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The four-star general,who previously was commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A), steered clear of the topic of U.S. intelligence and focused instead on effective leadership. He told the students they must adapt their leadership styles as their responsibilities change and must tailor their leadership style to suit those they are seeking to lead,” Petraeus said.
Petraeus based his remarks on his own study of and experience in leadership, starting with his entry into West Point in 1970, and including command of a 101st Airborne Division, of all coalition forces in Iraq and oversight of an international security force in Afghanistan. In his career, he also, among other things, supervised stabilization forces in Bosnia and headed operations of a United Nations force in Haiti.
“My style (of leadership) depends on the context – in particular on the styles of the individuals and the organizations I’m trying to lead,” he said, noting, for instance, that his approach to leading air assault infantry in the early 1990s required a different approach than leading CIA employees, even if the process is similar.
Petraeus tailored his talk to students in attendance and used his experience with the 2007 surge in Iraq to give them a basic recipe for the cycle of strategic leadership – leadership at the helm of large organizations. Read his advice here.
Petraeus spoke with 40 current McConnell Scholars after his formal talk.
His appearance was part of a lecture series which has also featured former President George W. Bush, Vice President Joe Biden, five secretaries of state, 15 U.S. senators and other top officials. His lecture reportedly was his first on-the-record speech since taking the helm of the CIA.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his wife, Elaine Chao, former United States Secretary of Labor, also attended.