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One of the headliners for the Leaders in London event was world chess champion and now Russian politician Garry Kasparov.He talked about a range of topics which straddled ‘Leadership and Management’ as well as ‘Embracing Failure’.

Kasparov talked of his “brash and arrogant” approach to Anatoly Karpov, but then how got down 0-4 in the first-to-6 match and had to switch to a strategy of ‘survival’. He asserted, “Never let a good crisis go to waste…Don’t just think of surviving, but of winning.” He continued saying, “setbacks are inevitable. You have to be able to recognise the situation in time and change your strategy.’”

While most observers thought Kasparov would be routed, he stuck in and drew then next 17 games only to lose game 27 and be down 0-5! Relentless, he drew the next 4 games and finally won his first at game 32. He persevered drawing more until winning games 47 and 48 at which point the match official controversially terminated the match ‘without result’ citing the health of the players. The previous record length for a world championship had been 34 games and this one was almost half again longer. Most experts feel that despite the toll on his own body (Kasparov lost 10 pounds during the match due to the strain), being younger and fitter he would have gone on to win.

Kasparov commented on the notion of ‘survival of fittest’ saying “Success as an innovator does not mean success as a survivor. The key to survival is adaptability to change…to adapt to a bad situation and take advantage of it. Adaptability trumps everything else.”

He concluded by translating this experience into a key balance to effective leadership “between self-confidence and self-doubt” which I think makes a nifty #23 Distinction: “Leaders have self-confidence; Managers have self-doubt. Both together trump everything with adaptability.”