On Wars and Battles

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself using the phrase, “Right war, wrong battle.” As a principled leader, I’ve fought wrong battles many times without realizing that fighting those battles may have cost me the wars I was trying to win. As a geek, I’ve found myself doing the same thing. I’ve been so concerned with doing things right that I miss out on my chance to do what might be far more effective in achieving the right result.

Think of it this way: if you use all of your ammunition in winning a single battle, you won’t be able to fight in subsequent battles, which will cost you the war. Whether your ammunition is political capital, human resources, trust, or budget, this analogy holds.

I’m resolving to ask myself the following questions:

  • What war am I trying to fight?
  • Is this situation simply a skirmish?
  • Will winning this battle cost me the war?
  • Is there a better battle for me to fight?
  • What is my ammunition? What resources am I burning to fight this battle?

Surrendering a battle isn’t my nature. I am passionate about achieving effective, efficient results for my company, and my default behavior is to fight for that in every situation. I’m hoping, however, that by prioritizing the war over each battle, I will become a more effective leader.

2 thoughts on “On Wars and Battles

  1. Excellent advice. Identifying wars and battles is a skill that should be taught (or at least acknowledged) in higher-education and training programs.As a geek, I find that the technical aspects of my responsibilities are often the easiest and have certain/predictable outcomes; defining problems, choosing battles, and convincing others are the more challenging aspects.

  2. It it counter-intuitive as a geek, but sometimes the way to do what is right is to reinforce the status quo. As a Geek you are hoping the other participants will come to their senses and realize how bad the process or idea is. There are some people who will only change their mind when they reach a conclusion on their own.I've read that Benjamin Franklin did a lot of coaching by asking questions to lead people to the answer he wanted to arrive at this way. Certainly he was more patient than most people today.

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