Technology.  Entertainment.  Design.  More affectionately known as, ‘TED.’  These ‘talks’ offer an engaging presentation of revolutionary ideas and perspectives from brilliant minds.

Each week, we’ll examine a TED Talk from TED’s expansive library of topics ranging from the annual TED Conference to locally, organized TEDx Events.

Befitting of Army/Navy week, we’ll look at General Stanley McChrystal’s talk on leadership and Admiral James Stavridis’ talk on global security.

Stanley McChrystal:  Listen, learn,…then lead.

  • And I saw my battalion commander, because I had let him down. And I went up to apologize to him, and he said, “Stanley, I thought you did great.” And in one sentence, he lifted me, put me back on my feet, and taught me that leaders can let you fail and yet not let you be a failure.
  • So how does a leader stay credible and legitimate when they haven’t done what the people you’re leading are doing? And it’s a brand new leadership challenge. And it forced me to become a lot more transparent, a lot more willing to listen, a lot more willing to be reverse-mentored from lower.
  • I came to believe that a leader isn’t good because they’re right; they’re good because they’re willing to learn and to trust.  This isn’t easy stuff.  It’s not like that electronic abs machine where, 15 minutes a month, you get washboard abs.  (Laughter)  And it isn’t always fair.  You can get knocked down, and it hurts and it leaves scars.  But if you’re a leader, the people you’ve counted on will help you up.  And if you’re a leader, the people who count on you need you on your feet.

Of all the TED Talks I have listened, McChystral’s is by far one of my personal favorites.  The quote of ‘leaders can let you fail and not let you be a failure’ and ‘…if you’re a leader, the people you’ve counted on will help you up.  And if you’re a leader, the people who count on you need you on your feet’ speak volumes.

When you’re entrusted to a program or project, the people in which you lead will fail.  They will experince short comings.  ‘Fail early, fail often.’  In the context of brainstorming orgenerating ideas for momentum, the more initial action created the greater the body of work one has to edit or revise.

Successful organizations encourage failing, but most importantly, failing without retribution.  The idea or notion of, ‘don’t come to me with a problem, come to me with a solution’ is archaic and antiquated.  If an engineer has a problem but has one in which he is unable to solve, should that individual keep that problem to themself?  No.  Ultimately, open communication, transparency, authenticity will breed trust.  And trust is the lifeblood of any healthy relationship.

James Stavridis:  How NATO’s Supreme Commander Thinks About Global Security

  • My thesis is, open-source security is about international, interagency, private-public connection pulled together by this idea of strategic communication on the Internet.
  • It’s a perfect evocation of that great population survey, the six largest nations in the world in descending order: China, India, Facebook, the United States, Twitter and Indonesia.
  • …there will be times when we will apply hard power in true war and crisis, but there will be many instances, as we’ve talked about today, where our militaries can be part of creating 21st-century security, international, interagency, private-public, connected with competent communication.

  • No one person, no one alliance, no one nation, no one of us is as smart as all of us thinking together.

  • My thesis for you is that by combining international, interagency, private-public, strategic communication, together, in this 21st century, we can create the sum of all security.

Open-source.  This is the popular method in which problems are solved.  As alluded to by Stavridis, the military in its role must be flexible and agile to play the kinetic role it is designed, but also an expansive non-kinetic role which engages and leverages the capabilities of other agencies and entities.

‘Stove pipe’ is a common theme in organizations.  The more issues and problems are addressed by a broader talent base, a more efficient and better resolution is sure to rise.  The military and global security is no exception.

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