Leadership Is Like The Game Of Chess

“Life is like a game of chess. To win you have to make a move. Knowing which move to make comes with IN-SIGHT and knowledge, and by learning the lessons that are accumulated along the way. We become each and every piece within the game called life?”

~Alan Rufus

I recently had an experience where the other person, over a period of time, had exhibited certain behaviors that soon became predictable. As time passed and a noticeable pattern began to emerge, the game of chess came to mind.

It occurred to me that I was facing my interactions as if I was playing chess. Each move I made or response to this person became a calculated action. After each experience, I would analyze my “moves” and determine ahead of time my next potential strategic step depending on which direction this person decided to go.

This was a rather fascinating and interesting phenomenon as I experienced this in real-time and while in conscious awareness of both my moves and the other person’s moves. Being in this higher awareness state, I became more of an observer with the ability to better control the direction of the interaction ensuring the most positive outcome for myself.

What I learned throughout this amazing realization and ultimate knowledge gained from watching and observing is invaluable. Below are some highlights that I wish to share. Perhaps you may also find yourself “playing” chess with precision and strategic finesses bringing about the best results of your leadership and professional skills.

Great chess players take specific actions during the game.  At the beginning of the relationship, things were great, everything seemed collaborative and cooperative. Within a short period of time, it became clear I needed to take a closer look beyond the surface. A bird’s eye view, along with the pattern emerging, became the foundation for my understanding this person’s intent. Identifying their specific actions, I could in turn counter with my own pre-calculated actions.

Each chess player surveys the board. They survey the board from above and look for patterns that indicate the intent of their opponent, as well as identifying opportunities for themselves. Once I could pinpoint the intent behind the pattern, it gave me the ability to determine opportunities I could act upon moving forward. As I decided on ways to respond, knowing what would most likely happen, I was ready for my next move. This kept me in the advantage, one step ahead, as I knew what was going to happen next based on the pattern.

Players are willing to give up a weaker piece or position in one area to create an advantage in another.  In the process of observing and developing strategic actions, I had to consider where I needed to be to create the advantage of being the stronger “player.” The other person was using manipulation and control tactics to try and sway my decision making. This lead me to look at where I may be showing a weakness they were tapping into. Once I realized this weak link in me that was a trigger for the other person to come in for the attack, I readjusted my communication from a more affirmative stance. This became a message of commanding my space, as is done in the game of chess.

(Side note: boundaries were key in this area, a very common weak point that others will find who are masters at control and manipulation. No matter how strong we think our boundaries are, it seems there will be people who can crush them, ultimately, though we become stronger because of being challenged in this area. As in my case this is what happened.)

Extraordinary chess players are constantly driven by a singular goal – to win the game. As in my experience, the other person was in the experience to “win.” However, because of this person’s lack of analytical and strategic maneuvers, my goal to “win” and be victorious in my leadership capabilities, I used time effectively – choosing to take quick action when needed and stepped back to analyze before making a decision as guided, for the ultimate positive outcome.

Leadership has become a far more complex and complicated job in modern times. Problems faced, variety in the personalities of those you lead and the uncertainty of not just the future, but of tomorrow, can be difficult to deal with daily. Perhaps, imagine you are in the game of chess, take the time to step back and determine how well you are playing. Do you feel your attention is being drawn to what is most important and you are using your strengths to create the best, most efficient end result?


Eileen Bild
Eileen Bild
EILEEN is Founder of The Core Thinking Blueprint Method, CEO of Ordinary to Extraordinary Life, Executive Producer of OTELproductions, and talk show host for OTEL TALK. She holds a Masters in Transpersonal Psychology and is a published author, Internationally Syndicated Columnist, contributing author to the inspiring book Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational Change and Breakthrough S.P.A.R.K. Coach. Eileen and her husband Trevor are a power couple whose foundation is a 360 view of the world through inspiring, uplifting, and empowering others. Maximizing performance, communication, and drive for growth for your highest achievement is what you will experience working with Eileen and Trevor. They are owners and producers for ROKU channels KNOB TV, OTEL TALK, and OTEL MUSIC VIDEOS; and develop channels for professionals and businesses. They collaborate with companies, such as 360° Nation/Dennis Pitocco, musicians, entrepreneurs, and many more. Go from Ordinary to Extraordinary!

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  1. Hi Ellen, Interesting article and great discussion which ensued below. Some excellent ideas and thoughts expressed by all the comments. Too bad more leaders are not more aware of this sort of approach and how important their behavior is to the rest of their team. It is their role to model the way and open doors of opportunity by coaching and encouraging their people to become the best they can be.

    • Hello Sandy! Thank you and yes, everyone who has contributed to this article has excellent ideas and thoughts. I agree, if leaders would be aware of the importance of their behavior as a role model, more people can reach their highest potential. This can help with job satisfaction, and better synergy within the whole. I appreciate your thoughts!

  2. I would add that the leader empower his other pieces to be strong and powerful, able to make independent moves and strategy while the other Leaders is handicapped because only he or she can move the pieces. That being said a great and thought provoking article. Thank you for sharing Eileen

    • Thank you for your insights Larry! Yes….empowering others makes a leader stronger and have greater impact for success. Glad you liked the article, you are welcome.

  3. As a chess player, I do see common ground between the game and business. Of course, one main difference is in chess it is just a game and there is no real cost or pain in losing. In business or life in general, losing comes with a price tag.

    I recommend the Art of War as a good study of tactics and tactical planning. It was written by Sun Tzu, a Chinese general over 2500 years ago. The strategic lessons are still valid today and can be applied to the board room and life in general. One such lesson is; “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

    • I am a big fan of Art of War. Especially on its views on informants and how you demonstrate your respect for your enemy. Two nights ago, I was thinking of rereading Art of War with a much more open mind.

      After that I plan to reread “The Book of Five Rings”, and “The Prince”.

      I think these are the three strategy books everyone needs to read. Then binge watch the TV series “House of Cards”.

    • “The Prince” talks about the observations of a middle management admin guy seeing how people in power do things. It gives me the same vibe as 48 Rules of Power. Though I feel “The Prince” is much more timeless.

    • Chris, I would think reading Art of War with an open mind could allow for a greater perspective on the information in the book. A great idea!

      I also have not read “The Prince,” but will add this to my to do list of books to read. “The Book of Five Riings” will be another one to add as well.

      If you are interested, once I have read them we can discuss key points in the books. I love to expand upon my own interpretation along with others, giving me a big picture of the whole. Let me know and I will stay in touch for when I am ready to engage with you.

    • Ken, I read the Art of War awhile ago….seems it may be good to read again. I really like the lesson you present here. The element of no fear in battle. In my development of core thinking, knowing oneself is key to knowing another person. Not necessarily as an enemy, rather as an opportunity for engagement to create an experience for personal, professional, emotional and intellectual growth. Learning from both what you understand about you and how it relates to the other person. A very interesting and empowering process of observation, positive change and powerful communication. Thank you for sharing!

    • One of the leadership points I make in my book is that one can not manage others unless one knows self.

    • I’m currently writing a book on data and leadership. I’m using a lot of acronyms. From writing five of these acronyms last night, I feel it’s not knowing yourself well that is the key. The key is knowing your behaviors well and how these behaviors are emulated by others.

      My favorite acronym is ATTITUDE.
      A – align
      T – team
      T – transition
      I – innovate
      T – target
      U – sense of urgency
      D – discipline
      E – energy

    • Looks like you have a great acronym list. In my Core Thinking Wheel each section has a list of words directly related to each other leading up to the main concept. A client recently shared it is like a blueprint for reprogramming his brain and assisting him with creating better focus along with building confidence. He is shifting in amazing ways, taking steps to realize his vision and take his career to a new level.

      I believe you are right on target with the key being not knowing yourself….and using your attitude acronym can be a development strategy for self development. All of these, when understood though behaviors, thinking and beliefs, can be a powerhouse for success. I look forward to reading your book.

    • Chris, hmmm…. would you not agree that all the games – chess, checkers, monopoly and mastermind all have the same element of strategy with the end result being to “conquer” your opponent? In life, it seems the same is true….everyone is trying to “get ahead” in life, sometimes at the expense of the other person. Hence, knowing the rules of the game of life by way of the rules we have created for the board games, can assist us in staying ahead of our “opponent.” Is there really any difference? Aren’t we kind of a mirror of the games we play? Just a thought to ponder…. BTW: I had considered writing my thesis for my Masters regarding if we create movies first and then the themes/ideas/etc play out in real life or do we recreate reality through watching movies by way of subconsciously forming an idea into creation. Would have been interesting to research and formulate my hypothesis/thesis. I still think about it from time to time. I chose to do something different in the end.

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