Analysis: The Managerial Craft of General David Petraeus.

The following analysis aims at assessing the managerial craft of General David Petraeus. It is relevant to clarify what we understand by CRAFT: “Craft is defined as the ways public managers attempt to influence government performance through their own personal efforts in form of direct activity” (Hill and Lynn, 2009. Pag.55). Mainly, we focus on some aspects of its professional career in the military. The analysis is divided into three sections which address characteristics of his character, military proficiency and some of his Mosul-mission achievements.


General David Petraeus has shown an outstanding behavior through his career and especially during the last ten years. General David Petraeus has been delegated military authority in three special missions overseas, and his judgments and behavior have conveyed the interests of United States as Nation. Recently, General Petraeus demonstrated to his superiors that he is capable of managing stressful situations such as United States Intervention in Iraq.

This general assessment considers the following evidence:

Thinking character:

The General is characterized by his colleagues as a Thinking person. Research and Analysis of information are what drives Decision-making processes in David Petraeus. Thinking about further consequences has helped him to forecast the right outcome, and therefore to set the right priorities and steps to take. Gathering information is a tool well used by the General not only for unveiling realities but also for setting strategies. Evidence of these assertions is some of the declaration his colleagues have said to the Press: Schoenbeck “He would say no, you have to think longer-range that that. You have to think US National Interests, and how are we going to achieve that up in Mosul? And how is it then going to affect things from Baghdad or in Baghdad? (Kennedy School of Government, 2006 Pag. 9).

General David Petraeus’ Character is complemented by a solid idea of leadership. For him “leadership styles should vary depending on who is being led, how much detailed guidance and supervision they need, and their capacity for sound, independent action” (Kennedy School of Government, 2006. Pag. 10). This particular approach reveals a proper understanding of leaderships that has shown Petraeus’ ability to engage soldiers and civilians during conflict situations; also the ability to see alternatives to established scenarios; and a deep desire to make a difference and to commit “his energies and personal reputation toward transformative goals” (Hill and Lynn, 2009. Pag. 280). Petraeus has developed a translucent leadership based on a clear institutional mission, values, and autonomy.

As an individual, General David Petraeus has also demonstrated being gentle even under relentless political pressures. As it was noted in the investigation: “Petraeus personally interviewed all the credible candidates for governor and eliminated those who did not meet the criteria” (Kennedy School of Government, 2006. Pag.12). Such declaration reveals not only procedure but also a concern for individual-related consideration.

Military Proficiency:

As a soldier General David Petraeus is expected to comply with Strategic Plans and Actions. US Generals in Iraq were given not only the mandate of leading troops, but also the imperative of following directions from US General Plan. Petreaus proved during his tenure as a commander in chief that his performance arrays within a frame of references where “actions are formulated and reviewed” (Hill and Lynn, 2009. Pag. 266). So far, General Petraeus has understood the meaning of Strategy in both civil and military realms in which He has been enmeshed. Evidence shows that most of his strategic plans have been “product of calculation or pragmatic weighing of many substantive, political, and organizational considerations that may affect results or outcomes” (Hill and Lynn, 2009. Pag. 266). At the same time, General David Petraeus has revealed an enormous aptitude for reframing plans and strategies, which has demonstrated a remarkable skill of adaptability. These general considerations are based on the following evidence:

In April 2003, 101 Airborne Division was given the mission of controlling the northern city of Mosul in Iraq. Certainly, the city and the stage of the war in Iraq at that time were not in full battle mode. The challenges that 101st Airborne Division faced were not limited to security matters but related to restoring standard life conditions. General David Petraeus tackled this abnormal –none- military situation by planning an alternative strategy and by understanding the social, economic and political environment in Mosul. It is relevant to note that “Petraeus had come to Iraq focused on fighting a war, not rebuilding a society” (Kennedy School of Government, 2006. Pag. 7).

At his arrival at Mosul in 2003, Petraeus might have considered three scenarios to design his civil-military strategy: calling for elections and organizing the city democratically; establishing a military regime led by 101st Airborne Division; or Appointing former official in a new city government. Evidence shows that his choice of giving “them [People of Mosul] at least the semblance of a representative government” (Kennedy School of Government, 2006. Pag. 11), complied with the objective of US government: bring normalcy to the city. The strategy he chose from the beginning of operations was to be focused on political success and military security. His strategy as the following quote reveals a cogent perspective of Iraq situation: “don’t do an operation unless it will take more bad guys off the streets than it creates” (Kennedy School of Government, 2006Pag 23).

Nonetheless, a Soldier would always rely on his fire power. Despite the fact that Petraeus’ strategy was set to not further violence, the General faced a challenge that he should repeal with force. Actually, in the case of any violence surge, “Petraeus knew he had to react forcefully” (Kennedy School of Government, 2006. Pag. 41). Since the beginning of his strategy, Petraeus considered alternatives to his actions. Petraeus’ plan shows a great deal of adaptabilities.


Achievements in Petraeus’ career and Mosul Mission precisely were met at the perfect time and place. The US military success was in part due to Petraeus’ intuition for hiring and maintaining the correct staff. Along with the staff, Petraeus’ success was built on very efficient working relationships, as well as a dynamic structure of responsibilities. The General was effective in fostering loyalty from Mosul people to his Authorities. The General did so by identifying actors whose cooperation was required and actors that he could not control.

These general considerations are based on the following evidence:

General David Petraeus understood since the beginning of his mission in Mosul that he would need professional advisers. His selection of the staff was focused on complementing the US Army skills. The Army is strong in Engineering and Petraeus himself has a Ph.D. degree in International Relation. Likewise, the General understood the relevance of having lawyers within the US Mission in Mosul. That way, his staff was finally armed to confront any threats.

Working with ethnic groups within a divided society was the challenge General Petraeus tackled. The kind of relationships the General built in Mosul were preceded by a long history of US-Kurds alliance. Certainly, “Petraeus had to balance the interests of the province as a whole and its many ethnic groups against the need to reward the Kurds” (Kennedy School of Government, 2006. Pag 19). Indeed, David Petraeus knew that Kurds “had been US Allies for a decade and of particular assistance during the invasion” (Kennedy School of Government, 2006. Pag. 19). General Petraeus knew how to handle that situation by showing that his strategy was working. Therefore, relationships either within the 101 Airborne Division or outside at the Mosul society, were built upon a solid loyalty to a plan of building a peaceful society.


Hill, Carolyn. And Laurence E. Lynn, Jr. (2009). Public Management: A three-dimensional Approach. Washington, D.C: CQ Press.
Kennedy School of Government. (2006). The Accidental Stateman: General Petraeus and the City of Mosul. Iraq. Boston MA. Harvard University.

Leave a Reply