worthy remarks published in an infamous profile in Rolling Stone magazine. The most politically incorrect of them — ripping Vice President Biden — were made by an aide, but the situation nonetheless resulted in him tendering his resignation as the top commander of the Afghanistan war.
McChrystal has settled into retirement since, launching a consulting group and becoming an author. His latest book, “Team of Teams,” lays out a path he says can be helpful in the business world and other environments, but the general isn’t shy about answering questions about the shocking end to his career.
In a recent visit to The Washington Post, McChrystal said that he regretted that the situation happened, but “any of the things that caused it to happen I really don’t have that feeling about.”
“My biggest regret was I had brought a bunch of people over who trusted and believed in me to execute a mission, and now I was leaving them and you feel like you let them down,” he told the Post’s On Leadership blog. “I cared deeply about the mission in Afghanistan — and I still do — so when I was separated from it, I regretted that.”
The situation taught him two lessons about dealing with change: The first is that after something unexpected happens that “shifts the ground under your feet,” you’re going to be required to look inward, he said.
“If who you were was entirely based upon the position you were in, or the headlines you got in the newspaper, or you had essentially subcontracted out your self-worth to the judgments of others, then you’re going to be like tumbleweed,” he said. “You’re going to be blown.”
The second lesson: “You’re going to find out who your friends are. Anything that happens in your life is one of those challenges. It may not be at the level of celebrity, but everybody’s going to travel that road.”
McChrystal discussed a variety of other things, including his belief that the military should allow “lateral entry” for mid-career individuals. The rest of the interview is available here.