The Way We Win

On a flight home from San Francisco I watched the movie Ender’s Game, which is one of my favorite sci fi books.  Actually, it’s one of my favorite books, period.

Two things struck me during the movie:

  1. I really, really, really want to play laser tag in zero gee.  Really.
  2. Most of us are not part of a controlled leadership experiment where highly trained psychologists throw hard stuff your way to see how you cope before sending you off to battle school – sadly, there’s no grand design.

As I watched Ender’s Game for the second time… what?  OK, yes, I watched it twice.  It was that or Gravity, which as far as I can tell is about Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in space helmuts the whole time.

 Anyway, it struck me that Ender has a lot to teach us about great leadership:

  1. Everyone is part of the team – When Ender gets his own platoon Bernard – a bully – asks him, ‘Why am I here? You don’t even like me.’  Ender responds: ‘I’m planning to turn this ‘toon into a team that never loses and I think you can help me do that.
  2. Leaders don’t know everything – When introducing himself to his new squadron Ender specifically invites feedback, saying, ‘I can’t be expected to know everything.  If anyone has a better idea I want to hear it.’
  3. Winners don’t follow the pack – Ender assigns bunks with senior platoon leaders near the door.  When one of the team points out the other teams have more junior folks near the door, Ender says, ‘I don’t plan to do things like other platoon leaders.’
  4. Make others look good – When the battle tactics instructor chastises Ender’s class for not comprehending the basic fundamentals of rocket science, she asks Ender to work a problem for the class.  He defers to two other classmates, saying they know the topic better than himself.
  5. If you can’t be Ender, be Petra Petra is Ender’s earliest supporter and  offers to work with him despite his nasty squad leader Bonzo’s rule that he can’t participate in training exercises. She is one of the few trainees perceptive enough to notice high command is grooming Ender.   She is motived by possible future gain but also by genuine kindness, a winning combination that launches her to second-in-command.
  6. Change the game – When high command sends Ender’s team into a practice battle against two other platoons, Ender forstalls complaints by pointing out there are not rules in war.  He then wins the battle by completely changing how the game is played. 
  7. How you win matters – I won’t spoil the ending but suffice it to say, there are boundaries that should not be crossed in war or business. 

Link to original post


Leave a Reply