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Andrea Useem
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Andrea Useem

Andrea Useem is the producer of On Leadership.

Transcript: Gen. Petraeus on his leadership role models

Gen. David Petraeus
General David Petraeus sat down with Washington Post reporter David Ignatius to talk about leadership on Tuesday, February 9, at the Washington Post video studio. This is a lightly edited transcript of the first video segment:

David Ignatius: I'm sure a lot of people watching would be very curious to know who your role models are for leadership, who the people you have studied, read about, modeled yourself on.

Gen. Petraeus: I took enormous strength from reading about Grant and what he went through. He was a truly admirable figure. The response he had after the first day in Shiloh was one that I often repeated to our troopers during the tough moments.

As you'll recall, the Union forces were almost driven into the river in the first day at Shiloh; terrible casualties. It's the night of the first day, it's raining, he's got his slouch hat on. Rain is literally running off it, got a wet cigar on his mouth, the cries of the wounded all around him. There's no shelter because the wounded are inside anything that has a roof on it, so he's sitting in this chair under a tree and it's dark. And out from the darkness stomps Sherman, his most trusted, I think, subordinate leader during those war years. And Sherman says to him, "Well, Grant, we had the Devil's own day today, didn't we?" And Grant says, "Yup. Lick 'em tomorrow though."

And there is some strength there. We had some "lick 'em tomorrow" moments, and we recall that actual episode for our troopers on some very tough days. In fact, I just did it recently as General McChrystal and I were talking about some very tough men in Afghanistan.

Ignatius: Are there any business leaders, General Petraeus, from whom you've learned things that have helped you in your own management responsibilities in the military?

Gen. Petraeus: There are, and, frankly, there are some political leaders. I remember when I was up in northern Iraq, somebody asked me, "Do you see your role model as General MacArthur and the remaking of Japan?" I almost had to laugh out loud. I mean, he was such a regal, imperial figure in that role. Here we were just trying to reshape -- get northern Iraq back up on its feet and I said, "You know, I..." I actually looked at Rudy Giuliani.

This is the broken-window theory. Remember when he was the mayor of New York, he used to say don't let the broken window turn into the crack house. If you don't tend to these kinds of things when they first crop up, they get worse and worse and worse and all of a sudden you have a blighted neighborhood on your hands. In many respects that's what we're doing in northern Iraq.

And there have been a host of individuals in business leadership and also in the world of leadership theory that we've drawn from over the years. I mean, I think Jack Welch -- there's an awful lot that we have taken from his different approaches and focus on subordinate leader development, in particular, in the communication to them and so forth.

But let me just say that at the end of the day what we do is different. And we should never lose sight of that. The responsibilities that our troopers have -- where you have lieutenants and sergeants called strategic lieutenants and strategic sergeants because their tactical activities have potentially strategical effect for missions of enormous importance to our entire country, to our national security.

At the end of the day, this is also about life and death, so the premium on certain qualities in military leadership -- integrity in particular -- I think is very high.

This segment was transcribed by Fahima Haque.

By Andrea Useem

 |  February 16, 2010; 4:15 PM ET
Category:  Military Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Wow... a bit reactionary folks...
Dave Robinette - I don't think he was citing Rudy G. as the original source only anecdotally to illustrate that attending to the little things are important...
Gargoyle - you assume more than you should, he is available because the US population is no longer linked in a meaningful way to the military... he is describing the military experience because without a draft most have little idea what it means to be a Soldier...
Juke & Axo - Really, he cites an approach I don't think he named Rudy G. as a personal hero...
FromWood - maybe its the jaded world we live in, but I think its far from a given that Petraeus will decide to enter politics... he is what he is - an officer totally committed to being worthy of the confidence and responsibility placed in him. He might enter the political arena, but I have never heard or left his presence with that impression.

For those wondering, no I don't work for Gen Petraeus and I'm certainly not part of his inner circle... but I have had occassion to serve in close proximity in both Peace and War (Good and Bad)... I think I have a pretty good bead on him - and most here have shown their colors by responding to perceived failings without giving the interview a fair hearing


Posted by: kirktaylor | February 25, 2010 2:49 PM
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The General seems to like to maintain his public image at a "slow boil" that keeps him at the outer periphery of public debate. While he remain on "outsider" in politial terms, he makes an effort far greater than other military commanders. Can you name the commanding general of Pacific Command? I fully expect the general to gracefully retire soon and then seek a post-retirement platform from which he can launch a presidential run.

Posted by: FromWoodbridge | February 22, 2010 12:16 PM
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If you listen to Gen P and/or read the text of the interview, you will note that his reference to Mayor G's cracked window theory and practices is not about judging the mayor. It's about taking a slice of the mayor's practices and using it in a military setting. It's the same selection as the General did with Jack Welch's management practices, again, just the subordinate leader development, and, here, too, Gen Petraeus transfers it to a military purpose. Add the references to Gen Grant and Gen MacArthus and one comes away with an appreciation for Gen Petraeus's responses to the "On Leadership" questions.

Posted by: proflorraine | February 19, 2010 12:35 PM
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I had some respect for this general, obviously a relatively brainy, well educated, and oh so astute political fighting man. But his regard for Giuliani, one of the more odious buffoons (certainly recently) on the American scene, makes him very suspect. He should resign his commission and forget about politics.

Posted by: axolotl | February 19, 2010 10:42 AM
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The general looks to Rudy 9/11 for advice? Doesn't he know that Rudy G is the one that mandated the Emergency Control Center for NYC in the Twin Towers when his advisers wanted it at the Brooklyn Piers. He overrode all advice because of his egotism and publicity. And didn't Rudy 9/11 select Kerik as police commissioner of NYC and later vouched for him during the vetting process for HS chief. And who can forget Kerik's tour in Iraq to train the police force which ended in him being removed in a couple of months for outlandish behaviour. Daaaa, general should be more careful in choosing his inspirational leaders.

Posted by: juke2 | February 18, 2010 8:30 PM
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The General really needs a skillful public relations professional to advise him in his selection of role models. This general is so free and frequent with his sound bites and highly personal views, that he also needs the advice of a political professional, to guide him in what is beginning to appear as first steps in seeking political office. How close is he to retirement from the military?

Posted by: gargoyle22 | February 18, 2010 5:52 PM
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The people who conceived and first wrote of the "broken windows theory" are James Q. Wilson, when he was the Shattuck Professor of Government at Harvard University, and George L. Kelling. Their article, titled "Broken Windows," appeared in the March 1982 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. Rudolph Giuliani had nothing to do with the origination of the theory.

Posted by: davidrobinette | February 18, 2010 3:42 PM
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Guiliani? You got to be kidding!!

Posted by: GFAlexander | February 18, 2010 2:38 PM
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