Battle of Austerlitz

Yesterday was the anniversary of one of the greatest triumphs in military history, the Battle of Austerlitz. Robert Greene’s ’33 Strategies of War’ highlights the battle as a sterling illustration of ‘Turning Weakness to Strength’…

“In the crisis leading up to the Battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon’s advisors and marshals had thought only of retreat. Sometimes it is better, they believed to accept setback willingly and go on the defensive..Napoleon, who, as a strategist, stood far above both his advisers and marshals…His superiority lay in the fluidity of his thinking: he did not conceive war in mutually exclusive terms of defence and offence. In his mind, they were inextricably linked: a defensive position was the perfect way to disguise an offensive manoeuvre, a counter-attack; an offensive manoeuvre was often the best way to defend a weak position. What Napolean orchestrated at Austerlitz was neither retreat nor attack, but something far more subtle and creative: he fused defence and offence to set up the perfect trap.”

“Most of us only know how to play either offensively or defensively. Either we go into attack modem charging our targets in a desperate push to get what we want, or we try frantically to avoid conflict and, if it is forced upon us, to ward off our enemies as best we can. Neither approach works when it excludes the other…Instead consider a third option, the Napoleonic Way…Mixing offence and defence in this fluid fashion, you will stay on step ahead of your inflexible opponents.”

The battle also provides an insight into the Leader/Manager contrast. Looking at the duality from an offence (upside) and defence (downside) perspective, Napolean coaches how master the balance of both into an integrated execution.

Leader attack; Managers defend. Both fused together fluidly manoeuvre to victory.

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