We are at war. That is the reality. It may not a war in a conventional way but one against an unseen enemy, who has the ability to reproduce many times before we realise he is among us.
In the corporate sector, if a strategy did not work, you simply went back to the drawing board but in the military if it did not work, you went to the grave.
War is not fair. War cannot be benchmarked because no two wars are the same. Wars are won by thinkers and fought by soldiers. If the war is not won in the mind, it cannot be won on the ground.
Winning goes beyond planning. Things rarely go according to plan in war. Winning in the mind means the mind must be trained to be flexible for swift decision making.
A winner’s mind must be trained to make decisions based on strategy and not emotion. The view from the top of an organisation is strategic while the view from the bottom is emotional.
Many decisions taken at the top cannot be understood by those at the bottom. Strategic decisions during wartime are never easy and takes a special kind of leadership to emerge from wartime intact.
To forestall casualties, you might sometimes have to prompt and induce some casualties. You might have to take measures that will not make some people happy because of the big picture.
Remember, a mistake at war can lead to the death of your entire team.
South Korea and the United States had their first Covid-19 case on the same day. By mid-March they both had approximately the same number of casualties—about 90. Today the story is different.
The US has over 92,000 deaths while South Korea has 263. One might make an argument about population differences. After all the US has about six times the population of South Korea. Going by that argument, then the US should be talking of 1,578 deaths.
While there may be different explanations for this, the most obvious is that South Korea quickly realised this was a war against an unseen enemy and immediately put into effect wartime procedures. Their response was rapid and strict. While they were doing this political rallies were still going on in the US and leadership was largely in denial.
Attempting to use peacetime processes during war will lead to catastrophic results as seen in the United States.
Wartime decisions are not executable during times of peace. They will be called everything from unfair to not respecting the rights of others, draconian, or insensitive. They will not be popular.
However, in wartime, these same decisions can save lives. It is better to have unhappy people who survive the war and have an opportunity to build again than to have happy people who do not make it through the war. They all die.
So, question is, “are you able to make the transition from being a peacetime leader to becoming a wartime leader?”
In a situation where people would rather die, then you have a leadership problem.
When you try to implement peacetime strategy during wartime, you truly have a bigger leadership problem. US or South Korea, which are you?
Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer, PowerTalks