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4 ways to lead like a great general

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Distinguished military leaders possess central traits, said the notable Prussian military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831). A close look shows that they’re still essential today.

  1. Simple communication. To lead naive soldiers, a general must communicate in an open, simple way, as though he or she were one of them.

  2. The ability to act resolutely, despite unreliable information. A leader often must act decisively, based on nothing more than his or her experience, talent and expectation of good luck.

  3. A keen understanding of the emotions triggered by danger. Any risky enterprise exerts an emotional influence on the leader that can distort good judgment. A great leader recognizes when this is happening and keeps judgment clear.

  4. The skill to resist false compassion. Feeling sorry for your opponent is a trap. After all, you don’t really know his thoughts, resources or other intangibles. False compassion distracts you from your best course of action and causes you to defeat yourself.
—Adapted from On War, Carl von Clausewitz, Penguin.

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