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Sun Tzu Leadership

Sun Tzu Leadership


Sun Tzu (lived around 500 BC)


A Chinese general (pictured right) whose book, The Art of War has had a big influence on strategy in politics and business.

Gordon Gekko was an admirer in the film Wall Street.


What did he say about strategy?


1. Know your enemy

Avoid your enemy's strengths and strike at his weaknesses.

Victory is achieved by:Sun Tzu Leadership

a) attacking where the enemy is unprepared.

b) attrition (wearing the enemy down.)

c) deception (pretending inferiority before striking) - more important than anything.

d) breaking up the enemy's alliances

e) use spies to gather information about him.

If you are numerically weaker, be elusive, defensive and capable of withdrawal.


2. Use your strengths

Evaluate the size and quality of your army (see point 3) and exploit your strengths in five key areas.

  • leadership (see point 4). sun tzu leadership  
  • relationships with government and the impact of politics.
  • weather.
  • terrain (where the battle is fought).
  • management (availability of supplies, organization, control of troops and allocation of jobs).

 An eighteenth century bamboo copy of the Art of War is pictured right.


3. Mind, morality and morale matter

In war, more important than physical force are:

  • moral strength (from serenity and self-control)
  • intellect.
  • the army’s morale and discipline (from training and fair rewards and punishments).


4. Leadership

A great general:

  • leads by example (he has “wisdom, sincerity, humanity, courage and strictness”).
  • inspires unity of purpose (so that each soldier is dedicated to victory).
  • creates change to his advantage (adapting to his situation and the enemy’s).
  • is decisive, knowledgeable about military strategy and ruthless in battle (never fearful of casualties).
  • takes calculated (but never unnecessary) risks.

 Sun Tzu Leadership

5. Speed and preparation without fighting

Keeping the enemy’s state intact is substantially superior to destroying it.

Be prepared - in the film Wall Street Gordon Gekko (pictured right, played by Michael Douglas) quotes Sun Tzu:

“Every battle is won before it is ever fought”.

But, if fighting is necessary, speed is vital to catch the enemy unprepared.


Key quotes on strategy

Know the enemy and know yourself.

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics before strategy is the noise before defeat.

A confused army leads to another’s victory.


Key quotes on war

What is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy.

All warfare is based upon deception.

Those skilled in war subdue the enemy’s army without battle.


Key quotes on leadership

Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.

A leader leads by example, not by force.

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