"Every day you want to scream," says General Stanley McChrystal about the crisis that ended his career. Still recovering, he has turned trauma into a leadership lesson.
It's easy to be a leader when things are going well. The true test comes when things fall apart. How do you handle yourself then?
General Stanley McChrystal delivered very personal wisdom at Fortune Brainstorm Tech in Aspen on Tuesday during a "Lessons in Leadership" session that also included Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) EVP Todd Bradley. McChrystal was the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2010 when a Rolling Stone profile portrayed him and his aides as contemptuous of the President. The story, which McChrystal says was inaccurate, led him to resign and end his military career.
The four-star general's reinvention now has him leading the McChrystal Group, a consulting firm that helps companies like HP change the ways they operate. While dispensing plenty of leadership advice, the gem of this session, which I moderated, was McChrystal's stunning candor--speaking as he has not before about his crisis, the lesson from it, and the approach any of us might take to gain strength from an embarrassing setback.
"Well, I decided to myself, that that was an inflection point in my life. And I couldn't change that now. You can't change the past.
And what I was going to try to do is conduct myself every day for the rest of my life in a way that would cause anybody who saw or dealt with me to say, "That's not congruent with the tone of that report."
So, rather than take on the report directly, I decided to take it on indirectly and just try to disprove it by my conduct.
You pay a big price when you do that. Silence hurts. When you keep your mouth shut and you don't write about it, you don't talk about it, and every day you want to scream.
You want to scream out every day—a little less every day, but every day you do.
Most leaders go through something like that…Get yourself ready to what's important to you: What's the core of you? What can't people take away from you?
And realize that if you give to other people the opportunity to determine your dignity or your sense of self-worth—if you outsource that to them—they can leave you in a bad place.
So you've got to decide.
Here's the full interview with McChrystal and HP's Bradley. Fast-forward to 44:00 to see McChrystal talking about his career crisis.
FORTUNE -- As we noted yesterday, Yahoo's new chief Marissa Mayer is the youngest CEO in the Fortune 500. Mayer's appointment means that the Fortune 500 now has 20 female CEOs, a new record. Here's the list:
10. Meg Whitman - Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)
19. Ginni Rometty - IBM (IBM)
28. Patricia Woertz - Archer Daniels Midland (ADM)
41. Indra Nooyi - PepsiCo (PEP)
45. Angela Braly - WellPoint (WLP)
50. Irene Rosenfeld - Kraft Foods (KFT)
72. MOREColleen Leahey, Reporter - Jul 18, 2012 9:30 AM ET
Even as Pattie Dunn died at age 58 after a long battle with cancer, she lived a full life. Her life started as an urban fairy tale: When I met her for the first time in 1999, Dunn told me about growing up as the daughter of a Las Vegas impresario and a showgirl, starting her career as a secretary at Wells Fargo (WFC), and rising through the banking world MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 6, 2011 3:31 PM ET
Meg Whitman's first report card as CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) comes this afternoon when the company announces fourth-quarter earnings.
In the 60 days since she took the job, Whitman has settled on a strategy (keep HP in the PC business), worked to raise employee morale (terrible after three CEO ousters), and lifted the stock (up 12% since her appointment). But the former eBay (EBAY) chief, who lost her race for governor MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 21, 2011 2:09 PM ET
Ginni Rometty is the next CEO of IBM, the company announced this afternoon.
With that news comes a stunning stat: America's two largest tech companies will be headed by women.
Meg Whitman, who built eBay (EBAY), became CEO of Hewlett-Packard last month.
H-P (HPQ) is No. 11 on the Fortune 500. IBM (IBM) is No. 18.
Both women spoke at the recent Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit. Rometty's main message (and one that Whitman MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 25, 2011 5:41 PM ET
With Meg Whitman nabbing the CEO job at Hewlett-Packard--and the four women at the bottom of this list (below) new to the top job this year--America now has 15 female Fortune 500 CEOs.
Not a number to be proud of, but hey, it's a record and it is progress nonetheless.
Here are the women at the helm--including the rank of their companies on the Fortune 500:
11 Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)
39 Pat Woertz, MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 23, 2011 2:00 PM ET
Meg Whitman is the new CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ). Not interim chief. This is Whitman's for-real next big gig.
And it is big indeed, given that the storied Silicon Valley company has lurched from chief to chief to chief ever since the board, in 1999, eased out Lew Platt and recruited Carly Fiorina from Lucent (ALU).
Fiorina was the first No. 1 on the Fortune Most Powerful Women list, at the top MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 22, 2011 5:05 PM ET
Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) announcement that it is adding three women to its board of directors is a milestone -- apparently the first instance of a company naming three women in one day.
The female trifecta includes former eBay (EBAY) CEO Meg Whitman, former Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) CEO Pat Russo and current chief of AXA Private Equity Dominique Senequier -- all of whom have been on Fortune's annual list of Most Powerful Women in MOREPatricia Sellers - Jan 21, 2011 4:28 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
Sometimes Los Angeles behaves like a small town.
This past Sunday, I ran into Maria Shriver at Room at the Beach, a Malibu store owned by my friend Elizabeth Lamont.
The next morning, coincidentally, I had breakfast with a close friend/colleague of Shriver. And no sooner did I sit down at Le Pain Quotidien than the Governator walked in. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was on his way to Sacramento, presumably to MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 25, 2010 12:54 PM ET
While perplexities proliferate around Hewlett-Packard's ouster of CEO Mark Hurd, here is one answerable question in the corporate soap opera: What is APCO Worldwide?
It was PR strategists at APCO who helped the HP board decide how to handle sexual harassment charges against Hurd. Kent Jarrell, an APCO senior vice president who heads the firm's litigation communication practice, presented a mock newspaper article that illustrated the potential damage to HP's reputation MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 17, 2010 12:42 PM ET
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