Strategy, Strategists, and Command Performance: Joining Up the Dots

Colin S. Gray

in The Strategy Bridge

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780199579662
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191594458 | DOI:
Strategy, Strategists, and Command Performance: Joining Up the Dots

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Ideas, as ideas, do not win wars; they have to be translated into plans, and the plans need to be effected in the field by troops in the face of an enemy who will strive hard to thwart those ideas‐as‐plans‐as military behaviour. Because strategy is a pragmatic enterprise, and hence its theory and its practice must be seen as most intimately connected, any competent study of strategy's theory has to ‘join up the dots’ from concepts to performance ‘in the field’, or more accurately from the ‘field’ as strategic effect. Strategy is a pervasively human project, strategy is not only ideas and plans, it is people, not excluding individuals as individuals. Great forces may shift the course of history as it were tectonically, but they are shoved and resisted by particular human beings. Strategist is a catch‐all category, typically left undefined and unexplained in detail. In historical practice, the (military) strategist has played many roles. As a soldier‐conceptualizer‐executive, the strategist can be a theorist‐planner and/or a commander. And as commander, he will be a manager‐bureaucrat who has to train and to lead. In addition, he may need to be a politician‐diplomat and an educator‐persuader. The strategist is enabled, or on balance disabled, from delivering a politically satisfactory command performance by psychology, his education, formal and informal by life experience; his ability to lead (as well as command, strictly understood); the fighting power of his army; and the opportunity to perform that historical situation allows. And, important to note, in order to succeed in his command performance, the strategist needs only to be good enough. Absolute excellence is not required.

Keywords: strategy; strategist; strategic performance; command; command performance; personality; leadership

Chapter.  21710 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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