My Share of the Task: A Memoir Hardcover – Jan 7 2013
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“General McChrystal is a legendary warrior with a fine eye for enduring lessons about leadership, courage, and consequence. He took me inside the command bunker, on nighttime raids, and through the fog of war, political and military. My Share of the Task is an important, riveting, and instructive account of the triumphs and trials of America’s two longest wars.”
—TOM BROKAW, author of The Greatest Generation
“Written in the tradition of Ulysses S. Grant, My Share of the Task is a clear, compelling, self-critical, and utterly unpretentious memoir. I know of no better book on the nature of modern military command.”
—JOHN LEWIS GADDIS, author of George F. Kennan: An American Life
“This is a brilliant book about leadership wrapped inside a fascinating personal narrative. By describing his own life, and especially his command in Afghanistan, General McChrystal helps us understand the modern missions of the military. More than that, he provides lessons about leadership and values that are indispensable in our daily lives. It’s a deeply inspiring tale.”
—WALTER ISAACSON, author of Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin
“Stanley McChrystal has written the finest military memoir of his generation. Lucid, thoughtful, and steeped in military and strategic history, My Share of the Task is not just the story of one man’s service; it is the story of the development of a new way of war. This book is not just for aficionados of military history or for students of American foreign policy; it’s for anyone who wants to understand the challenges of leadership in America today.”
—WALTER RUSSELL MEAD, author of Special Providence and God and Gold
“A remarkable memoir by one of the most exceptional and thoughtful leaders of his generation.”
—RORY STEWART, author of The Places in Between
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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Top Customer Reviews
Being ex-military myself, I have long held that what used to be called "man-management", taught me more about managing people in civilian life than a hundred courses could do. General Stanley McChrystal's summary of leadership that he provides at the book's conclusion should be required reading for anyone in, or aspiring to be in, any position of authority.
It will be a revelation to many people to see just how much "management" is required in the prosecution of a counter-insurgency. The general, since leaving the military, has set up his own management consultancy. My feel is that any company availing itself of his services will benefit more than they could ever imagine.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
My Share of the Task will be compared to both Grant and Slim in their prose and authenticity. It is well written and possibly one of the best military memoirs of our time. If I told you he was not a professional writer I would not be telling you the whole truth. He is. The one flaw in this book is that GEN Stan does not emphasize the lifelong lesson he learned about the importance of correspondence. I have read his words in operations orders, commander's guidance, personal letters, letters of recommendation, and letters to fallen service members family's. He is a gifted author and this story will grab your attention like a Bourne movie script at times.
Like Grant he avoids trying to cause injury to any person in his telling of history. He succeeds in being apolitical. Also like Grant there is a recognition that he cannot possibly mention all the great men and women he served in over his career especially during his decade of war. Instead he introduces us to a few people that can teach us about honor, warfare, friendship, courage, and peace.
Take a seat on the pain train and strap in. Learn about SARs, networks, partners, CT machines, reconciliation, maintaining humanity, operators, analysts, interrogators, TSFs, The Task Force, Counterinsurgency, advisors, and many other terms that will now be forever be required vocabulary for the military.
Its pages are not full of the word "I". Instead of lengthy sections about Gen McChrystal we are introduced to the real heroes he looked up to; a senior NCO in Iraq, a young paratrooper in hospital, and a rifle squad on Patrol in Afghanistan. He also takes time to describe some great leaders who left an indelible mark on warfare and the military but may never be heard of outside the military. People like General Gary Luck, LtGen Sir Graeme Lamb, and Command Sergeant Major Mike Hall loom large in his life and he ensures we understand why their style of leadership is most often the best. It strikes me less as a memoir and more as a chance to publicly honor the men and women who quietly and efficiently worked under his command.
Like Grant he mentions in passing his senate confirmations for promotion and meetings with the Presidents to spend the majority of his text focused on larger decision-making events or small but important moments spent with troops. This shows his desire to focus on events that can most effect the tide of battle. Also like Slim he shows that he understands that campaigns are won and lost by the caliber of the people in the Armies not just the leader leading it. He knows that he owes all his success to the success of his people.
This fills a gap in the current literature about the events since September 11th because of his unique duty positions and experiences. One of the few officers to serve repeatedly in both Afghanistan and Iraq as he progressed from BG to GEN. He was deployed to combat zones for the majority of the time from 2002 through 2010.
He explores the lessons he kept in his rucksack as he moved from command to command. Trust subordinates. Surround yourself with the best people and let them go. Be demanding but be patient and listen to your subordinate's gut feelings and subject matter expert's decisions about what to do next. Let subordinates tell you you are wrong and explain why they are right. Honor friendships. Trust makes units efficient. Everyone can be a strategist regardless of rank. Delegate authority until you are uncomfortable and then delegate some more.
It's not all about the operators kicking in doors and snatching the enemy out of his room in the middle of the night. He takes the time to honor all the people who make up exceptional units. The wise supply sergeants, the dedicated adjutant, the interrogators, the intel analysts, the sergeants majors, and the squad leaders.
He has a humble sense of where he fit into these wars historically. He doesn't see himself as a miracle worker just a man that accepts a task and gives one hundred percent to accomplish it and demands 100 percent from his teammates. To work at such a high optempo he relies on a strong wife, a love for Soldiers, and a deep belief in the sanctity of human life.
Like President Lincoln his leadership style worked by making his men feel it was an honor to serve with him. He never minded accepting another's way of doing things if it meant they would relish accomplishing the task their way. People never wanted to fail GEN Stan because it made them feel wretched as if they had disappointed their father or grandfather.
Its not a book that glorifies his legendary status in the spec ops community, instead it highlights why when he put the call out for a few friends to join him for Afghanistan dozens showed up at the pentagon within days. With no idea of their future jobs and no specified length for their future combat tours his trusted comrades quit their jobs and left their families to join the band and go back out on tour.
If you are looking for an accurate accounting of the military's worldly involvement for the past 30 years, this is a MUST read. If you want to know more about what motivates a man to become one of the best leaders the US Military has ever known, this is a MUST read. If you are looking to see if he is using this book as a platform for a second career, you might want to pass because it's not there. General McChrystal has done an excellent job of communicating his contributions to freedom and I surmise that his prose is a direct reflection of who he is: a no-nonsense General officer that knew how to get the job done.
Thank you for sharing sir! The only question I have concerns his tours at Fort Stewart. It seems that he and I chewed some of the same ground at the same time. I was in the Marines and it was common practice for the Rangers and the Marines to "mingle" off base. Semper Fi!
1) Describes this General's admirable approach to leadership, and his efforts to carry this out in difficult circumstances. McChrystal tries to implement "The Mission, The Men, and Me" approach described by (former Delta Force commander) Pete Blaber in his fine book.
2) Gives the detailed "inside story" of how the key terrorist Zarqawi was tracked and killed, showing how difficult this task actually was.
3) Demonstrates the success of McChrystal's efforts to break down US bureaucratic and organizational boundaries to fight terrorist networks in Iraq and Afghanistan. McChrystal was able to get competing US Gov't agencies, as well as different parts of the US military, to actually share information and cooperate.
4) Provides many, many examples of the dedication of (and sacrifices made) by US military personnel who tried to make the best of what was often an overwheming situation.
1) McChrystal seems very reluctant to criticize anyone involved with the Allied forces. Perhaps this is understandable, but why not address the mistakes made during the initial occupation of Iraq, as well as the undersourced war in Afghanistan?
2) McChrystal also seems reluctant to address what some observers view as a failed strategy in Afghanistan, and is overly optimistic about the situation there. I just finished reading "The Outpost" by Jake Tapper, which dramatically shows the consequences of poor strategy and decision-making by the higher command, including McChrystal.
3) The US civilian leadership, including both Presidents Bush and Obama, seem to get a free pass from McChrystal, despite evidence of indecision, mistakes, and confusion (at least that's my conclusion based on reading other books, such as those by Bob Woodward.
In this background setting, I obviously expected a lot from the memoirs of a man like Stan McChrystal.
The book gives a short and to the point account of his life in the military, starting at West Point as a cadet and literally ending with parts from his speech given at the farewell ceremony after his resignation. In the epilogue he drifts more from the otherwise chronological event based storyline into a more personal text on what he has learned about leadership in his career. The epilogue is excellently done and I believe it depicts the essence of his leadership philosophy, available for any military academy cadet or prospective leader to seek inspiration from. If this is what you're after, this book is fine.
The general goes through his career with a steady pace and mentions people he has worked with, most by full name. He invariably praises them all for their nice disposition, dedication and personal and military skills.
He shares some of his thoughts but not much of his feelings.
Since other accounts of McChrystals' have been published (e.g. magazine article and book by M Hastings) a lot of readers are familiar with some of his hardships. The disappointment with parts of the civilian US leadership and the poor cooperation with ambassador Eikenberry, to mention a few. He briefly mentions his meeting with Obama prior to assuming his final assignment, and interactions with stateside officials besides R Gates is hardly mentioned at all. It becomes clearer that he chooses to mention people he can praise but leaves the uneasy parts out. Thoughts and feelings around his resignation are also merely superficially stated and not beyond the obvious.
Summed up, a modest personal account of the military life of an amazing and inspiring man. But still, it is a featureless, neutral, politically correct account that is not likely to cause any bad feelings from anyone mentioned. It pays lipservice to people and factors that obviously must have frustrated or disappointed him. I for one think that a man such as he, respected for his competence, leadership and personal skills, can show more passion and still be held in high regards by soldiers and civilians alike, and I think he should have expressed those feelings in this book.
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