There are many great generals in history, but only a select few can be called the best. These generals were able to win battles and wars through their strategic thinking and planning.
Bold leadership and decisive action are essential in times of crisis. Major disputes necessitate a command structure that's specifically designed to deal with challenges that pose a real threat and quickly escalate. Over the course of millennia, it has evolved into a system of reaction that goes much beyond the crisis team your firm has undoubtedly already established.
In this blog post, we will discuss three things that these great generals have in common when it comes to strategy.
Don't do anything that your enemy is prepared to do better than you.
Frontal assaults on well-prepared fortifications are a waste of time.
No plan survives contact with the enemy.
“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week." - George S. Patton Jr., General of the United States Army during World War II
The first lesson that we can learn from these great generals about strategy is to never do anything that your enemy will do better than you. This means that you need to have a good understanding of your enemy's capabilities and plans, as well as their weaknesses. If you can anticipate what your opponent is going to do, you can prepare for it and even exploit their weaknesses.
The best generals know that they cannot match the enemy in every aspect of warfare. Sun Tzu said, "If you are skilled at fighting but not good enough to win, it's better to retreat." The same holds today: if someone is better than us at something we want or need, then we should let them do it instead of wasting our time trying to compete with them.
"Frontal attacks against well-prepared defenses have failed since the dawn of organized warfare, a reality that all generals can see in military history... great generals strike where opposition is least expected against a weak and disorganized opponent." - How Great Generals Wins
From the back, the flanks, or any other unexpected location have been used in most successful attacks. Do not engage in a fair fight.
Assassinate your target from multiple perspectives.
It is not strategic to advance with a horde of soldiers in tow. Attack the enemy from many directions by dividing your forces.
The second lesson that we can learn from these great generals about strategy is to attack the enemy where they are weakest. This can be done in several ways, such as by attacking them from multiple directions or by using surprise tactics.
Sun Tzu said, "the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting." In other words, you can achieve victory without ever having to fight a fair battle.
“You can be sure in succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended.” -Sun Tzu
The best way to do this is to think about your opponent's weaknesses and then figure out how to exploit them. For example, if your enemy is heavily fortified, you may want to consider attacking them from the flank or from behind. If they are spread thin, you may want to attack them with a large force.
"No plan survives contact with the enemy." - Helmuth von Moltke, Chief of the General Staff of Prussia
"A converging attack is the essence of combat. A commander achieves this by segmenting the attacking army. Ideally, each section strikes the same target simultaneously, but from a different direction or approach, encircling the opponent and preventing them from assisting others. One component of a force focuses or distracts the adversary while the other maneuvers to obtain surprise and break the defense." - How Great Generals Wins
Keep your mind off of the fight. You may not even have to fight if you focus on the end goal.
Realize that war is not a goal for anyone. It is possible to win without combat if you can break the enemy's will or ability to fight. Consider the matter from a political standpoint.
The third lesson that we can learn from these great generals about strategy is that there are many ways to win a war. You do not always have to fight and kill your opponent to be victorious. Sometimes it is better to avoid combat altogether.
One way to achieve victory without bloodshed is by breaking the enemy's will or ability to fight. Another way is through surprise tactics, such as attacking them from multiple directions or by using guerrilla warfare against their supply lines. Sun Tzu said, "If a general can deceive his enemies so that they do not know where he is going to strike next, then he has already won half the battle."
"The best defense is a good offense." - Moltke
"The best defense is to wear the enemy down by attrition, attacking them relentlessly and ceaselessly until they are too weak to resist... The commander must be prepared for this and have a well-thought-out plan for wearing down the enemy. This can involve using deception or diversionary tactics, attacking their supply lines, or simply attacking them relentlessly." - How Great Generals Wins
Beginning with small victories, a good general can build his or her reputation. It's only when the opposition is weakened and morale is low that they take on their rival head-on. Doing battles in regions that are heavily fortified is a waste of time and resources. What's the point of making a change in a setting that makes it difficult to achieve progress?
To wear down the enemy, you need to be aggressive and keep the pressure on them at all times. This can be done through a combination of tactics, such as by attacking them from multiple directions, by using deception or diversionary tactics, or by attacking their supply lines. You can also simply attack them relentlessly until they are too weak to resist.
"A successful general must have a mind that is like a mirror—reflecting images exactly as they are."
He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”
To win, you must know your enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be defeated." - Sun Tzu
The three lessons that we can learn from these great generals about strategy are: to attack the enemy where they are weakest, to use a variety of tactics to achieve victory, and that there are many ways to win a war.
These lessons can help us in our own lives, both professionally and personally. This means being willing to take risks and make bold decisions, even when the odds are against you. These can help us all become better leaders by developing our unique style of leadership through strategic thinking. What do you think makes for a good leader? I’d love to hear your thoughts.