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Strategy 5: Avoid the Snares of Groupthink (The 33 Strategies of War)

This section of the book examines group leadership, Greene shows its inherent challanges, and gives us roadmap to become more proficient at it.

Be Concise

The reason why well-run militaries don’t use flamboyant language is because it is ineffective and vague. The execution of clearly defined goals is the purpose of the military, there is no room for ambiguity.

General George Marshall demanded from his troops the same standard of concision that he demanded of himself. When he was spoken to clearly, he paid attention, but whenever the message became too complicated or badly articulated, his attention waned, and he looked away. In poetry and in literature, mixed messages could serve a higher purpose of stimulating the mind and stirring the imagination, but when the stakes are high, and time is constrained  – this approach is not an option, Not only the orders need to be clear but the chain of command must be streamlined.

Be Balanced

A leader cannot relinquish too much control and cannot be too dominant and micro-manage. Giving up control because of too much complexity will result in chaos, while micro-management is inefficient and slow. You need to find deputies in the field who both provide you with crucial information – this will save you time. And you need these deputies to represent you in spirit, they need to understand your general way of thinking of be capable of independently leading others.

Be Undivided

But having one general or one commander at the top is much more effective. When a group is ruled by committee, it moves much slower, there are more disputes. It is better to have one bad general than two good ones. This advice can work outside the military. If you wanted to start a company and there were several decision makers, things will not run smoothly. Each person will have their own thinking styles, constraints, and priorities, and it is difficult to align these successfully. It is much more effective to have a single decision maker who has complete control.  

Read The 33 Strategies of War

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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