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Historical Takeaways for Business Leaders Today

Business Leader Playing Chess

When looking for inspiration, business leaders today can learn from the historical commanders who led successful campaigns. Historically, the winners of battles depended as much on smarts and a steely-eyed commitment to a bigger cause than just weapons and a show of strength.


A key move made by successful leaders is to follow the long-running truism that “amateurs study tactics while professional warriors study logistics.” Instead of simply focusing on tactics, leaders must pay as much attention to logistics and the supply chain. It is what goes on behind the scenes that can make the difference between winning and losing.

Strong leaders take an interest in cultivating every member of their workforces. The best leaders can take people in ordinary walks of life, and mold them into a team that can be placed in situations most people consider difficult, even seemingly impossible, but come out victorious.

A keen ability to listen to others while putting ego aside allows leaders to build trust in their teams, and create a diversity of ideas where others felt heard and valued. That, in turn, fosters decision-making based on facts and reasoning, not emotion.

The map to victory has waypoints that can apply to success in business as well as during conflicts:

  • Define your goals
  • Create a plan before you start and map out the path to success
  • Take a bird’s eye view of the map
  • Be willing to adapt as you go
  • Respond creatively to circumstances in order to stay on track


The conflicts of yesterday offer another lesson for today’s successful organizations, in the importance of building great business leaders from within. Raw, untested recruits came to the field with no military experience. But through watching the examples of their commanding officers, these young soldiers grew into humble, servant leaders, where they built trust in their platoons and units.

Leaders weren’t afraid to take chances to help their teams. For example, during the 1770s, far-seeing leaders encouraged the inoculation of soldiers against smallpox with a technique called variolation. Inoculation was controversial for its time — yesterday’s version of social distancing and masks. But, according to many historians, it led to saving hundreds of soldier’s lives, ultimately contributing to the victory.


So, how do the decisions made during historical conflicts relate to your company?

Simple. Your company and its leadership team must think beyond day-to-day issues and focus on taking the creative and strategic chances that lead to success in the long-term. Never give up in pursuit of victory. Be steadfast in your goals and break free from the status quo.