Leadership Lessons from Backgammon

Backgammon Board 06-15-2014

Do you play backgammon?  After years of not playing, I pulled our board out of the closet recently.  Since then, I’ve been thinking about the game, and even playing a little on my iPad.  Like with so many other games, I like to think about the life lessons one can learn; maybe it’s because I’m a geek, or maybe it’s a justification for playing a game on my iPad.

Here are the leadership lessons I see in backgammon:

Think it through.   For those of you who don’t know the game, I’ll give the simplest possible explanation:  The point of the game is to roll two dice and move your pieces around the board.  When you roll, of course you could just pick up any of your game pieces and move them to an open slot, without any consideration of what might happen next.  However, backgammon, like leadership, is a game of strategy.  Meaning, you have to think three or more moves ahead.  What might your opponent do next?  Are you about to trap him or her into a defensive move?  Is there a better way to use your roll of the dice?

Don’t squash the competition just because you can.   You can send your opponent’s pieces back to the beginning if you can land on one of them as it sits alone on a board slot.  It’s not always the best idea.  Such a move often leaves you open to attack on the next role of the dice.   Don’t forget the opportunity cost involved; you have used resources (your roll of the dice) to attack.  Ask yourself:  Was that the best use of my move, or could I have advanced my own game pieces?  Sometimes it’s smarter to ignore the competition and proceed with your own strategy.  You might be able to make the same resources (your roll of the dice) move you farther toward your goal.

Never let your team go it alone.  The same backgammon rule – sending a single game piece back to the beginning by landing on it – applies to you too.  So don’t leave your team members (game pieces) vulnerable to attack.  Let them fail early in the game, if you must, but then make sure they have air cover as much as possible.  And, when you absolutely HAVE TO leave them on their own, try to keep them as far from danger as you can.

Leadership and strategy should go hand-in-hand.  It’s a remarkably simple concept, but most of us need to be reminded on a regular basis.  Even if that reminder comes from a game…


photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fuzzyyol/4765038741/


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *