"Strategic Leadership and War (business) Strategic Planning"



On Strategic Leadership

Count Alfred von Schlieffen, the famous German military leader of the period just before World War I, once said:

“A man is born, and not made, a strategist.”

But it is obvious that even a born strategist if there be such a natural genius has much to learn.

In the past strategic leadership was a relatively simple affair.

J.F.C. Fuller, the British student of warfare, pointed out in The Foundations of the Science of War (1926) that until relatively recent times the death, capture, or wounding of either of two opposing generals normally decided a conflict, “for the general was the plan.”

He could personally devise the plans and direct his troops.

By the mid-20th century this was rarely possible.

As warfare has become complicated, strategic leadership has become more difficult.

The art of strategic leadership has taken on many more facets, and systematic training is required to master them.

The strategist has retired from the scene of battle, and large, specialized staffs have grown up to help him.

Although the responsibility for strategy remains the general's, many of his functions have been delegated to his planning staff.

In modern states corporate strategic leadership has become the rule in the management of military strategy, as in the direction of large business enterprises.

The example of an Alexander the Great completing his advance planning and leaping into battle at the head of his troops would in modern warfare be considered most unusual.

Napoleon was wont to make his plans and then retire with his retinue of trusted advisers to survey the battlefield on horseback from the top of a hill.

Generals in World War I were often pictured in their offices in large headquarters usually in a château behind the lines, studying a map on the desk and dispatching orders via the telephone and motorcar at hand.

In World War II the headquarters staffs of commanders in the theatres of war grew even larger and more elaborate. Tridimensional warfare land, sea, and air had enlarged the field of operations far beyond individual battlefields, and usually a high commander reached his decisions in a headquarters far removed from the field of battle and months before the battle itself took place.

Far from striking the classic pose of the officer on a well-schooled charger, some of the greatest generals issued their orders from desks and fought their most important battles at conference tables.

As strategic planning became a highly organized affair, planning committees and conferences in the capital cities of the warring powers made the blueprints for victory in the global, coalition struggle.

In their capital command posts, military leaders kept in touch with the manifold phases of the national government's war effort and dealt with the worldwide problems transcending those of the individual theatres of war.

With the aid of new devices for rapid communication, these leaders and their staffs sought to set the patterns of strategy and keep abreast of the movement of armies as the Caesars and Napoleons had done in earlier eras.

As war became more total, war planning became a significant peacetime function of governments.

The manufacture of strategic plans has become a highly specialized industry in modern military establishments.

At the same time, more and more governmental agencies have been drawn into the business of planning for national security.

The plans they produce may vary from a simple design to shift a small task force to a danger spot to an elaborate plan for the conduct of war in its entirety.

To be realistic, strategic plans and estimates must constantly be reexamined and brought into harmony.

Against this general background in the nature of the art of strategic leadership, it is now possible to sketch the important contributions made in key periods to modern strategic theory and practice.

It is important to remember that the art of strategy has changed from age to age, just as has war itself, and that each is the product of its own society and time.


From Strategic Leadership return to Strategy History

Return Home