February 3, 2011 (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) – Stanley McChrystal, a four-star general in the United States Army and former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan and the former leader of Joint Special Operations Command, spoke to a crowd of more than 1,000 at COMPOSITES 2011 in Ft. Lauderdale on February 2. The message that he delivered was that, whether in the military or industry, leadership is an essential component.
“Why are leaders important?” McChrystal asked. “That’s how you succeed. That’s how you win in war, that’s how you win in politics, that’s how you win in just about everything. We’ve got to learn to be better leaders at every level.”
The three main points about leaders and leadership are relatively simple. As leaders, he said, we must actually solve problems. We must change, because talking about change is easy, but implementing it is not. And we must be able to build relationships with those we lead—we must not forget that there is a very real human factor when it comes to leading people in war, in the factory or anywhere in between.
“You’re only going to make it if you build relationships,” McChrystal said. “Relationships give an amazing durability to an organization.”
Before McChrystal addressed leadership, he thanked those in attendance for their work with composites, which he said have played a key role in the evolution of military equipment during the last 30 years.
“I started with a steel helmet, and ended up with a Kevlar helmet,” he said. “Composites kept soldiers that I know alive after taking two rounds in the chest. I know the vehicles (utilizing composites) we used kept us alive,” he said. “There’s a special place in my heart for the things that make things better. What you make makes things better.”