Christopher D. Kolenda
Founder, Strategic Leaders Academy
Leading a life of significance to my family and friends, country, community, and humanity … and to each and every person I meet.
Dr. Christopher D. Kolenda, Ph.D. is the Founder of the Strategic Leaders Academy, helping leaders develop the intellectual courage to thrive in strategic environments. He recently served as the Senior Advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan to Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy, and has served four tours of duty in Afghanistan. He was decorated with the Department of Defense’s highest civilian award for his work on strategy.
Chris graduated from the United States Military Academy and went on to serve in the United States Army with great distinction, to include leading large, complex organizations in the United States, Europe, and in combat in Afghanistan.
In 2007-08, he commanded an airborne infantry task force in Kunar and Nuristan provinces and pioneered an innovative approach to counterinsurgency. Employing locally-tailored combinations of armed diplomacy, conflict resolution, personal relationships, and high degrees of leverage, his unit dramatically improved the levels of stability in what had been one of the most violent areas of Afghanistan. According to a 2012 study by the Center of Naval Analyses, his unit’s performance was among the most highly successful in America’s longest war.
In 2009 he was hand selected by the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to develop a new U.S. strategy for the conflict, and was then ordered back to Afghanistan where he drafted the groundbreaking McChrystal assessment, counterinsurgency guidance, and military strategy. He since shaped every critical policy and strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan until 2014. His advice has been adopted by three Secretaries of Defense and the President of the United States.
His efforts have been featured in two New York Times bestselling books: The Outpost by Jake Tapper and Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson, as well as in numerous newspaper and journal articles and studies, such as the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Economist, and The London Times.
Christopher Kolenda holds a Ph.D. in Social Sciences from King’s College, London, a Master of Arts in European History from the University of Wisconsin, and a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College. In addition to his books, he has written numerous articles on leadership and national security issues for professional journals.
A highly sought-after speaker and writer, Christopher Kolenda is the editor and coauthor of Leadership: The Warrior’s Art, which has appeared on the professional reading lists of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and many professional schools. His new book, The Counterinsurgency Challenge, is a journey of intellectual courage in complex and dangerous combat environments.