The Maximus Principle – Casualties Are Sometimes Acceptable

In his blog post, The Maximus Principle – Casualties Are Acceptable, Chris Widener writes: “Anytime you move your organization to the next level, there will be casualties. Many leaders try to take their organizations forward with no casualties. But this is the fact: It cannot be done.” Drawing from a scene in the movie, Gladiator, Maximus and his army are preparing for battle. After surveying the field, he returns to his second in command and tells him it is the time to move forward. The officer is hesitant, not understanding of the total picture, and says: “We can’t do it yet. The men aren’t ready and the casualties will be….” Before he has the opportunity to end his sentence with the words “too great,” Maximus interrupts him and completes the sentence with “acceptable.

Widener acknowledges that most leaders care for the people they serve. “This is good,” he writes, “but it can be bad when we begin to misunderstand a basic principle of life and allow the realities of life to keep us from boldly leading and taking our organizations to the next level…. Anytime you take your organization to the next level, there will be casualties.” It is human nature he suggests – the reality that there are those who will not buy into a new vision, that there is no longer a fit between what the future offers in terms of their own desires or skill match or simply an irreconcilable difference of opinion in where things are going. Some leaders, he writes, choose to wait  until “they can get EVERYONE to the next level” and four things can happen:

One, they miss an opportunity to become a better leader.
Two, the organization misses its chance to move ahead.
Three, the people in the organization miss out on their own advancement.
Four, the casualties miss out on their opportunity to leave the organization and find a better spot for themselves in another organization.

Widener offers great leaders a choice: “Would you rather have your organization and your leadership be the casualty or have a few people in your organization be the casualties? Those are the only options.” He suggests the following actions:

Accept casualties as a fact of life.
Find and develop the vision of where we want to take our organizations.
Lead boldly.
Try to minimize casualties.
Let some people go.
Enjoy the next stage when your organization gets there.

Great leaders do care deeply about the people they serve. Required change and growth for an organization may result in people leaving – for their own growth or for the advancement of the company. The action cannot be permitted to fester as it will negatively impact both parties. To the words: “We can’t do it yet. The men aren’t ready and the casualties will be….,” albeit painfully and with sorrow, great leaders must sometimes add the word “acceptable” if people and organizations are to grow and prosper. These are the tough and painful decisions that great leadership requires.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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1 Response to The Maximus Principle – Casualties Are Sometimes Acceptable

  1. Jack Beach says:

    “…casualties will be acceptable” has at least two implied meanings. One would be that the leader has evaluated the costs and determined they will be limited; the other is the leader has evaluated the objective and determined success is so essential, no cost would be too great. Great leaders possess the wisdom to determine the limits of what is acceptable, the ability to justify the necessary sacrifice to themselves, the potential casualties, and those remaining, and the courage to act.

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