…the frightful rule of folly and chance.” –Nietzsche

Nietzsche wrote this phrase while arguing for human “will” rather than happenstance or divine intervention to carry the day. 

Few would argue the notion that successful business requires good fortune, and many would argue that it benefits from divine intervention. I wouldn’t quarrel with either concept. One thing I know, however, is that unless you have the luck of the Irish or a lock on divine intervention, effective leadership requires you to think strategically and plan.

I’ve written before about thinking strategically and how it is not mysticism, but a process. It’s about thinking about the future and identifying how you’ll prosper when it comes around. It differs from planning in that you are looking at the future and then working backwards to identify the actions that will get you to that future state. Planning works from the present towards the future.

Planning is not strategy, but it is important. Once you have identified what you believe the future holds and how you will prosper, planning comes into play. Mike Tyson, great strategic thinker that he is, said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” He’s wrong. Not everyone has a plan. The part about getting punched in the mouth changing your perspective is spot on, however.

If your calendar as a senior executive has little evidence of the actions required to think strategically and plan, you’ve by definition gotten on the folly and chance wagon! (Or you’re Irish or have a stronger relationship with God than most.)

Inertia can play a significant role in business. If you are just doing what you’ve always done, or what the previous guy did and its working for you, consider yourself lucky. It might get you all the way through your career if the future doesn’t look any different than it does today. That is not effective leadership, however, it’s just presiding.

Do you honestly want to bet on that? Effective leadership requires you to think about the future and plan. Your stakeholders need you to do it. It’s not just about you.

You don’t have to be German like Nietzsche to have a predisposition to planning, though I admit that having a German mother had some influence on me! Folly and chance might have allowed you to find a spouse or a four leaf clover in the yard, but it won’t keep your business on track for the long run.