The Leaders Formula for Success and Greatness

Energy + Ability = Success
Add Wisdom and you get greatness
“Hard work does for you what nothing else can do
when you feel it is producing results.”


Leaders that combine energy with ability are successful leaders and produce results and when they apply wisdom they achieve greatness. There are many examples of this throughout history, enough to identify a pattern and present a simple formula for the leader to be productive.


To name a few examples off the top of my head Alexander the Great, Hannibal Barca, Julius Caesar, Frederick the Great, Gustavus Adolphus, Napoleon Bonaparte, Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jonathan Jackson, T. E. Lawrence, Douglas Mac Arthur, and unfortunately I cannot think of any that measure up to this caliber in modern days in the military. I am sure they exist but have been held back by the strange no win policies of our day known as limited warfare with the emphasis on management instead of leadership today. All these men accomplished great things by combining energy with ability and applying wisdom – something we can all do. What I hope to accomplish in this message is to provide you with a simple formula and an understanding of the obvious that stares us in the face daily but many of us never take advantage of this to achieve great things in our lives.


The formula is simple but the self discipline and will required to execute it are not as simple as is with anything else in life.


Here is the formula: Energy + Ability = Success


“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”

– Vince Lombardi


British General Sir Walter Walker’s life was a model of this formula to follow rising up through the ranks to some of the most critical of commands impacting his country and the men who served under him positively. General Sir Walter Walker was an outstandingly successful commander during the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s and as Director of Operations in Borneo between 1962 and 1965; Walker was one of the first to identify the importance of helicopters in modern military operations. “In Borneo,” he reckoned, “one SAS squadron with helicopters was worth ten infantry battalions to me.” Denis Healey, who became Secretary of State for Defense in 1964, considered that the Borneo campaign would be recorded as “one of the most efficient uses of military force in the history of the world”. Yet the qualities that made General Walker so effective in the field were hard work, endless drive and energy, great ability, acquired wisdom, clarity of vision, single-mindedness of purpose, fierce insistence on discipline, fearlessness in the face of both the enemy and his superiors which unfortunately made him a highly controversial figure. When a Major, Sir Walter Walker was in India when WWII broke out, and the Japanese had just opened their front against the U.S.A., Great Britain and other allied countries.


The Japanese had mounted an invasion into India through Burma after driving the British out earlier taking control of the Burma Road cutting a main supply route off to China. Walker was sent to that front where after an intense battle with the Japanese they had suffered many casualties and morale was low. Part of the reason for low morale was that the British troops were unaccustomed to fighting in the jungle, whereas the Japanese were used to it and very good at it, and eventually the Brits began to think the Japanese were invincible.


At one point these downcast British troops were rotated off the front lines for 2 weeks R&R (rest and recovery) with other surrounding units that had suffered the same fate and had the same self defeating diagnosis. Here’s where Walker saw his opportunity. He used the two weeks to train his soldiers how to fight the Japanese in the jungle based on what he had experienced. While the other R&R units idly rested, he was merciless in his training – never letting up – while demanding perfection. He took his energy and ability and instilled it into the men.


“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence”

– Vince Lombardi

At first it was hard on the men – Walker seemed inhuman the way he drilled and pushed them but something started to happen. As he worked them hard they started to acquire more energy despite the lack of leisurely time that they were deprived of.


Let’s take a step back and look at a bigger picture here, i.e., jungle warfare. To this point the British commanders in Malaya and Burma long since had agreed with the Chinese philosopher General Sun Tzu that jungle is difficult ground and no place to wage war. The British considered jungle country “out of bounds” for training. So their troops had no specialized jungle tactics or proper equipment. Only a few units like 2nd BN of Argylls had any serious jungle training. But, Walker had his work cut out for him and all he had been a couple of weeks.
But, soon the men’s ability increased. Through the rehearsals and practice their morale and confidence improved. While the other units rested he prepared his soldiers for their next round with the Japanese. They soon got their chance and the Japanese were no longer king of the jungle. Walker defeated them in battle after battle.

In jungle warfare the first thing one must learn is to live in the jungle before he can fight in the jungle …so this wasn’t going to be easy…but Walker had observed the tactics of the Japanese. They organized into smaller patrols and traveled light giving them great mobility which is the key to Jungle Warfare allowing them to take and keep the initiative.


Their tactic was to make contact in front and then hit you from the rear and the flanks. Basically Walker had 2 weeks to teach his unit how to counter the Japanese jungle tactics which started with when contact is made assume you are surrounded and the enemy is always at your rear. This sounds simple but was not a tactic familiar to his troops and junior leaders. They were only trained in conventional frontal attacks and not fighting an enemy using Jungle Warfare tactics that constantly attack from the rear.


Good leaders must always remain flexible and be ready to adapt to the tactics of the enemy. Let’s go back to the formula Energy + Ability = Success. One might ask what if I don’t have any energy? What if I don’t have any ability? What if I have one without the other? I will attempt to answer all these questions now.


Walker’s Jungle Warfare story I just told provides an extreme example of how both energy and ability are acquired. The answer is the same for “hard work”. Hard work gives you energy and hard work gives you ability. This is what happened as Walker worked and drilled his men. As I noted in the beginning if you add wisdom you will have greatness,


but wisdom…I will save that for another day because it is a topic unto itself. However, I will say this of wisdom. Wisdom is acquired through learning truth, correct principals and applying them to life’s experiences. We will start with how to acquire energy. When you’re out of shape and decide to get back in shape you do that through working out, the harder you work the better the results. As time goes on you find you are moving faster, more alert and have more energy. Tasks that would wear you down and make you tired become more effortless. The same is true for mental energy. The brain is like a muscle when you work it out it increases your mental capacity and ability to think. For example if you want to read faster you have to practice reading faster day after day and you will soon find yourself reading faster the same as running, to learn to run faster you must practice running faster to develop the muscles and soon you can run faster with less effort.


Ability is also acquired through hard work. A person isn’t born with the ability to win gold medals at the Olympics. They may have talent, but only through hard work and practice can they use that talent to the fullest.

“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

-Vince Lombardi


I spent the weekend with one of my former team mates and he said while in 3rd Special Forces Group assigned to a CIF Company in Afghanistan and Iraq they would pull a lot of all nighters out on raids and engaging the enemy and he told me no matter how tired they were most of them would hit the gym and the range when they returned from their Ops. This was done to maintain peak performance when most would think rest was the priority. They pushed themselves because they understood the formula I have given you and they knew this would give them the edge they needed to survive in combat.


“I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.” – Vince Lombardi What happens when one has energy with no ability?


Energy without ability often produces inordinate ambition and troublemakers. It can also produce self righteousness and crusader arrogance which is all these people you see leading these crazy causes that the news media likes to cover so much. For example Code Pink, the Occupy Wall Street Demonstrators and others. Having no ability to channel their energy they latch on to causes or jump from thing to thing. Also they often stick their nose in other people’s business and try to control their lives. This is what we have going on now in our government today, people with no ability seeking power have gone to work for our government. Now they abuse their power to control and hold back people exercising their ability to be successful. People with no ability are often threatened and jealous of successful people and lust for power. “Energy without ability is arrogance, and arrogance is misguided energy.”
What happens when one has ability with no energy?


Ability without energy is lack of motivation and self discipline or simply put: laziness. Many people have abilities they never put to use due to lack of self discipline and go nowhere in life. I see it so much in the young generations of our day. Many never finish school and many of them think society owes them something and instead of hard work


to advance themselves they would rather do nothing hoping some politician will give them what they want and they try and justify their envy calling it Social Justice, fairness and stooping so low as to call it being patriotic. The idea of working hard for something is beyond them because they are arrogant. Laziness is arrogance which is self indulgence.
Arrogant people cannot take pressure and when pressure is put on them – like being asked to work hard – they become monsters. Look at what is happening today in Europe and Greece in particular.


“There is no substitute for hard work”

– Thomas A. Edison


I will end with this short recap. Energy without ability is arrogance, and arrogance is misguided energy. Ability without energy is arrogance and arrogance is laziness. The energy produced by hard work creates ability. Ability channels energy into productivity, which produces the true drive in life that leads to success. Energy plus ability must be related to wisdom to achieve great things.


“Hard work has made it easy. That is my secret. That is why I win.”

– Nadia Comaneci


“I do not know anyone who has gotten to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but it will get you pretty near”

– Margaret Thatcher


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