General George W. Casey, Jr. is one of the most accomplished soldiers in U.S. history and an authority on strategic and transformational leadership. As the 36th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from April 2007 to 2011, General Casey led what is arguably the world's largest and most complex organization, 1.1 million people strong, with a $200+ billion annual budget, during one of the most extraordinary periods in military and global political history. He is widely credited with restoring balance to the war-weary U.S. Army and leading the transformation necessary to ensure the Army remained relevant in current conflicts. Prior to this post, General Casey commanded the Multi-National Force-Iraq, a coalition of more than 30 countries, where he guided the Iraq mission through its toughest days.
He currently lectures on leadership at the Johnson School of Management, Cornell University, at other business schools, and to the leaders of national and multinational corporations. He also lectures on International Relations at the Korbel School, University of Denver. He has published a book, Strategic Reflections, Operation Iraqi Freedom, July 2004-2007 (October 2012), about his experiences in Iraq, and several articles on leadership, including “Leading in a VUCA World”, Fortune Magazine (March 20, 2014).
Today we live, work, and compete in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world. Leading in this environment is tough business and requires leaders with the vision to see opportunities in volatile and ambiguous situations, the courage to act in the face of uncertainty and complexity, and the character to make hard decisions and bounce back from unexpected setbacks. In this keynote, General Casey provides keen and uplifting insights for leaders at all levels on how to navigate uncertainty, leverage opportunities, and inspire teams.
There is an old military axiom that can be traced back to Helmuth von Moltke, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” Mike Tyson put it more starkly, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” In today’s business world, the only certainty is change. Leaders are increasingly challenged to stay abreast of and react to changes in their operating environments while guiding the execution of their existing strategies. Identifying major opportunities, and then driving the cultural and organizational change necessary to take advantage of them, will remain essential work for leaders. General Casey shares with audiences his vast experiences transforming a very good 20th Century army into a force able to deal with the very different challenges of the 21st Century.
President Theodore Roosevelt called character the “indispensable requisite” both for the individual and for the Nation. He knew that character was most important in the leader. People trust leaders with strong character because they know that leader will act appropriately in difficult circumstances. This trust becomes the glue that binds organizations together. Leaders of character are particularly important today when the volatility and the uncertainty of the international business environment, and the rapid pace of change, constantly confront leaders with dilemmas that challenge existing norms. General Casey draws from Aristotle, recent business cases, and from his personal experiences over a 41 –year military career to instill the importance of leading-by-example and building values-based organizations.
Drawing on his experiences in Iraq and on the Joint Chiefs of Staff since 2001, General Casey provides a soldier’s view of the current and evolving threats to America and offers insights on how to best address them. He highlights our on-going struggle with Islamic extremism and argues that we face several more decades of persistent conflict where both non-state actors and states behaving badly will continue to use violence against civilians to pursue their political and ideological objectives. Our challenges are heightened by the fact that these non-state actors have acquired the capability to inflict catastrophic damage on states.
In an entertaining and thought-provoking presentation, General Casey recounts historical and personal accounts of civilian leaders’ interactions with military leaders during times of war. He uses 20th and 21st Century case studies that feature in-depth looks at the predominant war presidents in our recent history—Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman; Lyndon Johnson; George W. Bush and Barak Obama—and how we can draw lessons from their interactions with the military.