Fighting/Playing to Win or Trying to Keep from Losing?

There is a difference – and the difference is huge!

I started thinking about this difference while reading Tom Peters’s recent blog post about a new biography of Admiral Nelson. Peters says…

The meticulous/academic author attributed much of Nelson’s prowess to the fact that: “[Other] admirals more frightened of losing than anxious to win.”

Then, I read in Andy Stanley’s The Next Generation Leader about General U.S. Grant, not the personal character role model for leaders, but who operated with such a sense of clarity in the middle of uncertainty. Stanley says…

In the early days of the war, Northern generals were so focused on avoiding casualties and embarrassing losses that they would miss strategic opportunities. They spent more time exercising the troops than they did engaging the enemy. (p. 87)

I believe both Peters and Stanley would agree that the best way to achieve our objectives is to go boldly into the uncertain future with a clear vision of what those objectives are. People will follow that kind of clear and bold leadership. Too many of us are trying to play it safe – and we are setting ourselves – and our organizations – up for inertia at best, and defeat at worst.