You’d rather sit with someone you don’t like than someone you don’t know – 3 lessons from ‘Team of Teams’

I was recently asked for my thoughts on General McChrystal’s book Team of Teams and to be honest I wasn’t expecting much new.

General McChrystal is a soldier’s soldier, a great leader and I would have loved the opportunity to have worked for him. I have enjoyed his books and speeches: but, to be honest, I was beginning to find his story repetitive; fascinating the first time I heard it, interesting the second time, but waning the third or fourth rendition. (Maybe that is how my wife feels about my stories?)

I was pleasantly surprised. Team of Teams weaves the intimacies of war-fighting, management-sciences with the human nature and psychology.

The authors – McChrystal, Fussell, Collins and Silverman – tied together a series of seemingly disparate leadership lessons from history, NASA, Ford, the Maginot Line and more. They managed to connect all that into an easy read which reminded me of three leadership truisms:

  • People would rather sit with someone they don’t like than someone they don’t know

McChrystal commanded an array of highly trained & professional and extremely proud Special Forces units and intelligence agencies. He knew that these units had more in common than differences, but inter-agency/unit rivalry meant they didn’t know each other: therefore, didn’t trust each other.

It is hard to build trust in institutions, so he invested in building human-to-human relationships between these teams through job sharing and removing office walls. McChrystal understood that it is easy to let a nameless, faceless organization down but not the person you had coffee with yesterday.

read more about leading without authority

  • Leaders must understand & be loyal to their ‘First Team’;

As leaders, we have a natural affinity for the people we work with – our team and tribe. What McChrystal demonstrated to those under his command that their first team loyalty was to their peers who led the other organizations.

Of course, part of a leader’s role to tend & protect their people, but that creates a very myopic perspective that can run counter to achieving the overall objective.

  • Leaders must ensure that their people know exactly what their goals & objectives are.

McChrystal established a level of trust & clarity with those who worked for him. They knew what the mission was and what was expected of them to carry it out.

My recommendation?

There are three themes in Team of Teams, and the authors use terrific stories used to make the lessons. They provided insight & perspective into the warrior’s ethos, the science of leadership & management and, the evolution of human nature.

But the real value of Team of Teams is the inter-connectivity of each theme and how they apply to leading any organization.

It is well worth the read.