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Major-General David Fraser (Ret.)

Commander of the Largest Battle in NATO History

Major-General (Ret.) David Fraser is one of the most decorated generals in Canadian Armed Forces history. He led Operation Medusa, the largest battle in NATO’s history. Fraser has also served as an executive with three different corporations and has mentored at Ivey Business School. He shares actionable insights based upon his experience leading both on the battlefield and in the boardroom.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Operation Medusa
From the Canadian in charge of the joint military command in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan, this is the real on-the-ground story of one of NATO’s bloodiest, most decisive and misunderstood operations: The battle of Panjwayi, the defining moment of “Operation Medusa.” 

Like the troops under his command, he was in no way ready for what happened on Friday, September 1st of that year. Fraser had been woken the night before by his intelligence officers who informed him that the Taliban were amassing on all fronts for an all-out battle. The NATO Alliance was about to engage the enemy in the greatest and bloodiest battle of their 70-year history. They were grossly outnumbered and yet, in international military circles, the Battle of Panjwayi was quickly hailed as the defining moment of Operation Medusa. Canadians were credited with nothing less than saving Afghanistan from falling under Taliban rule. Our military’s strategy and tactics were soon studied in warfare colleges in the U.S., and practiced by NATO troops in exercises around the world. There is no one architect of Operation Medusa, but if anyone really had to point to the one person who could tell this incredible story, it is the Canadian General David Fraser in charge of the joint military command.

Team and Teamwork
The military’s fundamental philosophy is about being part of a team. A team is strong when everyone works together – a collective that can accomplish more with co-ordination. Whether bringing relief to people in eastern Canada without power during an ice storm or nation-building in Afghanistan, teamwork is key. The private sector operates under similar constructs. Operational excellence is effectively achieved by individuals working within a team construct in order to maximize growth. In the military, you rely on your teammates to survive, and the consequence for failure can be catastrophic. In business, a lack of teamwork has similar negative effects, putting the organization and livelihoods of the team players at risk. In this presentation, Fraser shares his experience in successful operations combat and otherwise to show how effective teamwork is powered by trust and confidence.

Strategic Planning
From the moment you join the military, you are taught to think ahead: plan your day, plan your training, plan your mission, plan for contingencies, plan for what’s next, plan for “what if” and so on. While many organizations plan, they often lack a contingency outlook or sense of urgency for what may go wrong. Knowing what to do when disruption hits will help reduce both the immediate and ongoing impact.

In this presentation, Fraser explains why an organization of any size can benefit from adopting a similar strategy of anticipating the unexpected. He shares his experience operating under high-pressure situations where immediate priorities of minute-by-minute combat had to be wisely managed, event as decisions were needed for things happening weeks in the future.

Leadership – From The Battlefield To The Boardroom
In Afghanistan, during some of the worst fighting NATO has ever seen, Fraser’s team looked to him for answers and accounts of how bad things were. Whether he had the answer or not, he needed to lead by example and keep the team focused and together. It’s not any different in the boardroom when the economy is on the rocks or your share price is tanking. A team will look to the chairman or CEO for guidance on how to get through the situation.

In this presentation, Fraser discusses how attracting young people with potential is key to effective leadership – find them, nurture them and allow them to gain experience and make mistakes. Allowing employees to grow without an overwhelming fear of failure is critical. As they grow, their experience will improve outcomes, even as the tolerance for mistakes is reduced. This is the “art” of leadership and leadership development.

Good leaders stretch themselves and acknowledge that they will not always be right. They allow for mistakes because this is a natural form of learning. Fraser shares insights from the military’s codified system of leadership training – something that the private sector could benefit from. He discusses the benefits of investing in the constant development and long-term growth of employees. Fraser will help prepare organizations to better react to changing technology, market conditions and demands from customers.

Platform Plus

Panelist/In Conversation
As one of Canada's most accomplished leaders in both the public and private sectors, Gen. Fraser is a go-to commentator for fascinating discussion & valuable insights on leadership.


Atlantic Council of Canada Award

Vimy Award

  • Canada was entrusted as lead nation for this operation and received many international accolades for its results attesting to MGen Fraser’s skill, diplomacy and experience.

    - Wounded Warriors

Summary Profile

MGen. David Fraser’s story is one of courage under pressure, and of managing the complexity, contradiction, confusion, and chaos thrown at him and his coalition from every direction. He believes in making human connections based on respect and trust while showing your value to those you’re trying to help. Fraser’s insights relate to understanding people, siding with them, training them, and helping them build the capacity to sustain a better life.

Fraser was the commander of Operation Medusa in Afghanistan and the largest combat engagement of Canadian Armed Forces in over 50 years. The goal of the operation was to defeat the Taliban and uphold the security of Afghanistan’s second largest city: Kandahar. While in Afghanistan, his team also built schools, district centres and family dwellings, teacher training facilities, hospitals and clinics.

Serving as Commander Regional Command South under the United States Coalition, he was the first Canadian general to have United States troops under his command. Fraser’s experiences also include leading the transition from the US Operation Enduring Freedom to the NATO ISAF coalition. 

Upon leaving the Canadian Forces, Fraser joined the private sector and along with his partners, raised funds for the creation of Blue Goose Pure Foods. The organization produces certified organic beef, chicken and fish and selling these products across Canada. Since then, he has taken his leadership and business skills to other companies achieving a similar effect. Most recently, he was the COO for INKAS® Armored Vehicle Manufacturing until June 2016. Today Fraser works with BMO on their Canadian Defence Community Banking Program.  

He holds a Master’s of Management and Policy and is a graduate of the United States Capstone Program (Executive School for generals). Fraser was also the Commandant of the Canadian Forces College – the Canadian Forces and Government of Canada’s premier masters accredited institute of higher learning. During his tenure, he instituted the international distance learning program for middle management.

Fraser has commanded the 1st Canadian Division Headquarters and LFDTS (responsible for all Army doctrine and training). During his tenure as Commander, he was instrumental in developing innovative training necessary for the new security environment.