What Kind of Leader Did General McChrystal Expect?

President Obama has demonstrated over and over again that he is an analytical or logical leader who gathers information often for long periods of time before deciding how to move forward on major issues. And there's much to be said for this type of leadership. He certainly doesn't shoot from the hip.

But what does this mean in terms of people on his team?

Commanding leaders, who move quickly to get things done, are inclined to find such pondering of options annoying at best. To the more extreme of them politics is a lot of kissing up to people who don't know what they're doing. It's a waste of precious time. And it's a sign of weakness. It appears that General McChrystal viewed the president, vice president and a host of other civilians in this way.

As the president works to bring his team together, he'll need to consider how to bridge the divide between his preferred style of leadership and people not so different from the general. And he'll need to let them in on how his mind works.

It isn't enough to wait for people following you to figure out how you lead. It's important to know this yourself and to share it with those who you need to stand by you when they'd like to be operating in a different fashion.

In short, effective leadership requires recognizing when someone on your team is more inclined toward commanding, motivational, logical or supportive types of leadership or some combination of these. And respecting that so long as the respect is reciprocated.

Military leaders are rarely politicians, though they learn to be if they want to get ahead. Their training tends to be more of the "can do" type rather than Obama's preferred "let's see" version.

To pull his team together, he needs to consider his strengths, as General Petraeus appears to do by working side-by-side with civilian experts and diplomats like Ryan C. Crocker. It isn't important for any one leader to be all things to all people. It's important to do what you're inclined to do well, to stretch when the situation calls for it, and to rely on others when the stretch is just too far.

As General Petraeus has explained, everyone needs to get "the big ideas right" and communicate them well.

We saw this week that when President Obama has all the facts he believes he needs, he can be very decisive. When he sees an action as clearly over his threshold of tolerance, he acts. He deserves credit for this.

Now, he needs to take a good look at who is on his team, how their preferred leadership styles differ from his own and each other, the pros and cons of that, and then he should make sure that he has placed each person where their leadership style does the most good. That's how a good team works. Such quality of effort doesn't require that people be of one mind. It doesn't call for one type of leadership or personality type. In fact, when it comes to radical change, and the goals in Afghanistan certainly fit that description, several types of leaders are needed for various stages of the process.

Effective leadership is about knowing when to rely on whom for how long doing what. If President Obama sorts this out, he'll experience more successes than he is being credited for now. And everything that goes wrong won't be in his lap. Everything that goes right will be, in part, because he understands how teams work - and because he grasps and exhibits the flexibility leaders need for success to happen.

Dr. Reardon also blogs at bardscove.