The gloves are on, but is it always worth the fight? Copyright: ryanking999 / 123RF Stock Photo










There’s a saying in life (as well as in business) about picking fights where it really matters, and not wasting your energy on the ones that aren’t important.

It’s a saying President Trump could do well to take notice of. Not for the first time, he’s found himself involved in a war of words with a group of people he definitely shouldn’t be spending so much time worrying about. Is it really the job of the ‘world’s most powerful man’ to even offer his opinion on how some of the country’s sports stars are behaving, even if he thinks their actions are unpatriotic?

Many Americans think his time would be better spent on things that are important instead of engaging in a personal spat with NFL players and owners, like helping the relief efforts in Puerto Rico and other parts of the world hit by Hurricane Irma.

Great leaders are able to understand what things in organisations are worth their time and energy. They know taking on every problem can be almost impossible and it can actually undermine their authority on something really important if they concentrate too much on something relatively minor.

The first thing they do is work out if they’re fighting against something because it’s one of their own pet hates – something they don’t like or agree with, but doesn’t go against organisational culture or company rules. These things can eat away at you and sap your energy if you let them.

Of course, there’ll always be things worth fighting for – you just need to work out what they are. Think about what’s important in the grand scheme of things. What are the stakes for the organisation? If something goes wrong will it be a disaster, or just a headache?

Talk it over with other members of your leadership if that helps and see what they think is OK to let go. You’ll naturally be able to pass some things to someone else for them to fight your battle for you as it will be in their area of responsibility.

It’s also about compromise. You’re unlikely to win the battle by sticking to the same argument so shifting your point-of-view slightly could help you. It also shows your willingness to be flexible on occasion and not appear stubborn just for the sake of it.

Thinking long-term it what matters rather than what’s best for now. Losing the odd battle is nothing to stress about as long as you know which ones are worth conceding or not even worth getting involved in. Focussing on the short-term can even make you neglect the long-term, which could have much more serious consequences.

No-one can win every single battle and there isn’t always the need to. A pragmatic outlook can be the best way to do things. How you deal with a group of American footballers’ protest won’t define your leadership, but addressing the underlying causes of it might.

Sometimes you need to lose the battle to win the war, so pick your battles carefully.