“It’s not how you play the game, it’s whether you win or lose — win or lose.”

— Troubled individual, circa 1981

Surely the statement above will generate some discussion. When we are young, we are told that what matters is not winning or losing, but whether we played in a fair, honest and ethical manner. I agree with this comment. But let’s admit that we all strive to win, otherwise, we would work for the government, and we would content ourselves with mediocrity and complacency.

Strong foundation

Those of us who wage battles in business do so for one reason and one reason only: to come out on top and remain there. No, the goal is not to harm your opponent, nor is it to embarrass your opponent, but you do want them to be humbled, serving as a warning of what happens when they pick a fight with you.

When I started my current job, my coworkers and I faced many external battles on various fronts. In order to come out on top, it was essential to make sure that internal matters were addressed, for only then could we focus, regroup and attack external foes in our quest for supremacy. Sounds like a scene from Braveheart , huh?

On my command…

I was speaking to a special young woman recently, who had asked me why men love Gladiator . I explained that this movie was the perfect example of men assuming roles within a group as they target enemies abroad.

Remember the scene when Maximus was thrown into the role of a Gladiator (one amongst many)? For the first time, he had to wage battle on others, while in a diminished role. He was no longer Maximus the leader, he was on equal footing with the rest. How did he set out to win? He led by example. He could have easily said “I” shall do this and “I” shall do that. But this would have generated anger, envy, jealousy, and bred cynicism.

He kept his mouth shut and attacked, killed and pillared anyone who stood in his way. This, he knew, would be the only way that the “mere” Gladiator can reclaim the respect, trust, power, and authority that he cherished as Maximus.

Where’s the Maximus in all of us?

Too much pride

Men are proud animals by nature. We seek to be known as leaders; sadly, some only talk the talk and fail to back it up with proper action. Many want to have power so they can say they have power. These guys turn out to be weak leaders down the road, who ultimately lose control. Others seek the respect and trust of others first, indifferent about whether they are quarterbacking or blocking. These are the true team players that become valuable assets.

This takes me back to my previous point about my current job. When I came on board, I left my old job and those responsibilities, knowing very well that my new job would entail new roles and responsibilities. The key was not to state “I want these duties or else,” but rather to study and analyze each player and see where their strengths lie, and where there was a gap within the team that I could fill.

Once others would see that one could slide into any position and fill a gap, then the challenging and rewarding tasks would come in. However, if one is too busy staking out their territory, they stand to lose the battle.

Challenge early on

The main challenge is that men are also distrusting by nature. Maybe this occurs because women burn us, or maybe it’s because we think Darwin was right in his survival of the fittest analogy. Whatever it is, internal resistance is always present when one joins a group.

The true confident warriors embrace new blood. They see it as a plus: reinforcement for the troops as the battles turn into war and the casualties add up. Occasionally, in any group, no matter how pure the intent may be, you do face a warrior who is slightly intimidated by new soldiers. Why this is so depends on numerous factors.

One cannot worry too much about reinforcing such cynical soldiers through words, as words fall on deaf ears. What you must do is act properly to signal your true intentions to your peers: to win — not personal victories, but the ultimate prize. No one will remember who scored the most goals this year, but everyone will know which team won.

It is rather easy to spot someone who is in it for personal gain. These individuals usually show an interest in a task only when there’s a personal gain: be it a promotionraise or commission. When the personal incentive disappears, along with it goes their ambition and drive. I meet such people day in, day out. They are part of the scenery, but just like the scenery, they ultimately stagnate and fade into the rearview mirror as you drive by, charging ahead.

Who is to be blamed?

We shouldn’t blame those who work only with their interests in mind, as such individuals may go on to become heads of state, business leaders and successful individuals. But they do not usually possess a long-term grasp on respect, trust, and thus power. You see, if others recognize that you only do things when you stand to gain something, they fail to trust you in important times.

Remember when former President Bush attacked Iraq for oil purposes? The next time he set out to convince others of a course of action, people asked “why,” and not “when.” And when it comes to battle, timing is crucial; if you have to wage internal battles every time a war occurs externally, you will lose, and lose bad.

Ash Karbasfrooshan is also the author of Course To Success, available at www.CourseToSuccess.com.