Advance or Protect?

Last week I tweeted something I've been thinking a lot about recently - not necessarily specifically related to anything on my radar, but also not removed from some of the questions and thoughts I am asking and thinking as a leader in my particular context.

"At some point as a leader you have to decide if your objective is to advance or hold ground. You can't normally do both."

Think back to your days playing Capture the Flag. You can't take ground and protect the fort at the same time. You have to decide your strategy, and it means one or the other.

Now certainly in the overall war we might be protecting and advancing at the same time; that's not my point. My point is that as a leader in a specific objective, you're going to have to choose.

A product cannot be "new and improved" and celebrate that it is "the same as it's always been."

A company can't explore something never before seen if they are committed to only going places they've always been.

It is impossible for something to be cutting-edge and tried-and-true at the same time.

The difference isn't between right and wrong. Advancing isn't always better than protecting, or vice versa. Clear Coke advanced when Coca-Cola should have been protecting Coke Classic. IBM protected its turf while Apple and Microsoft advanced an open architecture model. You can choose to advance or protect and either one can be the right (or wrong) decision. But you can't do both.

Whatever it is you're responsible for leading, a primary question to ask is whether or not you're advancing something or protecting something. Either one could get you killed,  but fail to choose and you're a sitting duck.