If your employees get entangled in a tough competitive encounter, no doubt many will face stumbling blocks, which they will promptly pronounce as overwhelming. They may even complain that the possible solutions are too involved or overly fatiguing.

Such reactions are understandable: For some, there is the natural timidity of humans to see only one side of anything and thereby make a first impression, which usually inclines toward fear and exaggerated caution.

If, as a manager, you give in to those complaints and frailties, you will soon succumb completely. And instead of acting with courage and determination, your efforts will be reduced to weakness and inactivity.

To resist all this negativity, keep faith in your inner self. Focus on all your deep-seated knowledge, training, experience, and, yes, intuition. At times, even with all the uncertainties of the marketplace, this mind-set may appear as stubbornness. Actually, it is an expression of strength of mind and character, called firmness. Your aim is to “give the mind insight into the great mass of phenomena and of their relationships, then leave it free to rise into the higher realms of action.”

The reality is that there will be the inevitable miscalculations and hurdles that you are certain to face. Notwithstanding, if you pursue your aims with boldness and confidence, you will reach your goals in spite of obstacles.

Pursue one great decisive aim with force and determination.


Where the law of probability is often the only valid guide, you must stand fast; trust in your honest interpretation about what is realistically possible and what is not. Then, with some level of confidence, “pursue one great decisive aim ... with determination.” This is a managerial role that is not easy to play, yet one that is mandatory for successful performance.

Equally important is the trust you must have in your subordinates. Therefore, choose individuals on whom you can rely. Such reliance and confidence is directly proportional to the training they receive and the manner in which they are led. The following example illustrates these points.

Carlos Ghosn has the mind-boggling job of serving as chief executive of both Nissan of Japan and Renault of France. He prods his employees at all levels by creating an intense feeling of urgency. If complaints crop up, he dismisses them and any other perceived difficulties with an irritated wave-off.

The urgency is intentionally created as part of Ghosn’s style of anticipating problems, putting them on the table, and dealing with them before they happen. His study of corporate history shows that if you wait too long to tackle problems, you are likely to face a tragedy. “Ghosn is absolutely tenacious in fighting complacency and the notion that we are in good shape,” declares Nissan executive Steven Wilhite ( forbes/2006/0522/104.html).

Thus, Ghosn functions as if collapse lurks around the next corner. He is fueled by a sense of crisis, mixed with impatience and passion, as he runs, simultaneously, two of the major car companies in the world.

Operating in that cultural environment where success breeds complacency, and sometimes arrogance, is part of Ghosn’s approach to elevating the creativity and productivity of workers—and thereby managing the human element.

Ghosn’s leadership style provides a resounding justification for strengthening your resolve against the weakening impressions of the moment. Even fortified with personal decisiveness and armed with sound intelligence, you can still succumb to wrong decisions dictated by fear.

You must not allow these errors to shake your faith or tempt you to accommodate to those fleeting impressions. The inevitable difficulties, therefore, demand your confidence, firmness, and conviction, whereas others, “ordinary” managers, may find in obstacles ample excuses to give in.

Do not give ground in competitive encounters until the very last moment and where all options have been considered. If your plan is based on using sound strategic principles, such as boldness, an indirect approach, concentration, and speed; if you are resolute and persistent in implementing your plans, and determined to accomplish your goals, then you will find success in your efforts.

The steadfast lessons of this rule are

First, count on strengthening your decision-making capabilities by fortifying intuition, enhancing your business experience, and expanding your knowledge.

Second, look for the infallible connection of corporate culture and competitive strategy. It is the determining factor if you are to be successful in implementing your plan, directing your competitive strategy, and ultimately outperforming your rivals.

Finally, it is in the marketplace that an organization justifies its existence. Such justification, however, must be based on honesty and integrity to the foundation principles, value systems, and overall culture of your organization. It must stand firm to the long-term development of the marketplace, and not be rigged to any personal agenda or avoidance of factual market intelligence.

In the end, it is mastering the concepts and principles of strategy that can direct marketplace events in your favor.

In sum, deliberately and systematically following the enduring rules of competitive strategy can help you overcome the obstacles that have crushed other managers. Keep in mind, too, that these applications have endured over long periods in many fields of endeavor. Consequently, the more prudent path for you is to firmly understand the concepts, principles, and guidelines in this book before making a conscious decision to alter or minimize their applications.

Deliberately avoiding them altogether places you at a distinct competitive disadvantage, which could result in reducing your position to a marginal segment of the market, whereas integrating them into your business plans and strategies can increase your chances of triumphing over rivals that are looking to oust you from the marketplace.

Yet, the reality exists that developing a business strategy edge is full of complexities, such as the rational and nonrational dimensions of running a business, issues of friction within the organization that create uncertainty, and the ambiguities of luck and chance.

Therefore, some rules make sense some of the time, but all rules cannot be followed all of the time. The secret to success, then, is knowing when to break the rules and when to follow them.

Now there are five circumstances in which victory may be predicted:

He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.

He who understands how to use both large and small forces will be victorious.

He whose ranks are united in purpose will be victorious.

He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.

He whose generals are able and not interfered with by the sovereign will be victorious.

Sun Tzu

Now turn to Appendices 1, 2, and 3 for the tools of strategy to assist you in outthinking, outmaneuvering, and outperforming your competitors.

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