Chess not Checkers by Mark Miller - A Review by Tim Dumas about leadership and management in business strategy.

I was very excited about the launch of the leadership book “Chess Not Checkers,” by Mark Miller. Anytime a book written by someone of Mark Miller’s status, there is sure to be great hype. The book delivers.

I plan on not only utilizing the principles outlined in the book for my management training, but I plan on adding this book to my leaders’ reading list. The premise of the book is simple: Many leaders manage their people and organizations utilizing the simple strategies of the game of checkers, while great leaders understand the need to utilize the strategies of chess.

Leadership is not straightforward. The people in any organization all have different qualities, just as different chess pieces all have a different purpose. What sets the great leaders apart is their ability to utilize those pieces to make the team greater than the sum of its individual parts. If there is one quote that best typifies the principles outlined in the book, it is:

“I need this team to become a high performance leadership team, and the first step on that journey is the desire to make it so.”

It is the job of the leader to hire and put together the team with the desire of a high performance leadership team in mind. Trying to engage and lead a team without that desire is akin to leading a half-hearted army into battle. Once the desire is apparent, it is then the job of the leader to utilize the principles of “Chess Not Checkers.” A chess match cannot be won with only Kings, or Queens or Bishops. It can only be won with the right mix of Pawns, Knights, Bishops, Rooks, a King and a Queen.

Therefore, before beginning the game, ensure all your chess pieces are on the board. Hire with this in mind. Hire team members with not only a desire for greatness, but with complementary strengths. A football team would not succeed with only small and quick players; these players would have no one to block for them. A football team can only succeed with the perfect mix of quick players and strong blockers. It is similar to an orchestra made up of only strings instruments. The music just wouldn’t be whole without the pulse of percussion and the melody of the wind instruments.

Once the leader has put the team in place with the desire and complementary qualities to make a great team, it is his or her job to engage the team to act as one and excel in the execution of their given task. It is then that the team begins to achieve greatness, just as Bobby Fischer did on the chess board.

Tim Dumas is the Great Performances Group’s Guest Service Fanatic.  He loves to work with individuals and organizations to becoming a cohesive team of Guest Service Fanatics. He believes by implementing the principles of candor and ‘wow’, an organization can begin to achieve true organizational greatness.

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