Crossing the Rubicon

In January of 49 BC, Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon and attacked Rome, giving the world, one of the most recognizable dictators that history shall always remember, as well as this idiom “crossing the Rubicon”. This basically means a point of no return.

In our professional life, especially as leaders, we frequently come across such situations where we have to take a firm stand; a tough decision, either by choice or by compulsion. The leader’s approach in these situations truly defines his / her leadership.

In this article, I would try to interest you, with some approaches I would recommend in these scenarios.

To Step out or not

  • As a Cricket-loving nation, we know that in Cricket, one of the key decisions a batsman has to make is the right time step out of the crease and hit. If its too early, he might lose his wicket, and if too late, then that may lead to the loss of an advantage.
  • In professional life, this happens when we reach the metaphorical “Rubicon”, the defining moment. 
  • A leader, in this case, needs to have a 360-degree view of the outcomes of his decision, be it affirmative or negative.
  • If the decision is to take the firm stand, then the leader needs to make sure all preparations are done accordingly. In such decisions, ensuring buy-in from all relevant stakeholders (management, team members, direct reports), etc. is very important.
  • All members who have considerable influence to support your decision need to be kept abreast of the developments and confirm their support before moving ahead with the action. 
  • Also, a key task is to identify the trouble areas and troublemakers who may create a negative impact, post the action. A well thought out strategy needs to be in place, which will address this concern, if required.
  • And as always, be prepared for the unknown – that is a reality of life we all live with.  

No Doubts / No jubilations

  • No doubts! Once the action is taken, there is no turning back, so don’t waste time fretting on or doubting your decision. 
  • Good or Bad, Victory or Loss, the leader must accept the outcome and act accordingly.
  • If successful; the leader, though congratulating the members who supported the action, should refrain from publicized jubilations, as in many cases, they may turn counter-productive and probably lead to some dissent in the ranks.
  • A proper approach would be to accept the victory, be generous to the loser, if there is any, and move on as any other day in the office.

What if you lose? 

  • Pray for the best and prepare for the worst – an old and relevant saying.
  • Winning and losing is a part of the game: you win some, you lose some.
  • A point of no return means no roll-back possible, there is no possibility of reverting to the original status quo. The 360-degree strategy should involve a fallback in case of a failure; a way for a dignified exit from the situation.
  • In this situation, it is up to the leader to ensure that the morale of others involved is not undermined.
  • The leader needs to take stock of the situation, regroup and work out solutions. In combat terms, the leader should sound the retreat if necessary. It’s always wiser to live and fight another day.
  • As they say, it’s not always about winning or losing; it how you fought that defines your character.

In such situations, I always remind myself of a quote, a young Indian Army Officer had written in his diary

“Some goals are so worthy, it is glorious even to fail.”

– Capt. Manoj Pandey, PVC