3The Vulnerability Paradox

The year was 2010. Commanding General of US Forces in Iraq, Lloyd Austin, and US ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, were in uncharted waters. They sat facing each other in the center of the room, surrounded by senior onlookers, in an undisclosed location in Bagdad. They'd just been asked, “What do you each need to do differently as the leaders of your respective organizations?”

Only weeks before, the two had assumed their respective roles and been charged with leading Operation New Dawn. They had 15 months to transition from a military to a civilian mission. It was the largest transition of a mission in modern US history, and radically different from anything General Austin or Secretary Jeffrey had done before. Getting it right would require extraordinary collaboration between the military and State Department.

Both institutions are effective at top‐down, command‐and‐control operations, but they have different worldviews, so they often work at cross purposes. General Austin and Secretary Jeffrey knew the institutions would need to engage with one another in new ways to pull off the mission in the fraught environment of post‐invasion Iraq. The two leaders would have to build a team of teams that spanned both organizations.

Our friend Chris Ernst, currently chief learning officer at Workday, was there that day to facilitate the 16‐hour “combined vision development” meeting with the general, ambassador, and senior division commanders, general officers, ...

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