Former JAIC commander explains his philosophy on leadership

Lt. General Jack Shanahan, former director of DoD's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, joins host Aileen Black on this week's Leaders and Legends to discuss ...

Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan in one of his last acts as the JAIC commander joins Leaders and Legends with host Aileen Black.

Interview Highlights:

Lt. Gen. Shanahan shared his thoughts on leadership the day before he took his terminal leave after a 36 year distinguished career in the military. He shared his insight on his approach to managing through a crisis to include his experience on Project Maven.

Shanahan pointed out that “crisis is a fact of life, it is going to happen”. He shared these core points that you must possess as a leader during a crisis.  The first point he stressed is communication.  “You can’t over communicate in a crisis”.  The second point is the need for honesty, “Tell people what is going on and what is going well as well as what is not. People need to hear the truth and how you plan on handling it”.  He said that people “thirst for leadership” in a crisis.  Leaders need to be action oriented, authentic and have a steady hand he stressed.     “People are resilient and optimistic if you provide people with a vision that there is a way through the crisis” he shared.

When asked about who or what was the biggest influence on his leadership style he said he has learned from all the leaders he has worked with over his career.  “I learned the good and the bad from every leader I have worked with but my core leadership I learned from my parents.  From a historical leader, I would site Winston Churchill.  He was a leader that had resilience, wit with an action oriented style.”

When asked about his leadership style and how he approaches key decisions he shared that “How you approach decisions change as the size of an organization grows”.  Shanahan has given this advice to leaders at every level of his organizations saying, “Only make the decisions you need to make.  If you make decisions for people that are below you should be making or for your superiors you are wasting your time. You have to ask yourself, if you gave them the proper guidance then they should be making the decision.  This is also called commanders intent”.   He shared his favorite advice he got from a leader, Gen. Robert Neller, USMC,  “No Friction, no traction.  I don’t expect you to agree on everything I want to do.  I want to run the decision through the crucible of friction to find the best answer”.

When asked about his key philosophy on leadership he said “People first, mission always”.  If you live by this approach people will know you care and the mission will always be in focus he stressed.

Shanahan closed the show with his advice for the next generations,

  • Be persistent and work hard
  • Be willing to adapt and be a lifelong learner
  • Keep the passion and flames going. Don’t lose sight of your passion.
  • Strive everyday to be the best and learn everyday how to be even better.

Lt. Gen. John N.T. “Jack” Shanahan is the director, Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, Office of the Department of Defense Chief Information Officer, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. General Shanahan is responsible for accelerating the delivery of artificial intelligence-enabled capabilities, scaling the department-wide impact of AI and synchronizing AI activities to expand joint force advantages.

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Leaders and Legends

Leaders and Legends

Leaders and Legends

Host Aileen Black interviews federal leaders who have left their mark on government and made a lasting imprint on the nation. Hear what goes on behind the scenes in the nation's capital and why working for the federal government is so unique. Subscribe on PodcastOne.