SBM Articles


Are You Playing Offense or Defense?

by Jonathan Jones

Are you on offense of defense?” Herb Meyer, former special assistant to the director of the CIA for the Reagan administration, proposed this interesting question to my Vistage CEOs to help them think about their culture. Herb believed that Ronald Reagan won the Cold War because he played offense, not defense. Unlike his predecessors, who were trying not to lose the Cold War, Reagan told his military and intelligence leaders to win the Cold War. Herb and his team started to look at the vulnerabilities of the Soviet Union. They discovered that the Soviet Union had a terrible economy, which was not the accepted opinion. With this intelligence, Reagan was able to push the Soviets until their economy crashed. The U.S. and our allies had won the Cold War!

Consider your business culture. Many CEOs believe they should be playing offense. However, most of them had to admit that they may be more passive and play defense. Even if a leader wants to play offense, the culture may be designed to play defense. What is the difference? Offense is driven by excellence, while defense accepts mediocrity. Offense hires only A players; defense tolerates B and even C players. Offense defines clear goals and measures progress toward those goals. Many times, offensive players know they are beating the competition, and sometimes this type of culture is so focused on the right goals that they do not worry about the competition; they keep winning and improving. A defensive culture’s goals are more protective of current territory.

Offense can create opportunities unimagined in the past. Defense protects the past and status quo.

Where is your culture? What changes do you have to make to create a culture of winning?

Jonathan Jones ( or 314-608-0783) is a CEO peer group chair/coach for Vistage International.

Submitted 2 years 85 days ago
Categories: categoryCulturecentric Leadership
Views: 648