[April 3, 2020] Someone once said that as long as you have to think, think big. To see the ‘big picture’ or put another way to ‘have a vision’ is the epitome of great leadership. We can think of strategy as combining both the vision and the way we accomplish it.
Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, said that “… we’re not in the coffee business serving people; we’re in the people business servicing coffee.” Schultz understood the difference between tactics (serving coffee) and strategy (people business). While this may be an oversimplification, it nonetheless tells us what makes a difference in real leadership; those that can bring people together for a clear mission, provide the way and resources to get ‘er done.
- Keep Your Strategy Secret. Sun Tzu wrote that while “All men see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.” In any competitive enterprise, the ability to communicate your vision is crucial, but as important, is to keep your competitors from seeing your strategy. Indeed, this balancing act carries a risk to any leader. Success means to do artfully keep your strategy secret.
- Pick Your Ground and Your Battles. In 1942, U.S. Army General Douglas MacArthur was appointed Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific. He wasted no time in devising the island-hopping strategy (aka Leapfrogging Strategy), where military ground forces took the fight directly to the Japanese Army. Like MacArthur, great leaders are proactive and pick the time and place of battle. They do not react to the other guy.
- Use the Indirect Approach. First written about by historian B.H. Liddell Hart, this strategy was an attempt to reduce high casualty rates during the World War I head-to-head battles. The direct approach often leads you into the enemy’s strongest positions. Thus, a more indirect way will likely disrupt the enemy’s equilibrium and allow the attacker to circumvent strength to attack weakness, thus ensuring a better chance to be victorious.
- See Things as They Are. One of the biggest problems we face in any competition is to see the world without bias. To see things as they are, takes great effort, clarity of mind, absolute objectivity, and focus. This ‘seeing’ means the rejection of ideology and emotions in our decision-making process. To reject overconfidence also plays a part as we can be distracted by our past. S. Army General George S. Patton told his men before the Battle of the Bulge that “there is a time to take counsel of your fears, and there is a time to never listen to any fear.”
Virgil, an Ancient Roman Poet, asked a perennial question, “whether the enemy was defeated by strategy or valor?” The answer is, of course, by strategy.