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There’s the gap, attack now!

Man in the Ivory Tower: Part 2 of 5

Ruler-type people are proactive, winning types; they want to win. Their dominance and forcefulness allow them to thrust themselves into various situations, and because of this, many people can rally behind them as followers. As fast and determined as they can be, they can be as superficial because they don’t concern themselves with the details. They focus on the goal, the task at hand, and do not necessarily consider human factors, so their success is usually short-lived.

The Ruler Strategy

Pursuant to the fundamental characteristics of this personality type, the Ruler is very determined, dominant, and often vicious. Rulers are usually employed by strategists when breaking into new markets, debuting a new product, or moving a company in an entirely new direction. If only because the Ruler strategy visualises a “break”: entering into the market in the short term and sweeping everyone out of the way. It is very effective and intense, so a very well-structured Ruler strategy is difficult to resist; counterattacks are almost impossible, so the competition’s only choice is defence. The words used to describe this phenomenon may seem harsh and unsympathetic, but other personality types have no issue with this characterisation—especially Rulers themselves. Obviously, for the Supporter, which is at the opposite pole of the psychological map, it’s all repulsive and unacceptable. Nevertheless, Supporters follow such Rulers in some situations. The essence of the Ruler’s strategy is two-pronged: the first involves finding a niche where there is no real opponent in the market, accurately assessing the needs there, and exploiting the gap with the right product. Alternatively, they define an existing market that it is full of weak, outdated players, and they attack these players directly. Both are very effective paths for them. At their core, the Ruler loves the true premium. They prefer to belong to an elite club, and they like purchasing expensive, brand-name goods to display their status to the outside world. But Ruler strategies are no longer just about that. Of course, this type of plan is perfect for bringing a real premium product or service to the market, but the Ruler strategy focuses on profit, and sizable profit at that. While luxury and a high-end environment are of paramount importance for the Ruler manager, when it comes to strategy, the goal is to earn the greatest profit with as little work as possible. In other words, they also participate in the marketing of mass products, so the Ruler strategy is not exclusive to the premium sectors. Methods of this type utilise a massive initial attack; they want to send shockwaves through the market. They usually achieve this shock via pricing. They launch in a premium market with a very high list price supported by strong, dynamic communication and salespeople to ensure that the market quickly accepts the price. And in the mass market, they enter with an incredibly low price — the quality may be poor, but the messaging is top-notch to ensure a return for investors — and it is very popular, with aggressive communication to the mass market alongside pushy salespeople. The essence of the Ruler strategy is to attack the target group with the greatest intensity and depth in the shortest possible time. To do this, they build a very percussive brand with high-quality design, which professionals usually dismiss, but customers are satisfied because they feel that they got their hands on a trendy product.

The success and failure of the Ruler strategy

The Ruler’s strategy doesn’t have much time to generate success. Precisely because of its intensity and strength, it can push itself too far, so the strategy can backfire quickly and harshly. Experts recommend employing it for a maximum of one year, but modern strategies consider six to nine months ideal. The Ruler strategy is perfect for the first shock; however, it is characterised by waves of results returning at certain intervals. So, skilled practitioners can alternate between “aggressive” and “rest” periods. But its users find that no matter how strong the design, the effects of later waves become weaker and weaker, and sooner or later, they create little success. The possibility of failure also stems from this. During dormant periods, we must determine which markets — primarily exact locations — are suitable for shocking with such a powerful strategy. Of course, intelligence can diminish many adverse effects; not all Ruler strategies are “in your face”, but in the long run, their results are the same regardless of intelligence. If a company decides to go down this path, and this path alone, failure is inevitable. That’s why Ruler-type managers need to be very careful not to go too hard, too fast. As quickly as they build their business, they can demolish it just as quickly if they don’t change their strategy. This effect cannot be employed on the market for long. In the past, we witnessed many companies that quickly achieved significant market share, only to lose it soon thereafter. The biggest challenge is shifting from the Ruler direction to that of the opposite end of the psychological map: the Supporter. The determining factor of long-term success is whether Ruler managers can switch paths: can they bring things into the strategy like a focus on customer satisfaction, genuine empathy, and the assessment of customer needs? Not just lip service, but real steps focused on meeting these expectations.

The Ruler Strategy in 2021

The Ruler strategy is not worth applying on calm waters, and it is clear to everyone that the several years ahead of us will be turbulent, at least in business terms. It could be said that Ruler strategies will enjoy their heyday. And that was true after 2008. The Great Recession provided ample room for this strategic approach, and the better a company applied it, the more successfully it emerged from the crisis. Between 2009 and 2012, the Ruler direction was the key to success, as Ruler-type managers prevailed most often. This might have happened because the crisis shocked particular sectors, narrow slices, and from there, spread to other areas of the economy. The Ruler strategy was able to respond very well to this shock, taking advantage of widespread disarray. The followers were waiting for someone to tell them where to go, and they hadn’t even recovered from the initial shock by the time the Rulers started applying their solutions; the followers immediately got behind these solutions—unfortunately, many times without thinking, just following the crowd. Many Ruler-type companies blossomed during these crisis years, some of which have been able to change their strategy to maintain successful businesses to this day, but the greater share has failed due to their overreaching aggression. COVID has already made massive impacts on just about every market. Unlike 2008, the first impacts were on the private sphere, but from there it reverberated quickly to the business side of things. Physical lockdowns did not provide any room for the Ruler strategy, which necessitates aggressive communications and sales tactics. In 2020, this was unsightly. Many attempted to employ the Ruler strategy, but they all failed. That is, the “pure” Ruler direction, without any modifications, failed miserably. After all, in this situation, not focusing on people and omitting empathy from strategy — which is a significant shortcoming of the Ruler strategy — cannot work at all. In 2021, this statement will be even more accurate. Although dominance and guidance will be needed, this certainly cannot be achieved with fierce communication and sales, and of course, the “let me tell you what you should do, my son” attitude certainly cannot bring success!


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