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The general wisdom of Ulysses S. Grant

By Steve Cook

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This is a top line introduction to Ulysses S Grant but, as someone who has studied his strategic thought and decision-making in depth, I agree there is much for todays leaders to learn about organisational strategy and leadership from him.

I don’t think his tactical capability matched Lee, whose understanding of timing, deployment, manoeuvre, logistics and, most importantly, his people, was second to none but when Grant was given overarching strategic responsibility for all theatres and resources he had no equal.

His understanding of the interplay between seemingly separate parts of the whole – where every action in one area was carefully designed to have optimum positive affects in ALL areas, all while constructing the sequence of events required to gain final victory (Vision) as efficiently as possible, was unrivalled.

He didn’t invent strategy but he had that rare quality – an innate talent for it (if not much else). He knew that only by defining grand strategy could he safely, leave tactics to his generals and troops. Their strategic roadmap was clear and complete.

Every organisation needs expert strategists and expert tacticians. One cannot thrive without the other and both are equally vital.

I dreamt once that I was playing chess with U.S. Grant. Is that weird?!

The general wisdom of Ulysses S. Grant
By Theodore Kinni

A serial failure up until the Civil War, Grant had a talent for leadership that secured the Union. His strategy and style still offer valuable lessons for today’s executives.

Prior to the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant didn’t show much promise. He called his admission to the U.S. military academy at West Point “an accident,” and when he graduated in 1843, he was only in the middle of his class. Just over a decade later, in 1854, he resigned from the U.S. Army. In the next few years, he proved to be a failure in business — even during boom times, such as the California gold rush.

In 1861, as the slave states seceded from the U.S. and the Union rushed to build up its army, Grant struggled just to get a commission leading 630 men in the 21st Illinois Infantry Regiment. And yet, four years later, it was Grant who, as the chief strategist and leader of more than 1 million men serving in the Army of the United States, left Robert E. Lee with no choice but to surrender at Appomattox, effectively ending the Civil War.

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