Winning The Battle, But Losing The War

by Anthony Demangone

The Washington Post business section publishes wonderful “Question and Answer” articles with successful/famous CEOs.   Nearly every one gives me something to think about.

Last Friday, they published another gem that highlights Jed Yueh of Delphix.  Please read the article, but here’s the part I really liked.  Jed talked about “lessons learned.”

Q. What were some early leadership lessons as you built that first company?

A. My biggest lesson was that you could be technically right and management wrong, and I learned that early on. I can articulate and debate a viewpoint from many angles, and I found that I could be technically right and force somebody into a viewpoint. But then they would slowly spiral into a place where they’re not really working hard because they feel demoralized. So I lost wars by winning battles.

So the first of my three management principles is that you’ve got to learn how to manage yourself. You have to understand how to win wars, not individual battles. If you don’t manage yourself very well, it’s hard for you to maximize the performance of a team. And managers can either increase or decrease motivation for their teams. They can either increase or decrease clarity for their teams. They can either build cultures that are highly collaborative and capable of solving problems quickly, or they can create cultures where you have a lot of paralysis and it’s very difficult to make decisions.

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