Discover more from Practical Strategy Based on Sun Tzu's Art of War
Five Aspects of Command
Strategy Requires Conscious Choice
In life, we are always trying to improve our position in the minds of others, especially in the minds of those who can reward us in some way. This type of strategy is meant to be practical. It assumes people can make choices, consciously and unconsciously, about who they support and who they opposed. If we cannot affect those choices, all our discussions about developing good strategies are useless.
The reality is that we all decide what we do. Even though a lot of this process is unconscious, we are all conscious of the choices that we make from moment to moment. We simply have to look at whatever we are doing now. This is what we have chosen, for better or worse.
In making our choices, we compare alternatives. Too many factors affect these comparisons to sort everything out in neat detail, so our minds accumulate our perspectives through the lens of five key factors that have always been important to human survival: our goals, what is changing (climate), the source of known rewards (ground), individual decision-making (command), and system of working with others (methods). When comparing people, we all view them through the same five factors but we see these factors as elements of character:
Caring: how much someone shares our goals
Courage: how bravely someone faces the need to adapt
Intelligence: how well someone understands the potential source of rewards
Trustworthiness: how far to trust someone’s ability to make good decisions
Discipline: how far we can trust someone to honor his or her commitments.
These are the five aspects of character we use to judge others. These are also the same aspects that others use to judge us. We lump them together, thinking about the “command” that others have over their situations: their environment and their move forward within it. These judgments are not usually based on any easily measured quantitative factors, but rather upon our sense of inner quality. Our minds, often through unconscious processes, develop a “feel” for command. That “feel” may be the result of unconscious processes, but our ability to experience feelings gives us the power of conscious choice. In choosing our actions—who to support, and who to oppose—we must also see that they are also free to make choices about us.
So this is a recursive process. People make judgments about us based upon our judgments of them. When we choose actions, we must foresee how others will react based on our feeling for their sense of command.
Command is the responsibility of the individual. We all must make our decisions alone, and we must individually assume command within of our own lives. In other words, we all are the producers of our own position path of time. Events and the actions of others are just the raw material with which we must work. Life offers both good material and bad, but our lives depend on what we do with them. Strategically, there is no such thing as a group decision. Groups can only concur with a decision made by an individual. The individuals within a group each make their own decisions about whether to agree or battle with a suggested decision.
Judgment is evaluated first by values and goals. We must care about our own goals and the goals we share with others. Others, of course, us their own values to judge us. Mission guides every decision, consciously or subconsciously. Even when we are following the command decisions of others, we usually find ourselves making decisions that affect our personal position through the course of the day. Even when following an organization's rules about how those decisions are to be made, we are using our own judgment in each moment based upon our goals within that organization. The organizations that we are part of must serve our personal missions or we must leave them. When we lose track of our mission, our decisions must lose their way.
What people see as intelligence is not IQ as much as good decision-making. Our success depends on winning the support and discouraging the opposition of others. People judge us primarily, not upon our thought processes or our words, but upon the actions, we choose to take. They also judge us by the kinds of alternatives we identify and how we compare them. People who consistently make good decisions are seen as more intelligent than others, no matter when their level of academic learning.
Command requires the courage to decide and act instead of delaying decisions. A decision is never the end of the story, but only the beginning of a new one. Making a wrong decision quickly is the fastest and often the only path to discovering the right decision. While some decisions should be avoided or delayed, even the decision not to act now should be a conscious choice rather than an act of indecision. The decision not to act is also a decision and sometimes the most courageous one. The decision to continue doing what we have been doing is a decision as well. Courage is also required for us to recognize when we have made bad decisions and need to correct them.
Courage is needed to respond to events rather than to “stick to our plans.” While we tend to think of "events" as the actions of others, more broadly "events" simply represent the discovery of added information about conditions in our environment. Our senses are constantly picking up information from the environment, but not all of it is new. It is the latest information that triggers the leader's decision-making machinery. Some information is generated by change. This is information from the changes of climate. However, other information has been there all the time, but it is new to us because we discover it for the first time. This is information from the ground, specifically information from learning more about the value of our position.
It also requires courage to trust others, but the way we win trust is by being trustworthy. Our strategic positions require the support of others. We can only grow our strategic position by winning more trust over time. This requires consistency and dependability. Focus on our mission, especially our shared mission with others provides consistency because it provides a guiding light that allows us to correct our path over time. People judge us by our actions. Our words are only valuable when they correctly predict our actions. When the outcome of those actions are not what we desired, our ability to recognize failure and change our actions to adapt to the new situation also earns people’s trust.
Inspiration and Discipline
Leaders must rely upon developing a subconscious feel for situations. Our senses are exposed to a flood of information during the events of the day, and we are not necessarily consciously aware of it all. Our brains work on the pre-conscious level filtering that information to select the ideas that are important enough to penetrate our awareness. Our brains are continually making low-level decisions about what information is important enough to bring to the attention of the higher-level decision-making processes of our conscious minds. We can, however, train our subconscious minds to be more aware of the key aspects of mission, climate, ground, command, and skill so we can maintain a working mental model of our situation that produces the right feeling for alternatives.
We must discipline ourselves to consciously look for ways to improve our decisions. The subconscious mind is a valuable machine, but the subconscious mind always chooses to do what it has done in the past. Success is less about the quality of each, individual decision than it is about the general course of our decisions over time. No matter how well we analyze and train, we are going to make plenty of mistakes. The key is to learn from them. If we do, many individual decisions, even those that seem very insignificant at the time, can have an enormous impact on the course of our lives over large spans of time. To stay in command, we must decide what is the best use of our time at every moment of every day.