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My Share of the Task: A Memoirby Stanley Mcchrystal
Synopses & Reviews
“Never shall I fail my comrades. . . . I will shoulder more than my share of the task, whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.” —from the Ranger Creed
In early March 2010, General Stanley McChrystal, the commanding officer of all U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, walked with President Hamid Karzai through a small rural bazaar. As Afghan townspeople crowded around them, a Taliban rocket loudly thudded into the ground some distance away. Karzai looked to McChrystal, who shrugged. The two leaders continued greeting the townspeople and listening to their views.
That trip was typical of McChrystal’s entire career, from his first day as a West Point plebe to his last day as a four-star general. The values he has come to be widely admired for were evident: a hunger to know the truth on the ground, the courage to find it, and the humility to listen to those around him. Even as a senior commander, McChrystal stationed himself forward, and frequently went on patrols with his troops to experience their challenges firsthand.
In this illuminating memoir, McChrystal frankly explores the major episodes and controversies of his eventful career. He delves candidly into the intersection of history, leadership, and his own experience to produce a book of enduring value.
Joining the troubled post-Vietnam army as a young officer, McChrystal witnessed and participated in some of our military’s most difficult struggles. He describes the many outstanding leaders he served with and the handful of bad leaders he learned not to emulate. He paints a vivid portrait of the traditional military establishment that turned itself, in one generation, into the adaptive, resilient force that would soon be tested in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the wider War on Terror.
McChrystal spent much of his early career in the world of special operations, at a time when these elite forces became increasingly effective—and necessary. He writes of a fight waged in the shadows by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which he led from 2003 to 2008. JSOC became one of our most effective counterterrorism weapons, facing off against Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Over time, JSOC gathered staggering amounts of intelligence in order to find and remove the most influential and dangerous terrorists, including the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The hunt for Zarqawi drives some of the most gripping scenes in this book, as McChrystal’s team grappled with tricky interrogations, advanced but scarce technology, weeks of unbroken surveillance, and agonizing decisions.
McChrystal brought the same energy to the war in Afghanistan, where the challenges loomed even larger. His revealing account draws on his close relationships with Afghan leaders, giving readers a unique window into the war and the country.
Ultimately, My Share of the Task is about much more than war and peace, terrorism and counterinsurgency. As McChrystal writes, “More by luck than design, I’d been a part of some events, organizations, and efforts that will loom large in history, and more that will not. I saw selfless commitment, petty politics, unspeakable cruelty, and quiet courage in places and quantities that I’d never have imagined. But what I will remember most are the leaders.”
"Retired four-star general McChrystal provides a candid look back across his nearly four decade-long career, musing on leadership and immersing the reader in wartime missions. Raised in an Army family, he began as a West Point cadet, followed that with Ranger school, and, after ascending the Army ranks, was deployed for Pentagon postings in Iraq and Afghanistan. McChrystal describes his experiences and senior-level leadership challenges (he was Joint Special Operations Command counterterrorism task force commander in Iraq and NATO commander in Afghanistan), offers thoughtful, historical context and objectives for Iraq and Afghanistan, and details his relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Aided by maps and photographs, his clear, intelligent narrative balances a vast amount of information and detailed explanation, as in his firsthand, seat-of-the-pants account of tracking, surveilling, and eliminating Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. There were personal and military failings: he discusses his 'antics' at West Point; the Pat Tillman friendly fire controversy; Abu Ghraib and abuse of Iraqi detainees ('There were lapses in discipline, but they were never tolerated. Never a wink and a nod.'); media leaks; and the Rolling Stone article that led to his resignation. Engaging and humble throughout, McChrystal raises the bar for his peers. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The retired four-star general and and bestselling author of My Share of the Task shares a powerful new leadership model
As commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), General Stanley McChrystal played a crucial role in the War on Terror. But when he took the helm in 2004, America was losing that war badly: despite vastly inferior resources and technology, Al Qaeda was outmaneuvering Americas most elite warriors.
McChrystal came to realize that todays faster, more interdependent world had overwhelmed the conventional, top-down hierarchy of the US military. Al Qaeda had seen the future: a decentralized network that could move quickly and strike ruthlessly. To defeat such an enemy, JSOC would have to discard a century of management wisdom, and pivot from a pursuit of mechanical efficiency to organic adaptability. Under McChrystals leadership, JSOC remade itself, in the midst of a grueling war, into something entirely new: a network that combined robust centralized communication with decentralized managerial authority. As a result, they beat back Al Qaeda.
In this book, McChrystal shows not only how the military made that transition, but also how similar shifts are possible in all organizations, from large companies to startups to charities to governments. In a turbulent world, the best organizations think and act like a team of teams, embracing small groups that combine the freedom to experiment with a relentless drive to share what theyve learned.
Drawing on a wealth of evidence from his military career, the private sector, and sources as diverse as hospital emergency rooms and NASAs space program, McChrystal frames the existential challenge facing todays organizations, and presents a compelling, effective solution.
General Stanley McChrystal is widely admired for his hunger to know the truth, his courage to find it, and his humility to listen to those around him. Even as the commanding officer of all U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, he stationed himself forward and frequently went on patrols with his troops to experience their challenges firsthand.
In this illuminating New York Times bestseller, McChrystal frankly explores the major episodes and controversies of his career. He describes the many outstanding leaders he served with and the handful of bad leaders he learned not to emulate. And he paints a vivid portrait of how the military establishment turned itself, in one generation, into the adaptive, resilient force that would soon be tested in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the wider War on Terror.
General McChrystal is a legendary warrior with a fine eye for enduring lessons about leadership, courage, and consequence.” —Tom Brokaw
A compelling account of his impressive career.” —The Wall Street Journal
This is a brilliant book about leadership wrapped inside a fascinating personal narrative.” —Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs
Engaging and humble throughout, McChrystal raises the bar for his peers.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
STANLEY McCHRYSTAL retired in July 2010 as a four-star general in the U.S. Army. His last assignment was as the commander of the International Security Assistance Force and as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He had previously served as the director of the Joint Staff and as the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command. He is currently a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and the cofounder of the McChrystal Group, a leadership consulting firm. He and his wife of thirty-five years, Annie, live in Virginia.
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