A New Defense Secretary: The Importance of Little Things

As urban legend has it, president-elect Joe Biden chose retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin for defense secretary for two reasons. It’s the second reason that I am going to talk about.

When they first met 12 years ago in Iraq, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin’s first question to the then vice president was about his son Beau. At the time Beau was serving in Iraq and Austin inquired about his safety. VP Biden was on a fact finding mission for his boss, President Obama. Gen. Austin could have first asked about his mission, strategy, budget . . . . the options are endless. His first question was to ask a father about his son.

To Biden, this showed him that this General would always look at enlisted men and women as someone’s son or daughter.

I always say that in communication and leadership there is no such thing as a little thing. Any and every thing has the ability to be a very big thing.

Pundits wagered that Michèle Flournoy, an American defense policy advisor and former government official, would get the nod and be the first female defense secretary. It came as a surprise to many when the Biden team announced retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as his choice.

Once you hear the urban legend story, it all makes sense. Relationships appear to be huge to this president-elect. Think about how relationships are forged: the sharing of information. It always starts with a question, about the other person.

And now we have the first African American defense secretary. Perhaps not to salve old military wounds but to honor relationships.

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