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Trust those nearest the problem

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in Leaders & Managers

When Admiral Mike Mullen was promoted to the rank that made him the most senior officer in uniform, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he received this piece of advice: “Congratulations—just remember one thing: From now on you will always eat well and you’ll never hear the truth again.”

“And that stuck with me,” Mullen says.

To get away from the Pentagon bubble and into the real world, Mullen travels straight to the troops to hear about life on the ground. He spends about 30% of his time on the road.

“My life is full of information being provided to me that, you know, life is grand as if I have forgotten that problems are tough,” he told a group of Marines in Afghanistan recently.

Mullen knows that to be a great leader, he needs the perspective of the people closest to the problem. “You see it in a way that I can’t. So I need help from you in seeing what’s really going on,” he said.

— Adapted from “Joint Chiefs Chairman’s Tough Task Ahead,” 60 Minutes, CBS News.

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