Monday, September 19, 2016

Tom Peters on Lord Horatio Nelson

The Full Nelson—Or: 13 Lessons on "Navigating" Excellence. 

Lord Horatio Nelson, an old Navy man and avid student of naval history, to me epitomizes Excellence. And, near the 200th anniversary of his singular victory at Trafalgar, I happened upon a new biography (I've probably ingested a dozen over the years), Andrew Lambert's Nelson: Britannia's God of War. From it, I extracted 13 lessons that I contend are mostly applicable to you and me:

1. Simple scheme. Nelson's orders of battle were paragons of simplicity and clarity—he was a damn good writer among other things. (Doable for you or me? Yes.)
Soaring/Bold/Noble Purpose! Nelson pursued total victory. Many of his peers were willing, essentially, to rate surviving as victory enough. (Doable for you or me? Yes.)
3. Engage others. Nelson made his captains full partners in the process as he devised plans— unheard of in those days. (Doable for you or me? Yes.)
Find great talent, at any age, let it soar! Nelson gave his best captains, young or old, far more leeway than his counterpart admirals—and he eschewed seniority as primary measure of assigned responsibility. (Doable for you or me? Yes.)
Lead by Love! The sailors, every biographer agrees, loved Nelson, and he them. (Last clause in the sentence is crucial.) His concern for their well-being, regardless of the rough nature of the sailor's life in those days, was legendary. (Doable for you or me? Yes.)
Seize the Moment! Nelson's sixth sense about enemy weakness was remarkable. He would skip to "Plan B" in a flash if merited by changing circumstances. (Doable for you or me? Yes. More or less—"good instincts" are the indirect product of insanely hard work.)
Vigor! His energy was palpable! (Doable for you or me? Yes. Mostly. Low energy folks aren't picks for leadership positions—or any other positions, for that matter.)
Master your craft. Nelson was the best damn sailor in the Navy—sailors and officers appreciated that beyond measure. (Doable for you or me? Yes. Damn it. We are not all created equal—but often "the best" is not the one who tops the charts on raw talent.)
Work harder-harder-harder than the next person. No explanation needed. (Doable for you or me? Yes.)
Show the way, walk the talk, exude confidence! Start a Passion Epidemic! Nelson led from the front—visible, in full dress uniform as the cannons roared. (Doable for you or me? Yes.)
Change the rules: Create your own game! Nelson always took the initiative—thus forcing rivals, from the beginning and throughout maneuvering at battle, to be in a full-time reactive mode. (Doable for you or me? Yes.)
Luck! Believe it! Always necessary! Not "desirable"—but necessary. (Doable for you or me? Anybody can get lucky—and preparedness ups the odds of getting lucky. But, truthfully, lucky is lucky.)
Be determined to come out on top, come hell or/and high water! Lambert:
"Other Admirals were more frightened of losing than anxious to win." This last is a big deal—it belongs as either #1 or #13. (Doable for you or me? Yes.) 

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