What Can We Learn from WWI?

San Diego Air and Space Museum

One hundred years ago one of the greatest wars in human history was killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians and laying desolation to much of Europe. WWI as it is now called was the first total war on a grand scale. Today’s analysis of that war is a study in failed leadership in many if not all the participants.

James Strock created an excellent blog post on the leadership lessons we can gain from this awful war. They are mostly lessons in leadership failure. It reads like a list of what not to do as a leader. Strock identifies 13 lessons we should learn from this war. While these lessons have great import in the world of international relations and diplomacy, they can also be applied to our personal lives.

  • Leadership is important – good leadership skills are important whether you are the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom ore president of your local service club. Historical analysis of the causes of WWI almost all point to the failures in leadership that contributed to this disaster. To influence and lead others in a positive way we must all develop good leadership abilities.
  • Shared interest can be overcome by other considerations. We like to think that if we share common goals or principles with others that conflict is lessened. They thought that in 1914 as well when Europe was culturally and economically linked. Shared interests can promote good will and peaceful resolution of differences but it never guarantees those things. Good leaders must recognize this and act accordingly.
  • Leaders must take care of themselves and maintain good health. Many of the most influential leaders at the beginning of WWI were either physically, psychologically or in both ways weak or sickly. Strong and effective leaders must be healthy and well adjusted.
  • What has worked in the past may not work in the future. The world is constantly changing. It was changing in 1914 but is changing much more rapidly today. Effective leaders must understand this change and manage it. They cannot rely on “the way we’ve always done this”.
  • Management failures can lead to greater over all failures. Good leaders must know how to manage well.

There is much more to Strock’s 13 principles. Many of them apply more directly to national and international activities. But we can learn from them and apply many of them to our lives to avoid the kind of mistakes that led to the Great War.

To learn more about the 13 principles and the lessons of WWI see James Strock’s blog article.

Learn how you can achieve more and realize your goals as well as lessons in leadership in my book, The Success Essentials.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.