In the spring of 1942, Japan's Admiral Yamamoto devised an ingenious strategy to attack Midway Island and deliver the knockout punch of the war in the Pacific. His elegant operational plan--which involved elaborate traps and diversions and required clockwork coordination--was founded on complete faith that he could predict the Americans' every move. But the perfect plan went wrong, and Japan's elite Strike Force was crushed, losing four carriers, over three hundred aircraft, and 2,500 men.
What can today's business managers learn from Yamamoto's stunning defeat at the Battle of Midway? A great deal, according to Richard Luecke, and in Scuttle Your Ships Before Advancing, he illuminates lessons to be learned from Yamamoto and other leaders who have faced memorable crises. We find, for instance, the epitome of decisiveness and entrepreneurialism in Hernan Cortes, as he and a small band of 16th-century adverturers risked everything in a bold gamble for the Aztec empire (the book's title, Scuttle Your Ships, refers to Cortes' strategy that kept his men moving forward). Underdogs who would challenge the status quo can look to France's Louis XI, the "Spider King," and learn how he undermined entrenched rivals through patience and cunning. The Emperor Hadrian, in his consolidation of the sprawling Roman Empire, provides a brilliant model for managing today's multinational corporation. And attitudes toward technology and innovation are vividly illustrated by the 15th-century Battle of Agincourt, in which the stubborn refusal of the French to adopt their English enemy's weapon--the longbow--led to their massacre. From these and other historical episodes, Luecke shows how leadership, daring, and artful administration meant the difference between success and failure. He draws explicit lessons for managers from these long-ago events, and he also reveals parallels in the recent experiences of major corporations from GM to Shearson Lehman. And along the way, he evokes portraits of Martin Luther, W. Edwards Deming, and other visionaries as they struggled with the timeless challenges of authority, change, and human conflict.
Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Skillfully narrated, inspiring yet down-to-earth, Scuttle Your Ships Before Advancing serves up powerful historical lessons for all who would manage and lead in the twenty-first century.
"Luecke's unusual approach makes this a noteworthy addition to business and management collections."--Booklist
"Clearly written...presents historical lessons on leadership that can be applied to today's dynamic business environment. [Luecke] cites a variety of historical episodes that take the reader from ancient Rome to postwar Japan and feature the likes of Emperor Hadrian, Louis XI, Cortes, and Admiral Yamamoto....Underlines ways we can learn from past successes and failures and illustrates how history can indeed provide insight into the future. It will appeal to
business executives, government leaders, and students."--Library Journal
"Most of those who use the days of yore to catechize or instruct corporate executives go no further than military history. But business writer Luecke--while cognizant of the hard business lessons that may be learned from war--draws on a wider selection of events from the classical era to the present; among other results, his erudite but accessible commentaries afford a more engaging and effective guide for managers, aspiring or otherwise....Perceptive, low-key
perspectives on how thoroughly modern organization men and women could, with a bit of thought, profit from the past."--Kirkus Reviews
"With library shelves bowing under the weight of faddish how-to and fact books, Luecke provides the eye-sore reader exciting and historical insights in the knowledge and wisdom necessary to cause change and effectively lead."--Vincent Barabba, Executive in Charge, Marketing Research and Planning, General Motors Corporation
"Reads like an exciting novel but delivers more practical business lessons than any MBA case study oriented policy course. Managers who successfully internalize the lessons of history will be able to compete with foreign adversaries who have a deep understanding of and appreciation for history's lessons. 'Rules of Thumb' drawn from history provide insights into human nature under competitive stress and are infinitely more enduring and useful in strategy
formulation than any set of financial ratios. Our business experiences are narrow and occurred in a less competitive environment. As business becomes more like war, the great historical epochs should become even more instructive and meaningful to managers."--Bill DeGenaro, Managing Director, Midwest
Operations, The Futures Group
"This timely exploration of leadership in adversity illustrates strategies of transformational leaders and, not incidentally, the failures of the defensive or complacent in the face of the day's challenges. Thoughtfully written and wonderfully entertaining, one reaches the end wishing for more. The book is a welcome antidote to the many naive and narrowly-argued panaceas offered in much of today's management literature."--James M. Utterback, MIT, Sloan School
"Richard Luecke has made history come alive for contemporary managers. He incorporates both strategic and managerial lessons for the twenty-first century decision maker by dissecting history via the case method! The historical leaders on which he draws truly come alive in this well-written book."--Samuel L. Hayes, III, Jacoph H. Schiff Professor of Investment Banking, Harvard University
"At a time when business and political leaders alike give voice to or are employed by others to seek change, go global, be entrepreneurial, Richard Luecke's work adds the imperative that each action have as its foundation for success ideas, timeliness, human drive, and conviction, then documents his thinking through a series of exceptionally well-chosen historical accounts, each fascinating in its own right."--Harold T. Miller, Retired Chairman of the Board,
Houghton Mifflin Company
"When my colleagues and I teach performance improvement in these complex times, we stress dimensional thinking. Richard Luecke's work is an important addition to managerial literature because the lessons emphasize this kind of dimensional perspective. In dramatizing the dimension of time, he crystallizes some of the most crucial managerial behaviors, those that endure."--William H. Sandy, Chairman, CEO, Sandy Corporation
"History was never more enlightening and leadership was never more historical....Luecke's book entertains, informs, and challenges....A must read experience to broaden managers."--Gregory H. Watson, former Vice President, Xerox Corporation
"Richard Luecke has pulled together a crisply written collection of historical vignettes which make fascinating reading in their own right. The lessons Luecke draws from them are especially relevant to leaders in today's turbulent world. A fine book to carry along for reading on airline flights."--John F. Magee, Chairman of the Board, Arthur D. Little, Inc.