Gen. Stanley McChrystal talked shop recently, saying that leaders are always responsible, no matter what caused a problem in the workplace. Speaking to a crowd of employee benefit professionals at MetLife's National Benefits Symposium, McChrystal talked about the experience that forced his resignation as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

After an article appeared in Rolling Stone, where some of McChrystal's staff criticized some civilian Obama Administration officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, and implied McChrystal echoed their views, the general resigned and retired from his command.

"As a story comes out, the media swirl happens faster than people can think," he said. "So I offered my resignation because the most important thing at that time was the mission. It doesn't matter whether you caused it; if you're in charge, you're responsible."


Advice for HR

McChrystal went on to offer two pieces of advice to the human resources professionals for any parallel situations in their careers or employees' careers. First, remember that it takes a lot of energy to be bitter, "so I made the decision not to be angry." And second, "Never give away your self-esteem to people you don't know and respect."

He also noted that "all of us are going to make mistakes, and it's really a question of how you handle it after you make them."

The retired commander, who now teaches a course on leadership at Yale University and has his own consulting firm, was on hand for a talk called Operating Globally in Uncertain Times. His discussion focused on how U.S. companies might learn from history and contextual clues in current circumstances to prepare for the future.

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