The Washington Strategy

Time to Read – 83 Seconds

The Washington Strategy

In business and in life, we can learn a lot from military leaders.

General Longstreet of the Southern army in the US Civil War, had battle strategies that were years ahead of their time. He believed in focusing on the mission (the outcome), and only on the mission. If fighting could be avoided, all the better. If Commanding Officer General Lee had followed Longstreet’s advice at Gettysburg, the Confederates may have prevailed, and North America would now be two separate countries.

In the war, the respective armies of the North and South basically wandered around until they met each other, and when they did, they had a fight. The two opposing armies did just this at a little town called Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in the summer of 1863.

Picture the scene – it is Wednesday 1st July, 1863. The Northern army have arrived first and seize the higher ground to the north west of the town, the Southern Army of North Virginia are to the south.

The scene is ready for a battle and Lee prepares to order an assault against his better placed opponents. Lee was in good spirits, with a stunning record of victories behind him, an army that worshipped him and, as he often said, God on his side.

Then along came James Longstreet, Lee’s “war horse,” who pointed out that Washington, capital of the North, was to their east, and as their aim was to force the Northern politician’s to call a truce on Southern terms, invading Washington would bring that mission closer. And, well, if they actually took Washington…

It wasn’t so much that Lee didn’t trust Longstreet, it was more that after a long march the “boys are up for a fight.”

And so they did  – the battle of Gettysburg – over three days, with over 46,000 casualties, and the South never recovered.

Over 150 years ago, a 42 year old from South Carolina dared to suggest a different course of action to the norm. He focused on achieving their stated outcome, on what the South actually wanted to achieve, at the expense of habitual behaviour.

Longstreet died, aged 83, still believing that he was “right.”

I know you can’t hear this now, General, but you were, and I for one thank you for the lesson focus on your outcome!

With my love and best wishes


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