The Art of War is one of the oldest and most successful books on military strategy. It composed of 13 chapters, each of which is based on philosophy, used the idea of philosophy to observe the war, discussed and find out the general rule of war. Though it is very short, it devoted to one aspect of warfare. The Art of War has a perfect logic system. These 13 chapters, no matter more or less will influence the main idea. Just like the first chapter is Laying Plans, it explores the five fundamental factors and seven elements that define a successful outcome.
The second chapter is Waging War, this part is not like the warfare that we think like today, it explains how to understand the economy of war and how success requires making the winning play, which in turn, requires limiting the cost of competition and conflict. After the sufficient preparation, what we need is stratagem, so there are Attack by Stratagem, Tactical Dispositions, Energy, Weak Points and Strong, Maneuvering and Variation of Tactics chapters, all of them are focus on essentials of warfare.
In the end of the book, it talks about The Army on the March, Terrain, The Nine Situations, The Attack by Fire and The Use of Spies, each of them is specific stratagem. As a military strategy book, it’s full of sagacious idea, and is it not only focusing on warfare, but also analyzing military thinking, business tactics and even leadership and management skills. So is The Art of War not only on military application, but also on application outsider the military. Just like on our course that we talked about leadership.
As we know, a leader is the core for a company, if you are a competent leader, the company will be flourishing, but on the contrary, the answer is denying, and the company will run into confusion. The competent leadership is derived from noble personality. Sun Tzu told us that we need to develop the quality of noble character, like these dangerous faults which we need to overcome, they are recklessness, cowardice, a hasty temper, a delicacy of honor and over-solicitude for his men.
These dangerous faults will affect the leader to make the right decision, even influence the company. Sun Tzu also talked about that the past success does not indicate future success, so the recklessness, which leads to destruction, because we make the decision before we clearly consider the outcome. Cowardice, which leads to capture, because it makes us hesitated to do a decision-making. About a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults, it is easy to heart other people, make the relationship worse and worse.
There is another demerit, a delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame, the reason is that if you are sensitive on criticism, it is hard for us to find out our faults, it equals to give up to enhance ourselves, for example, some employees may be hide something, because they are afraid of peeving their leader. The last fault is over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble. If the leaders put personal feelings mixed in the understanding of the issues and tolerating the harmful behavior, it would easy to get wrong information, then affecting the efficiency of the company.
In the end, employees will be like a spoiled child as willful. So Sun Tzu against the management of the relationship too close, he thought leaders and staff should maintain an appropriate distance, mature and calm but pay attention to the fairness principle. Except these five dangerous faults we talked above, Sun Tzu also puts forward five virtues, each of which should be trained. They are wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness.
Looking into the sequence of five commander stands, Sun Tzu puts the wisdom in the first, because the most important qualification in the cruel warfare is sagacity, as we know, the war is one of the most complicated and deceptive activities. The changing and puzzle need the leader to show his maximal wisdom, and thinking in the complicated situation. About sincerely, it is also very important, so Sun Tzu puts it in the second. To a commander or a leader, sincerely is first of condition to maintain the cohesion.
Every organization or group, if there is no sincerely between each of stuff, the organization would not existent. Benevolence is special emphasizing in Chinese military affairs, which also means keep a golden mean, this idea is influenced by Confucianism. To explain benevolence, it is over-solicitude for his men, requiring the commander looks their soldiers like own brother or son and daughter. It will be harmonious in one organization. About courage, it is the spirit of brave, this spirit is the necessary diathesis to a leader. Veracious to say it is one of ability to make decision.
For example, one of the Japanese entrepreneurs who named Sun Zhangyi said “if you do the business when you have 90% confidence, you will be defeated by people who only have 70% confidence on it. ” and this decision-making is not a adventure, you must build this on rational courage. Last point is strictness, it is complementary with sincerely. So the strictness is a outside behavior, In one word, wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness, these five stands are interrelated and interaction, only to put these five stands together, it will enhance the leader.
Actually, it is not meaning that we need all-powerful leader, what we want to say is basing on the five principle, keeping studying and improving, this will be a excellent leader. Compared five dangerous faults with five commander stands, there is contact between them, because when Sun Tzu talked five commander stands, he also emphasized that can not overcome the limitation, preach leader to consider the faults. This issue just likes the golden mean in philosophy.
It means we need to strike a balance between them, for example, if you put the right to the extreme, the right would become wrong, if you press all the juice from an orange, the orange would bitter. Considering Sun Tzu’s idea one after another, as a leader, we should not like Liu Bei who attacked other kingdom in anger, and we also should not like Guan Yu who is very pride of himself, it made him lost his town. (These two histories are in Three Kingdoms) What we need to do is follow Sun Tzu’s suggestion to enhance the leader’s abilities.
After a brief analyzing The Art of War, and thinking over and over again about our leadership course, what we talked more about is to be a natural leader, it means that we focus more on details, just like communication skills, experienced, fair minded, social competent, efficient, visionary, creative and so on. Each of which is belong to wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness. But I want to highlight another leader’s moral character.
Sun Tzu talked in chapter Terrain, he said “The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom. ” It means that as a leader, when you got a victory, you are not falling into the merits and virtues, but when you got a lost, you are not shifting off responsibility, what you considered is how to protecting demos, how to benefit the country, so, this leader is the jewel of the kingdom.
I think this part is discussing the relationship between leader and general, it shows which ability the leader should have, also can be a measurement of moral for a leader. As we know, Frances Hesselbein said “the leader should share victory with everyone, and take on the loss. ” However, in the true-life, who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace is very hard to do. Looking into the history, if the general do not follow command, when he loss, he must die, even got victory, he also have no contribution.
So generic general often obey to leader, never say no. The result is loss. So the levels of leader’s moral decide the outcome. Also Sun Tzu said the highest of character is no fame. I think it is signification to a leader. All in all, after learning leadership and reading The Art of War, I found that, as a leader, it is very important to an organization, however, the leader also need improve and enhance personality and moral, like we talked about wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage, strictness and no fame. Then you will be a perfect leader.