Creators vs. Conquerors

I think most people have had the feeling sitting across the table from someone that the only thing they are interested in is how much of a deal they are going to get, what’s in it for them, or some other obvious self-interest. I don’t have an issue with this to a degree.

The fact is that self interest plays a large role in many of the things we do on a daily basis and on some level our survival is based on acknowledging and acting on self interest. I think everyone should recognize and respect the self-interest of others. Getting compensated for your talents and labor keeps a roof over your head, food on the table and enables us to share with others. I certainly don’t have an issue with that on any level.

What frustrates me is the Conqueror. The person who isn’t simply interested in ensuring they get their due, but that they achieve victory. They start with a view of the world that is essentially a pie and then spend their life trying to ensure they can eat as much of it as possible. This is not my preferred partner and I think people who take this view of life and business will miss many of the opportunities that come with being a Creator.

Creators see the world as the ingredients that go into the pie and spend their lives attempting to make the biggest pie. Of course as the pie gets bigger you need more hands to help knead the dough, add ingredients and best of all do the taste testing. I don’t think that people are stuck forever in one role or another and I know that I have been tempted on many occasions to become a Conqueror because I tried to create something and failed or I ended up with the small half of the pie. To this point I think I’ve done a good job of resisting this urge because I simply do not see it as a sustainable path forward in terms of growing your business or your personal success.

Below I’ve listed three tips for taking the Creator’s view on any situation:

  1. Take the other persons viewpoint: This is great advice in many situations but it is critically important to creating a bigger opportunity from what you see on the table at first glance. What you see is framed by who you are and what you want out of an opportunity. Looking at it from the other person’s viewpoint or multiple parties as appropriate, may present unique opportunities to develop something bigger than what you could by simply framing it based on your view.
  2. Think how you can help: Helping people makes you feel good and sometimes people repay your kindness with their own, which may benefit you or simply pass that kindness along to others. Thinking of how you can help also lends itself to understanding how you may be able to work together for some greater goal. I have great confidence in my own abilities and I know that I need others to succeed. Thinking about what others may be trying to achieve has enabled me to both facilitate and be a part of some success stories that I would never have contemplated without thinking of someone else first.
  3. Think different: Seth Godin has a great post I covered in my post “The Icarus Deception: The Good Fail about not failing in traditional fashion just because it is the way it has always been done. The world changes a little bit faster everyday and that means that to be successful you are going to have to change with it and attempt things in new ways. I have heard from countless entrepreneurs, businessmen and leaders that you cannot be afraid to fail. I believe that this is true not just when you are evaluating whether or not to take a chance but as you evaluate the approach you are going to take.

The world is full of copycats and copycats are the ultimate conquerors. If your strategy is to be the cheapest, they attempt to be cheaper still. This is a zero sum game based on execution and operational excellence. This almost always favors the entrenched party. Thinking outside the box and finding a new way to create value may be easier than following a more traditional path of attempting to do the same thing someone else is doing just better.

Are you a Creator or a Conqueror? Which behaviors are encouraged in your organization? I know that many sales organizations promote conqueror type behavior. Is there a way around this?

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Dick Davies

On behalf of Alexander the Great, I would have to say you are dead on. You’ve presented a whole new way of explaining suicidal behavior that managers reward, that puts them out of business.

You succinctly ennoble the ennoblers.

Great post!

Joshua Millsapps

Thanks for the kind words! You bring up a pretty interesting question with regard to military leaders. I bet there were some pretty successful “Conquerors” that leveraged what I have termed above as Creator behaviors. I just wish I had paid better attention in history class and could pull up a few examples.

Janina Rey Echols Harrison

Throughout history there have been good conquerors and bad. The good try to preserve the art and cultural values of those they conquer, but there is always destruction in conquering. The bad set about obliterating, raping, pillaging, and in general demoralizing those they conquer. We all need some level of conqueror within us to protect the creator part, some self preservation or you will be overrun by the complete conquerors.

The creators on the other hand are looking after the best interest of individuals as well as the health of the community in general. Help others up, because, you are right, it does make you feel good.

Check President Jose Mujica of Urugua. Herbert Hoover and John Kennedy donated their salaries to charity. Donating money isn’t a requisite for doing good.

My favorites are random acts of kindness and paying it forward. Engage in one every day. And be there with a hand out to help up a fallen conqueror to show them how it is done.


This is a great post with so many applications. I like to think of this inwardly. Inside I have a Conqueror (reptilian brain, survival instincts, fight-or-flight emotions only) and a Creator (thinking, imagination, higher self).

Which one do I enable? When I am at my best, I am enabling my Creator. When I am at my worst, my Conqueror gets me snapping at people. Especially if I haven’t had my coffee. 🙂

I love the history references too. The Mongols were clearly ruthless, savage conquerors, and yet, they were remarkably tolerant of religion. Once the conquered peoples made it past that initial pillaging (many just surrendered when they heard the Mongols were coming), commerce, ideas, and inventions post-conquer actually sort of flourished. One of my favorite channels on youtube, “Crash Course”, touches on this:


Or how about the eco vs. ego model?

Eco is very circular, non-hierarchical. We are all part of a bigger system and need each other, etc.

Ego is a pyramid. The conqueror wants to get to the top at any cost, stepping on the heads and toes of others as he climbs via any (unethical) means possible, since the top is narrow and only reserved for a few.