Leadership Lessons From The Civil War

Leadership Lessons From The Civil War by Tom Wheeler

Strategic lessons for today’s business leaders culled from the great leaders and battlefield decisions of the Civil War.

“War,” Tom Stoppard writes in his brilliant play Travesties, “is capitalism with the gloves off.”

Business has often been likened to war. Given their similarities, what better way to learn about strategic business leadership than from the battlefield triumphs–and catastrophes–of America’s greatest conflict, the Civil War? In Leadership Lessons from the Civil War, former CEO and telecommunications leader Tom Wheeler distills basic leadership strategies used in the Civil War into nine specific lessons–illustrated with in-depth stories of battlefield decisions–that can help guide business leaders today.

Through Union General George McClellan’s devastating encounters with Confederate General Robert E. Lee, for example, we see the consequences of one leader’s fear of failure: ultimate defeat. Had McClellan been courageous enough to employ his advantage in troop size and position, he could have handily defeated Lee several times in the war. Lee, on the other hand, was willing to risk everything to achieve victory, which helped make victory possible.

Among the time-tested lessons Wheeler convincingly illustrates:

  • Never fight today’s battles with yesterday’s tactics
  • The greatest campaigns are often decided by the smallest skirmishes
  • If you can’t win–change the rules

In the course of the book, Wheeler recounts his own experiences in the telecommunications industry, using the war stories of such media moguls as Craig McCaw, Ted Turner, and Gerald Levin as examples of modern-day Stonewall Jacksons and Jeb Stuarts who apply these strategic lessons to today’s corporate battles.

Based on the life-or-death triumphs and failures of America’s greatest military campaigns, Leadership Lessons from the Civil War is an inspiring–and extraordinarily readable–guide to business leadership and decision making. (Amazon.com)