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The Midweek Motivator – Command Paralysis Revisited

Responsibility is directly proportionate to opportunity. Yet countless people fail in their leadership role because they hesitate; frozen by situational “what-ifs”. Reality: our true adversary is not simply our competitors, the economy or legislation. Our greatest opponent in any struggle toward a crucial objective is time!

History is always written by the winning side. Long after World War II facts revealed that General Douglas McArthur was at best an average tactician; at worst, a weak link as supreme commander of American ground forces in the Far East.

Yet, America badly needed an icon through the early defeats of Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, so Washington overlooked McArthur’s strutting egoism and command mistakes in order to buoy public confidence. Candid historians tell the real story: McArthur withdrew to his hillside redoubt, avoiding decision after decision (including a comprehensive defensive plan).

Actual accounts also point out the General’s indecisiveness led to devastating defeat at Clark Field where a squadron of American bombers and fighters were neatly lined up wing-to-wing; ducks in a shooting gallery ending any hope of an American counter-attack. Masked by Army hierarchy, that set-back was far greater than Pearl Harbor, considering however creative the Japanese could not figure out how to synchronize the sunrise over time zones; thus McArthur had HOURS of advance notice of the enemy’s intent! Yet, in the general’s biography time and legend belie the facts.

Today, few of us can count on our respective companies overlooking “command paralysis.” The measure of your performance is the sum of your results, achieved by the people on your team. As you grade your staff effectiveness (sales or programming) your most important job is to identify those who are getting it done and those who aren’t.

Regardless, it’s incumbent on you to “do something.” In today’s media cage-match fewer and fewer seem willing to be decisive. Harsh yet true: trying to salvage people who demonstrate little chance of meeting your expectation costs time and energy. You’re measured by earnings per share not “converts-per-share”. Time and business are unforgiving; opportunities surface then move on, leaving us to lament “if only we had…”

Everyone talks about today’s need to conserve resources and operating funds. From our side of the map the real measure of a leader is that first and foremost, he or she conserves time. Not simply their own, but that of their organization. This falls under the ancient slogan, “that which is worth doing is worth doing well.” An accomplishment has even more value if it had been done yesterday.  

It’s simple: the more time it takes to “act” the greater the odds of low return. Success and failure both increase at compound interest!

Command paralysis contradicts the very premise of success: when in doubt always take the initiative; attack problems, barriers and competitors with intensity! The most decisive leaders we’ve encountered know they’re in a contest with time and fully commit to the definition of leadership: “convincing someone to do what they may not want to do, so they can become something they’ve always wanted to be”…and in time to make a difference.