David Petraeus Discusses Leadership, Current Threats to U.S.


General David Petraeus

In a two-part interview on Forbes, Gen. David Petraeus gave advice on leadership and lessons learned during his years of service both as CIA director and in the U.S. Army.

In this interview, Zach Friedman asks the burning question of all retired military and agency personnel: “What is the No. 1 international threat facing America today?”

Petraeus replied the threat “varies from day to day,” then broke down the biggest ones the country faces. These included North Korea’s nuclear activities, nation-states dissatisfied with the status quo (i.e. Russia, Iran and China), Islamist extremist groups, cyber threats and the emergence of populist forces.

Petraeus then expanded on how America can be protected from these threats proactively. According to him, protection relies on the strength of U.S. economic and political foundations, U.S. military forces, viable and prudent strategies and policies as well as firm, steady, principled leadership.

When it comes to the tasks of a strategic leader, Petraeus laid out four:

  1. They have to get the big ideas right — inclusively, transparently and iteratively.
  2. They must communicate the big ideas across various audiences — the organization and other publics.
  3. They must oversee the implementation of the big ideas.
  4. They have to determine any modifications to the big ideas.

“Leaders provide inspiration in a variety of ways — giving energy, particularly at the toughest of times — as that can truly be a force multiplier,” he said. “They share risk and hardship with their elements. They provide steadfast leadership in the face of adversity.”

On top of serving in the military and the CIA, Petraeus has been a professor at several institutions, teaching economics, international relations and public policy.

To read part one, click here.

To read part two, click here.

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