Join getAbstract to access the summary!

The Crux

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

The Crux

How Leaders Become Strategists

Profile Books,

15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Management expert Richard Rumelt explains problem-solving essentials from the viewpoint of successful leaders.

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Applicable
  • Concrete Examples


Leaders who face big problems and major decisions are a lot like mountain climbers – handling an ongoing strategic process of addressing one issue and then the next, often while trying to move uphill.Professor Richard Rumelt describes how multiple leaders have achieved the seemingly impossible by attacking big problems and choices with well-planned strategies. He identifies the core of a problem as its crux: the hardest knot, the most daunting issue leaders must solve to determine their next steps. Rumelt’s guide to formulating and executing strategies for handling tough leadership challenges combines clear exposition and helpful examples, including his rundown on pitfalls to avoid. 


A problem’s most difficult element is its “crux.”

Rock climbers view challenging rocks as “problems” and call the critical point in a climb “the crux.” Strategy in business and the military requires recognizing the primary concerns and hindrances that impede resolving the crux of a problem.

Consider Elon Musk’s ambition to colonize Mars. Sending a ship into orbit was costly, but Musk saw re-entry into the atmosphere as the crux – the core problem. Before his innovations, discarding a rocket ship in space was more economical than reusing it. Musk recognized that rocket ships are more expensive than fuel. To avoid the destructive heat of re-entry, he suggested carrying surplus fuel to slow the ship and enable it to land gently. 

In 2015, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 became the first rocket to make a slow, soft landing, a process that cost much less than landing the space shuttle. Musk calculated that reaching Mars would cost $9 billion, less than a twentieth of the cost NASA had estimated.

To conquer the crux, focus on strategy, not goals.

A goal is not a strategy, because it does not imply action.

Netflix, for example...

About the Author

Richard Rumelt is the Harry and Elsa Kunin Emeritus Professor of Business & Society at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. He also wrote the international bestseller Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters.

Comment on this summary