Are you a Strategist or Tactician?

Most of us in life are tacticians, not strategists. We become so enmeshed in the conflicts we face that we can think only of how to get what we want in the battle we are currently facing.” (Robert Green, The 33 Strategies of War, p. xx)

Today, thousands of people will win battles: battles with their husband or their wife, battles with their manager or their coworkers, battles with their old friend or their business client. Many of these people, by winning the battle, will ultimately lose the war – for a happy marriage, a good job, or a working relationship.

How is this? Why do we win, but lose at the same time?

Often, it is because we don’t recognize the difference between strategy and tactics.

Strategy versus Tactics

I once heard it said that amateurs focus on tactics, but generals focus on supply lines. Of course, this is obvious when you think about video game simulations of battles. The whole focus of the video game is tactics – can you outmaneuver the enemy? Can you flank the opposing armies? Can you crush the weakest spot? All of the emphasis is on the tactics in that single battle.

But a wise general realizes that there is more to war than the tactics of each battle. War involves moving the army forward, providing supplies for the army in enemy territory, and only fighting over the ground that provides strategic advantage.

 As Robert Greene again notes, ““In war, strategy is the art of commanding the entire military operation. Tactics, on the other hand, is the skill of forming up the army for battle itself and dealing with the immediate needs of the battlefield.”

What it means to think Strategically

Strategy 2Strategists think beyond a single battle. They create a long-term campaign that can survive multiple defeats and still lead to victory. They don’t fight just because the enemy army is present – they only fight when the time and location is right. Even then, they ask questions like ‘Is it possible to gain victory without fighting this battle?’

Again, Greene notes that “To have the power that only strategy can bring, you must be able to elevate yourself above the battlefield, to focus on your long-term objectives, to craft an entire campaign, to get out of the reactive mode that so many battles in life lock you into. Keeping your overall goals in mind, it becomes much easier to decide when to fight and when to walk away.”

How to Think Strategically

You think tactically all the time, since you constantly find yourself in battle. (By ‘battle,’ I don’t just mean conflict or argument. I refer to all the difficulties that life presents). You ask yourself, ‘How do I win this battle?’

To think strategically, you need to know why you are in the battle. Should you be in the battle? Will it help you toward your long-term goal? How? What is your long-term goal? Where do you envision yourself in six months, a year, five years?

Have you ever thought through and listed out your values? Did you ever take the time to think through, and write out in crystal-clear detail, your vision for the future? Do you know what your personal mission statement is, that guides you forward when you face difficult options?

As a Christian, I recognize that the Bible provides both tactics and strategy for life. It provides tactics to use in the moments of conflict, but it also provides strategy – values to base my life on, long-term vision for my future, and wisdom for my mission on earth. Take the time to learn these things, and then live as a strategist.

Are you a tactician or strategist? What specific questions have helped you to think strategically?