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Daily Leadership Thought #147 – Business Is Not War

June 6, 2011

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Business is not war!  As business leaders, we are not engaged in a life-or-death struggle that requires us to win at all costs.  We do a disservice to our fellow citizens who are currently engaged in multiple military conflicts to speak or think in this manner.  Failure may be painful, but it isn’t fatal for us or for our employees.  What matters is that we do our best regardless of the circumstances and hold on to our integrity.   Our competitors aren’t the enemy, but instead there are other companies that exist to keep us honest and force us to keep delivering value to our customers and make wise financial decisions.

I always get concerned when I interact with a business leader who has a “zero sum” game mentality.   Markets aren’t an all or nothing propositions.  There will always be competition and that is a good thing not only for customers but also for the competing parties.   Competition forces innovation, focus and discipline.   Instead of resenting the moves of your competitors and constantly badmouthing them, you should thank them for pushing you to be better.  Look at any market where competition is minimal, and you find mediocre leaders with an inflated sense of self-worth who make greedy and sometimes dangerous decisions.

Of course, you want to win.  High performing leaders and companies like to keep score.  Just make sure you are going about it in the right way with the appropriate intentions.  It is much better to come out on top because of what you are doing well rather than because of what someone else is doing wrong.  Benefiting from someone else’s misfortune is an unfulfilling pathway to success.  Be gracious in victory and don’t take anything for granted.  Wars inevitably end, but business does not.  Today’s competitor may be tomorrow’s strategic partner or acquisition target.  Your reputation will follow you everywhere you go.  As with everything, our actions will define us.