My first business partner taught me something very valuable: The worth of captains and lieutenants in the military, which you can extend to the business environment. During the Cold War, NATO had a significant disadvantage in the number of forces it had versus the number that the East Bloc possessed. It was a widely held belief, however, not only among NATO leaders but also military academics, that the two sides were very evenly matched and in an actual battle the western forces would hold their own or prevail despite the numbers.
Even now, you see many of the forces that oppose the west (such as ISIS and al-Qaeda) score large successes against much better-equipped opponents. Part of this success can be attributed to the power of local commanders in these forces.
Midlevel officers make the difference
The strength of NATO’s mid-level officers was credited with closing this gap. While Eastern Bloc mid-level officers were taught to blindly follow orders from their superiors, or suffer harsh consequences, Western mid-level officers were given great autonomy to make battlefield decisions without waiting for direction or even contravening standing orders that were overtaken by events. By having strong leaders who had the independence to make decisions, western military forces were at a competitive advantage. (And let’s not forget, Captain Kirk never got into real trouble for crossing into the neutral zone and the Federation regularly beat up on the more militarized Romulans and Klingons.) Continue reading “It is about your Majors, Captains and Lieutenants”