No Turning Back (Episode 1): Pete Buttigieg

By McChrystal Group

Throughout April, May, and June 2020, Stan McChrystal and Chris Fussell will be speaking with some of the world’s most consequential leaders about how we can rebuild our companies and communities into something more resilient and adaptive. In our first episode, they speak with Pete Buttigieg: a former presidential candidate, two-term mayor, and military veteran. They talk about leadership, building teams, finding personal resilience during tough times, and what gives them hope in this uncertain period of American history.

In this first segment of the No Turning Back series Mayor Pete Buttigieg joins Stan McChrystal and Chris Fussell to discuss the importance of leadership in our new world.

The Importance of Local Leadership

COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of local action. “The local level is forced to be responsive to facts in a way that is more immediate” explains Mayor Pete and continues to highlight what has become the new challenges of majors today. Fussell jokes that people now finally know what mayors do but the importance of the local level leaders is something that McChrystal Group has seen be true in many large organizations and is fundamental to the Team of Teams work: people who are closer to the problem can and must be empowered to address problems directly and faster within the context of the big system.

The Importance of Big Systems

Hyper-localization cannot dismiss the importance of the large systems to address a problem that is affecting people everywhere. “This can’t be solved without federal action” Buttigieg explains what local leaders are hoping and doing to create collaborations and influence the system. Fussell highlights that we need to have more interconnected and resilient models and discusses with Buttigieg and McChrystal the role of Fusion Cells at its origin and now.

The Importance of Trust

“[Leaders] must trust others to simplify their horizons for [them] because it is simply not possible to keep track of all the opportunities.” Buttigieg shares this key lessons of leadership he learned during his presidential campaign that echo what McChrystal Group sees happening for so many top leaders. The leader cannot digest all the details of all of the information they now need to know. They cannot gather, sort, sift, process, and analyze. They must trust others to do a big part of the work and get the important knowledge. Most leaders we encounter at McChrystal Group face this problem: too much information, not enough knowledge. It becomes even more important in times of crisis. Buttigieg explains the colossal amount of trust this requires.

Find a Rhythm, if not a Routine

Routine may be impossible in a constantly changing environment. This is why Buttigieg uses the word “rhythm.” This is important as a leader for balance and can alleviate anxiety in the time of stress. Most of the organizations that McChrystal Group work for thrive to find a way to create a constant in change and for now creating a rhythm is more critical in this time.

Time Shows What you Value


“The best way to decide that something is important is to make it a scheduling block” explains Buttigieg. Setting priorities and understanding the unit of analysis of your time is critical. He explains how he used to do it as a major and as a presidential candidate. McChrystal himself analyses the amount of time spent on each of his priorities and this has proven to be an effective tool with the fortune 500 leaders that McChrystal Group works with.

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