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The First Step Of A Leader

In A Spy’s Guide To Strategy, we talk about three steps every strategist must take:

1. Imagine the Endgame

2. Reason Backward

3. Take Action

For most people, the difficult part is reasoning backward. That’s why A Spy’s Guide To Strategy spends a lot of time on a simple shortcut: the framework of Positive-Sum and Zero-Sum Games.

For most people, imagining an Endgame and taking action are easier.

Unless, you’re a leader.

If you’re a leader, the most difficult part can be getting people to imagine the same Endgame.

If you can’t get your team to imagine the same Endgame, reasoning backward won’t matter. Taking action won’t matter. Because everyone will be reasoning backward from different Endgames and taking action toward different Endgames. Your people will go in different directions.

That’s why leaders spend a lot of time helping people imagine the same Endgame.

Some call it “casting a vision.” Some call it dreaming.

The quintessential casting of a vision was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. In it, Dr. King imagined an Endgame. How everyone in it would interact with each other. How there would be equality and brotherhood among the races in America. It would be a Positive-Sum Game.

When Dr. King gave that speech, equality and brotherhood didn’t exist among races in America. It was a dream. It was a vision. It was an Endgame that he imagined. Not yet real. But it was essential to have.

Without Dr. King’s imagined Endgame, would his team reason backward, build a strategy for gaining civil rights, and take action? No.

“The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people's fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That's why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It's an innocent form of exaggeration, and a very effective form of promotion.”

That’s Donald Trump in The Art Of The Deal.

Trump is talking about getting people to imagine an Endgame. So they reason backward from it. So they take action. In the context of The Art of the Deal, that Endgame was making a deal with Trump.

Donald Trump and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are very different people. In background, personality and temperament? Very different.

But as leaders, they had to do one thing exactly alike: They had to get people to imagine the same Endgame. The had to get people to imagine the Endgame they wanted people to imagine.

If you’re a leader, you must get people to imagine the same Endgame. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re doing. The people you're working with must imagine the same Endgame, if you want them to work together.

Imagining an Endgame is the first step of a strategist.

Getting other people to imagine the same Endgame is the first step of a leader.


To learn more about imagining Endgames and reasoning backward, pick up a copy of A Spy's Guide To Strategy.

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