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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- The head of the CIA gave a message of leadership at the University of Louisville Monday.
The university is able to attract such high-ranking officials as guest speakers through a program started by U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell.
The McConnell Center celebrates 20 years this year, and it has brought strong leaders to the city of Louisville, including former General David Petraeus on Monday.
You may expect the head of the country's intelligence unit to be unrelatable to the average person. But former General David Petraeus cracked a few jokes during a speech at U of L, even taking jabs at UK. "Can that part be off the record, by the way?" he joked.
Getting down to business, he was on U of L's campus to talk about leadership. "He is in my judgement the foremost military leader of our generation," said Senator Mitch McConnell.
McConnell's wife, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, also attended. Petraeus was once commander at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. He's a retired four-star general of the US Army, well known for his role in Iraq. "He led the surge in 2007 that successfully quelled violence in that country and dramatically reduced American casualties," said McConnell.
Some ROTC members felt Petraeus' plan in Iraq as they served there. "I did feel the influence of the surge and his policy, we read it," said ROTC Cadet Elizabeth Linkins, who was in the crowd listening.
U of L's brightest students -- McConnell Scholars -- listened onstage, with invited guests seated in the crowd. "While leaders are occasionally born. More often they develop their skills and aptitudes through diligence and hard work, they practice, they study and they develop and enhance their leadership skills overtime," said Petraeus.
He spoke about knowing when to change your leadership style. For example, he explained that he uses a lighter touch at the CIA, compared to the heavier hand needed as a commander. "When I was a battalion commander, by contrast, my job in many cases was to push the unit, to drive it, propel it forward by example and encouragement," he explained.
He also warned of becoming a leader for personal gain. "To be effective, strategic leaders must avoid the temptation to make decisions with an eye on their next promotion, the next election, their next bonus, or the desire to gain the esteem of their peers or their countrymen," said Petraeus.
Several months ago, Speaker of the House John Boehner visited U of L. Hillary Clinton and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts are among other guest speakers who have appeared by way of the McConnell Center.