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Know thine enemy like thyself

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

During his wars in Africa, Julius Caesar knew that his troops would come face-to-face with an enemy they had never seen before: cavalry riding on elephants, not horses. It posed three problems for his soldiers:
  1. They would become terrified at their first sight of these unfamiliar animals.

  2. They would not know how to attack elephants.

  3. Their horses would probably panic and buck at the sight of the pachyderms.
So Caesar ordered some elephants brought around from Italy. He had his troops examine them and hear them trumpet. He clothed the animals in full battle gear, so his troops would know where they would be most vulnerable to attack. Finally, he had his cavalry horses wander among the elephants, so they would overcome their fear in advance. As a result, Caesar won his battles.Leadership lesson: Help your team know all they can about their competitors. Three strategies worth trying:
  1. Hire employees away from competitors, and get to know them.

  2. Bring your competitors’ products into your company and study them.

  3. Ask your team members what they most fear about your competitors, and address their fears head-on.
—Adapted from The Alexandrian, African and Spanish Wars, Julius Caesar, trans. A. G. Way, Harvard University Press.

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