Staying in Step for a Successful Military Life

Book Review: Team of Teams

by | Sep 15, 2018 | Leadership

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
Ret. Gen. Stanley McChrystal
© 2015

This book by Retired General Stanley McChrystal is the meat of the leadership development world. Extending back hundreds of years into history, Team of Teams begins by describing the environment of the early 2000s in the war against Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Despite trained leaders, disciplined troops, and equipped forces, the US military was losing ground in the fight; it just couldn’t move fast enough to keep up with the ever-evolving web of Al-Qaeda relationships and tactics.

With this issue in mind, the rest of the book explores ways that McChrystal and other modern leaders have upended modern organizational management in favor of empowered, agile groups working together, creating a “team of teams.”

The “meat” of this book is found in how far it delves into various principles of leadership and organizational structures. It goes back to the Industrial Revolution and how it set the stage for management styles and structures that we recognize as the norm today. The authors weave in examples from a huge array of industries, such as the medical field, hotel hospitality, factory floors, and the military. The best lessons from each are pulled out, analyzed, and applied.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I will say that some of my favorite parts of the book discussed complicated versus complex environments, empowered followers, and the role of a leader in our new world. Particularly as a young leader in the military… I’m logging this wisdom away.

As I’ve pondered the different concepts in the book, I’ve been able to see them playing out around me. It’s really practical, really useful information, and I’m adding it to my “leadership tool belt” I’ll take with me through my Air Force career.

If you’re ready to take a cerebral, in-depth look at the role of leadership and structures both now and moving into the future, Team of Teams is just the book for you.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Few of us are criticized if we faithfully do what has worked many times before. But feeling comfortable or dodging criticism should not be our measure of success. There’s likely a place in paradise for people who tried hard, but what really matters is succeeding. If that requires you to change, that’s your mission.”

“We decentralized until it made us uncomfortable, and it was right there–on the brink of instability–that we found our sweet spot.”

“Simple honesty shows, and earns, respect.”

“In the Task Force, we found that, alongside our new approach to management, we had to develop a new paradigm of personal leadership. The role of the senior leader was no longer that of controlling puppet master, but rather that of an empathetic crafter of culture.”

What do you believe are three of the top most important qualities for a leader in today’s fast-paced world? What do you think leaders need now that they didn’t need twenty, fifty, or a hundred years ago?


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