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Scott DeRue
Leadership professor

Scott DeRue

Scott DeRue is Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations at the University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School of Business. With Maxim Sytch, he created the student-driven Leadership Seminar discussion group.

The burden on Petraeus

Q: In confronting the issue of Gen. McChrystal's apparent insubordination, did President Obama have any choice but to remove him? Going forward, what can Gen. Petraeus do to overcome this dramatic shakeup and keep his troops reassured and on mission?

Obama had no choice but to remove General McChrystal from his position. In fact, not removing him would have been a huge strategic mistake for the Obama administration.

Let's imagine the possible implications had he not been removed. Republicans would have portrayed McChrystal's comments as evidence of Obama's lack of leadership and authority and used his comments for political gain. Our troops would interpret the comments as evidence of our military's senior leadership not having a shared vision and plan for the war in Afghanistan. In addition, McChrystal's insubordination might legitimize similar behavior among our troops, and although I have never served in the military, I expect such behavior would not be productive or well received.

Lastly, our enemies around the world could use the comments as propaganda to build support against the Obama administration and the U.S.'s involvement in the Middle East. Obama had no choice, and he made the right choice.

In assuming his new position, General Petraeus must show the leadership that McChrystal failed to exhibit. He must recognize that some within the military will hold McChrystal in high esteem, and he cannot take swift actions that marginalize these people or show disrespect to McChrystal's service to our country. He must build on the support that McChrystal has within the military community.

At the same time, Petraeus must act quickly and decisively to address the myriad of challenges that Afghans are facing in their local communities, and that our military faces on a daily basis. Petraeus must show that he and the Obama administration have a common vision for the future of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. He must establish a clear plan of action and communicate that plan to key U.S. and Afghan stakeholders. And he must reiterate that our troops have the full support and appreciation of the American people.

Do you agree or disagree? What did I miss? What advice would you give General Petraeus?

By Scott DeRue

 |  June 24, 2010; 11:21 AM ET
Category:  Wartime Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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