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Ear to the Ground

General David Petraeus on How Best to Live

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Posted on Nov 10, 2012
The U.S. Army (CC BY 2.0)

The general with President Barack Obama.

Days before David Petraeus resigned from his post as director of the CIA for having an extramarital affair, The Daily Beast’s Newsreek Newsweek column published the general’s “Rules for Living” as documented by his biographer and mistress, Paula Broadwell.

“Lead by example from the front of the formation,” begins the philandering ex-leader’s advice for those hoping to live well. “Take your performance personally—if you are proud to be average, so too will be your troops.”

Of all the vaunted warrior’s suggestions for becoming a sterling example of leadership and decency, it’s the wisdom of rules No. 4 and 8 (printed below) on the subjects of exceptions and “the best ideas” sometimes coming “from bottom-up” that he seems to have most taken to heart.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Daily Beast’s ‘Newsweek’

2. A leader must provide a vision—clear and achievable “big ideas” combined in a strategic concept—and communicate those ideas throughout the entire organization and to all other stakeholders.

4. There is an exception to every rule, standard operating procedure, and policy; it is up to leaders to determine when exceptions should be made and to explain why they made them.

8. Don’t rely on rank. If you rely on rank, rather than on the persuasiveness of your logic, the problem could be you and either your thinking or your communication skills. Likewise, sometimes the best ideas come from bottom-up information sharing (i.e., “Need to share” not “Need to know”). Use “directed telescopes” to improve situational awareness.

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