Zinni mentioned survey after survey that shows a continuing decline in the performance of leaders in all sectors of society. Author of Leading the Charge: Leadership Lessons from the Battlefield to the Boardroom, he said, “the greatest absence in leaders today is the ability to think strategically, to imagine how the world will be different.”
“What we’re missing is George Marshalls,” referring to Marshall’s ability to see the Big Picture and take a strategic view. “We have become arrogant. We lack the discipline to understand the new world order.”
Leaders today, he said, are required to “understand the speed at which decisions have to be made….They can keep with the speed of decision making and information by selectively picking what they need.” They cannot be afraid of learning from all levels of their organizations so the result is a flatter structure in which decisions are made rapidly with more input from more areas. “Successful leaders have the capacity to make the right decisions because they see intuitively what needs to be done.”
Forceful and provocative, he said, “The leaders today are in charge of their organizations. They shape them. They mold them. They move them, and they are not afraid to alter them. Any organization that looks like a Christmas tree is a dinosaur.”
“Look at successful businesses that are streamlined, flattened, constantly changing and morphing. They call themselves webs and networks as opposed to these hardwired, hardlined, tiered and bloated bureaucracies.”
General Zinni is a former Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and the current chairman of the board of BAE Systems, Inc., a $25 billion-per-year aerospace company. As BAE chair, he visited the Marshall Foundation in March to acknowledge BAE’s support of the Foundation.
Following his retirement from the Marine Corps in 2000, Gen. Zinni served his country as the U.S. Peace Envoy in the Middle East and as the Special Envoy to the Henri Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (Indonesian, Philippines and Sudan peace efforts). Currently he is a visiting lecturer at Cornell Univ. in addition to his other duties.