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440: Leadership in the Midst of Chaos, with Jim Mattis

By Dave Stachowiak

Jim Mattis: Call Sign Chaos Jim Mattis served more than four decades as an infantry officer in the United States Marines, rising to the rank of 4-star general. In 2017, he was nearly unanimously confirmed as the 26th Secretary of Defense of the United States, a position he held for almost two years. Today, he is a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the author of the new book with Bing West: Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead*. In this conversation, Jim and I discuss his career in the Marines and the leadership lessons that emerged during combat. Jim shares the mistake he made in soliciting support for his plan to capture Osama Bin Laden in Tora Bora and discusses how he handled disagreements on strategy in Fallujah. Finally, Jim recommends three books and reflects on the greatest threat to America today. Key Points Creating “focused telescopes” outside the normal chain of command were useful in discovering concerns that might not otherwise have become known. Keep key stakeholders in the loop with these three questions: What do I know? Who needs to know? Have I told them? “You cannot order someone to abandon a spiritual burden they’ve been wrestling with.” Even in a war zone, command was only a small portion of the daily tasks. Most of the time was spent coaching. “History teaches that we face nothing new under the sun.” Books will help you take advantage of the accumulated experiences of leaders who came before you. Resources Mentioned Meditations* by Marcus Aurelius Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant* by Ulysses S. Grant and Mark Twain Long Walk to Freedom* by Nelson Mandela Book Notes Download my highlights from Call Sign Chaos in PDF format (free membership required). Related Episodes The Way to Stop Rescuing People From Their Problems, with Michael Bungay Stanier (episode 284) Develop Leaders Before You Leave, with David Marquet (episode 405) Influence Through Overlapping Networks, with Sandie Morgan (episode 422) How to Start Seeing Around Corners, with Rita McGrath (episode 430) Discover More Activate your free membership for full access to the entire library of interviews since 2011, searchable by topic.

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