Profile: General David Petraeus

By | August 4, 2015

[August 4, 2015] In early 2007, General David Petraeus took command of the Multi-National Force in Iraq and subsequently introduced a strategy that involved a “surge” of military forces. At the time I was asked to develop a plan to house, feed, and protect all incoming allied military forces through an up-ramped civil engineering effort and then personally briefing General Petraeus on how the planning, funding, designing, and construction of this effort was progressing. In that time, I got to learn a little about General Petraeus.

Petraeus was the right person for the job. His background and study in counterinsurgency operations and his successful command of numerous military units made him a good fit to replace General Casey. His emphasis was to reduce the violence in Iraq, especially the capital city of Baghdad and other major cities. Working closely with the Iraqi government, other U.S. government agencies, and Coalition partners, Petraeus was able to unite a diverse set of actors in an effort to eliminate terrorists in that country.

“Every civilian’s death diminishes us, collectively.” – General David Petraeus

General Petraeus was able to turn around a deteriorating tactical operation in Iraq and strategically get the Coalition effort back on track to begin defeating terrorism. Wide swaths of the country stabilized as peace and security returned to much of the country. This was done in large part by the personal effort of Petraeus. Later, Petraeus was to head the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and continue providing great leadership.  Some of his traits are:

  • Intelligent (earned a Ph.D. from Princeton University and is a recognize intellect)
  • Transformational (ability to quickly change an organization’s direction)
  • Exceptional Communicator of Ideas
  • Honorable, Adaptable, Passionate, and Trustworthy
  • Understands the importance of getting big ideas right and follow-through
  • Motivator, Mentor, and Coach
  • Creative Leadership and Thinker

While there was a scandal involving an extramarital affair and mishandling of classified information, Petraeus is still regarded as one of the best commanders the U.S. military has produced in the last 25 years.1 His abilities far exceed those who have held senior leader positions in the U.S. military and he has been consistently recognized as such by those that have worked with him.

He has had a major impact and influence on a new generation of military leaders. As such, his legacy will be that of a great mentor and one that can take an organization from failure to success.

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[Note] Some good articles on General Petraeus’ philosophy and leadership:


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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.