If we lived in ancient Rome, I would imagine all of you — political Leaders, CEOs, Chairmen, Innovators, PMs, MPs, MEPs, Disruptors, Change makers, Outliers, Mindful leaders, Entrepreneurs, and Friends reading this blog — as being the perfect Senators.
Custodians of Democracy and Liberty for the Republic.
The benevolent “Republic of the Mind” we all are proud of serving.
You know who You are — leaders yet humble servants of the people, happy to be entrusted with the pursuit of Greatness.
In short You are all Senators. Young and Old alike…
Being a good senator is hard because it comes with a cost, since the best Senators were all fighting men.
The Leading Senators were always on the front lines of all Republican engagements to serve and protect their Democracy, and to further the aims of the benevolent Republic.
Men like You and me, were the best of them. Senators like Cato, Cicero, Catiline and so many others…
The best of them being Cato, the barefoot farmer, warrior, senator, and fighter for Democracy par excellence.
I never thought about it this way before but am also a warrior for Democracy — as well.
Democracy requires fighting… lest it withers and dies.
Complacency, security, and comfort, are always the ending credits for democracy, causing a dearth of rights, and the eventual death of the Benevolent Republic.
In these more modern and in some ways more primitive times — we live in — I realize more than ever today, that we are most successful in driving ourselves back to Serfdom instead of moving forward towards Democracy, Freedom, and Liberty.
And living fully the moment, within this pendulum of change, we realize that we have to fight for our own survival, only when we have moved too far off center. And upon realizing that we have to fight now, today, not tomorrow, for our very survival, and for the survival of our ideal republic of Democracy — only then we can claim to be making our mark in history.
Only when we have to fight the rising tides, building defences and bulwarks, and only when we stand guard against the constantly creeping totalitarianism of our lives, do we get a chance to make a ripple in the enveloping darkness.
And we have to constantly keep on fighting the darkness — much like a start-up has to fight for its place in the market, because all too often we stub our toes when we become too comfortable, confident, or seeking ever more safety and security instead of thriving through change…
“War is the father of us all” said the ancients, and yet as Thucydides was clearly moved by the suffering inherent in war and concerned about the excesses to which human nature is prone in such circumstances, reminds us: “War is a violent teacher”
Analogies between warfare, business, and Politics, are always imperfect, but I do believe that the principles of revolutionary guerrilla warfare in particular are useful to all young aspiring to change Leaders as well as to both managers and politicians, who find themselves in a constantly changing environment squatted upon by the elephantine dimensions of the present day Status Quo.
So let’s borrow a page from Ho Chi Minh, and see what the General has to say about the subject adjusted from the Guerilla Revolutionary Military rulebook to the practice of Leadership in today’s field of honour: The CEO leadership game. Live Happy was one of his precepts even in the thick of battle, or when faced with enormous loses and even when in prison. He extorts his leaders to not let the ego of being the Chief Executive, get in the way of being a leader with a servant’s heart. He suggests that we should never stop being self-aware, introspective, and continually working to improve who we are as a person, leader, and manager of human capital and other resources. He cautions us against becoming reactive in a tough situation based on the external pressures to reach for easy yet costly victories and to succeed in the new role of CEO leader. Never lose balance in your life as a CEO when you need to exercise spirit, body, and mind, in order to keep calm and collected in the face of adversity. And of course act boldly never waiting for all the information to come in because by then it would be way too late to act upon and the outcome perilous. Act with insight and follow your premonitions and the augurious auspices, by accepting that you cannot possibly know everything — and no Supreme Leader, Chairman of the Board, investor, or board member, expects that of you or of any CEO for that matter.
And of course Chairman Mao is also a keen leader of guerilla change and can lead us through this chapter in our History. Chances are that you would already know this if you ever bothered to read his book, but none the less, here you have it: “Who are our enemies? Who are our friends? This is a question of the first importance for the revolution.” Chairman Mao in Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society (March 1926)
Regardless of your reading habits, ideologies, or political persuasion, just think about the effectiveness of guerrilla tactics from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, to Che Guevarra and Fidel Castro, to Chairman Mao and Ho Chi Minh. They all succeeded against insurmountable odds at a time when nobody gave them credence.
The story is always the same: Guerrilla fighters, though outnumbered and poorly equipped, can capture the imagination of people, spread fear and inflict serious casualties on enemy troops,and ultimately win. In situations in which political loyalties are uncertain or changing quickly, highly motivated guerrillas can force political compromises or even win battles.
In my view, politicians, same as executives who view the marketplace as a quick-changing battlefield can use similar tactics, in what I call guerrilla warfare management, to achieve remarkable success.
The challenge is to implement revolutionary guerrilla management consistently and on an ongoing basis, since it goes against so much of what we’re taught.
First of all You should be ready to try many different things and see which ones work. “Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend” is how Mao approached this conundrum when nine out of the ten things he did failed…”If we did ten things, nine were bad and got disclosed by the newspapers, we will be over. Then I will go, to the countryside, lead the peasant and revolt. If the Liberation Army do not follow me, I will get the Red Army.” (July 23, 1959)
Don’t be afraid to try always new things and to swim against the current even if it places yourself and the whole enterprise at risk. “Maybe you’re afraid of sinking. Don’t think about it. If you don’t think about it, you won’t sink. If you do, you will.” Chairman Mao offering swimming advice to physician Zhisui Li (1966)
And the sheer variety of differing approaches and fearless campaigns will allow you a measure of success and give you breathing room to grow. But then it becomes necessary to not fall into complacency because when a company or a political organization becomes successful and well established, there’s a natural tendency to institute corporate tree controls, establish hierarchies, and accumulate assets. But I think this is dangerous and runs directly counter to the individual initiative, and the swift change of positioning that is the backbone of successful revolutionary leaders and guerrilla management alike.
George Washington’s military strategy has been called bumbling at worst and brilliant at best. So which is it? Was George Washington a strategic genius or just lucky? George Washington’s Military Genius is simply the product of reading Military Strategy books and also applying thousands of different tactics until choosing the ones that work. Experimentation was at the core of Washington’s strategy. George Washington’s Military Genius broke the back of the British regular expedition army and laid down the path for the success of the American Revolution into four phases of strategy considering the various systematic outcomes of the conflict: “The British did not have to lose; the patriots did not have to triumph,” writes his current biographer Palmer as he proves without a doubt that Washington’s continuously-changing military tactics were deliberate, strategic responses to the various phases of the war, not because he lacked a plan of action but because he fought as a Guerilla Strategist always shifting, always reinventing, and innovating the battlefield. Confronting the critics who say Washington’s battlefield success and ultimate victories were a function of luck, George Washington’s Military Genius proves why the father of the greatest Democratic country also deserves the title of America’s preeminent strategist.
Long-term planning also conflicts with guerrilla management. If you plan ahead more than two seasons, you lose your flexibility and run the risk of locking yourself into approaches that will lag behind new developments. That is what Lao Tsu cautions against… and we have good evidence that George Washington read the newly translated ‘Art of War” book in 1774. The Lao Tzu treatise on war was brought out and translated from the Chinese a couple of years earlier and found a small following amongst the Strategists of the day…
So George Washington’s contribution to victory in the American Revolution was not that of a great battlefield tactician; in fact he sometimes planned operations that were too complicated for his amateur soldiers to execute. However, his overall guerilla strategy proved to be rather successful: Keep control of 90% of the countryside and the rural population at all times; keep moving; keep the army intact by avoiding pitched battles; use your meagre resources and forage constantly; train always; suppress the Loyalists and reactionaries; avoid decisive battles except to exploit enemy mistakes (as at Saratoga and Yorktown); allow the enemy to sleep comfortable in the big cities like New York, because they will fall in due time like overgrown ripe fruit, on their own.
George Washington dreamed big but planned little. So I too dream far ahead, but I don’t plan far ahead.
The first step in making revolutionary guerrilla management work is to establish the right conditions in your political organization, NGO, or company. The second step is to use those conditions to strategic advantage.
So what are those right conditions to make your company operate at peak capacity?
Stay Lean, fight mean, and always keep moving while hungry. Avoid pitched battles at any cost. Move swiftly and keep changing your positions each and every night. Activate and organize your community. Gain legitimacy by the people, from the people, and for the people. Avoid infrastructure and honour taking. Just as heavy equipment can impede an army in its battle with guerrillas, fixed assets can be a drag on companies in fast-changing industries. Fixed assets not only lock companies into technology that is soon out of date, but they can also be a drain on your most important resource, management energy. Acquiring fixed assets is always a temptation, though, because on paper at least, it seems to cost less than contracting work out. Indeed, perhaps the biggest hidden cost is the management energy that goes into setting up such operations. Management is our scarcest resource, and I want it directed only toward those things that are most essential to cash flow generating. Period.
Keep the lines of communication open. In the heat of battle, a guerrilla commander needs accurate information and the ability to communicate quickly with troops.
The same is required of guerrilla managers, so we’ve set up a number of systems to improve communications. Eliminate all secretarial positions, which means that all leaders must answer their own phones, emails, communiques and interact directly with the public. You’d be surprised at how much more effective you become without a secretary to screen all comers. And also you learn loads of news and gain insight when you talk directly to your clients in the field.
We allow people to work from home, from the road and from hotdesks in many locations across the globe. And we also travel a whole lot so… We need to be axiomatic mobile warriors at best. And in order that things don’t come to a standstill when we’re away from our hotdesks, we all have a routing number leading to our mobile devices and as a further reach we use a decentralized digital answering service to record messages and searches. This untethers people from the office because once you have your troops mobile and able to communicate efficiently, you can use guerrilla management tactics to maximum advantage.
Chairman Mao reminds us that a revolution is not a dinner party. “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”
So don’t be afraid to break some plates. Breaking rules and plates is not unkind. It is just necessary to use these tactics to win the war.
Revolutionary tactics include the following paths from the best warriors. Mao, Che, Fidel, Ho, and Sun Tzu all said this: Look for bold, opportunistic, and easily winable battles, where courage and stealth make all the difference. Guerrilla fighters always make up for their smaller numbers against regular armies with superior equipment by being opportunistic. They catch enemy forces off guard, inflict heavy casualties, steal resources, and, if necessary, withdraw quickly. When you’re dealing with large and fast-changing markets, you have to do the same.
Vision, vision, vision. Show your troops the way. Successful guerrilla forces are led by commanders who also are in the thick of the battle. Guerrilla managers have to be willing to get upfront, jump in the trenches, fight in the troubles, and lead at the head of any engagement. That’s why they call them Avantgarde. This is especially important when the total war effort is going poorly.
Motivate your people to keep fighting. Be candid about your problems, and acknowledge in all company meetings your setbacks and the fact that you are on the defensive, being attacked by substantially stronger enemies. When you get stumped, always boost morale, by reassuring employees that you have a plan. Any plan is better than no plan. Avoid recriminations and blame shifting. Take upon your shoulders all the responsibility and lead the fight to the attackers. Make sure to flesh out in detail a “Machiavellian” strategy ahead of time. Most important element of that strategy is that instead of simply exhorting employees to work harder, go with them in the field showing them the way. In no time at all you will regain the high ground and totally turn the situation around.
People are always stunned how effective “guerilla warfare” is… and that is the critical advantage of the Guerilla leader in the Modern day warfare.
Always give your troops responsibility. Multilayered chains of command bog down all companies, political parties, and established armies. The same happens to growing companies. Avoid that at any cost.
Unfortunately, when trying to imitate large corporations – smaller businesses look to hierarchy to relieve the prevailing chaos. Instead, it often creates inefficiency and inhibition. The perils of centralization are well known to anyone who studied any Strategic warfare period of History.
Decentralization is the key tenet of Success much as nature observes this — so should You.
Fight on your terms. If your opponent’s crack troops are based in the valleys and its worst troops are in the mountains, you’ll do best as a guerrilla to fight in the mountains. It seems obvious, but guerrilla managers sometimes lose sight of the basics. It’s easy, unfortunately, to get a little lazy once you’re successful. It is a fact that the smartest guerrilla managers can’t afford to be out of shape for long, since they know there’s never a final victory to be won. At best there’s only a reprieve until the next battle must be fought.
Learn to manage the war effort and don’t prepare for peace because there might never be one… as Chairman reminds us: “There are many stubborn element, graduates in the specialty schools of stubbornness. They are stubborn today, they will be stubborn tomorrow, and they will be stubborn the day after tomorrow. What is stubbornness (huan’gu)? Gu is to be stiff. Huan is to not progress: not today, nor tomorrow, nor they day after tomorrow. People like that are called the stubborn elements. It is not an easy thing to make the stubborn elements listen to our words.”
So keep fighting. After all that’s the best exercise and that’s how you can stay lean, mean, and hungry. So the stubborn paper tigers provide plenty of exercise for You.
Now that you know the basics of guerilla warfare — go and make good use of this blood gained knowledge
And use these those tips to make a “killing” and never turn back.
There is no such thing as thinking laterally, vertically, inside the box, outside the box, or in the periphery of one…
Consider there is no box.
Be dangerous, feared, and respected, and above all else know your real friends from your enemies. Friends and enemies change positions and shift sides constantly. Be aware of that lack of solidity, scarcity of principle, and selfishness in human nature. Always scan the horizons for these changes of ‘weather’ cause they can do you in. This is of the utmost importance.
And accept that the more successful You are the more the jealous Demagogues, the loser folk, and the decrepit minds will attack you. Don’t pay any attention to them because if you stop and start throwing stones to all the barking junkyard dogs along your way — You’ll never make it home in time for supper. Thus spoke “Winston” that best of breed English Bulldog…
Chairman Mao said: “I am hated by many, especially comrade Pang Dehuai, his hatred is so intense that he wished me dead. My policy with Pang Dehuai is such: You don’t touch me, I don’t touch you; You touch me, I touch you. Even though we were once like brothers, it doesn’t change a thing.”
By the way: “Republic of the Mind” is my next book and it will surely surprise you.