A Chinese general called Sun Tzu wrote the book art of war almost 2,500 years ago. This book is famous for its practical advice on warfare, and the lessons mentioned in it can apply to anyone that is a leader of a country, an army or even an organization.

Each chapter of the book contains an in depth analysis of the different aspects of war, along with practical advice to lead a team effectively. There are three elements that will help you succeed in battle: leadership, strategy, and tactics are vital to winning.

Leadership

The first chapter of the Art of War is about leadership and how to lead a team effectively. This section gives info on strategy and tactics and also contains tips on how to instill confidence and purpose in followers. The goal is to be strong and confident while being responsible for the well being of your followers.

There are five faults that a leader can be affected with:

  • Being reckless. This can eventually lead to destruction.
  • Cowardice. You can get captured and become a POW.
  • Temper.  This can provoke insults.
  • Delicacy of honor. This is basically being afraid of making mistakes.
  • Over solicitude for his men. This is worrying too much about his men, which exposes him to worry.

There is a famous quote from the book that Sun Tzu recommends everyone learn and understand:

“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.”

A leader must lead by example, and they must always instill behaviors and traits that will make your followers feel safe and confident. Followers or soldiers expect their generals to lead positively and on the right path to victory and to keep them out of danger.

When a leader takes unnecessary risks and makes poor decisions without thinking of the consequences this can affect everyone in his command, and it will weaken his authority.

Leaders who cannot make good decisions bring about doubt and fear among their followers which will cause confusion and unrest. Another form of recklessness could be not making any decision at all as doing nothing can be just as dangerous as doing something reckless. Split-second decisions are important during a battle.

Leaders who get angry very easily will be seen as unpredictable and unstable by the rest of the team. If the leader cannot control his anger or give proper direction it will be difficult for the followers to take his leadership ability seriously. All leaders require a team of followers who can help him or her with strategies and planning. If the leader shows lack of leadership skills, then this team will be afraid to speak out and valuable decision making will be lost.

A strong and dedicated leader should have a sense of pride and dignity. Pride should never be confused with self-importance. Leaders should have pride about their team efforts and acknowledge that they are the reasons why the campaign was a success.

A good leader cares about his followers, but also understands that there is a fine line between caring and enabling. When followers know that the leader cares, they will give him respect and love. When a leader becomes more concerned with adoration  than the campaign itself, it can lead to loss of motivation, commitment issues and an erosion in loyalty.

Strategy

Once a leader learns how to lead his followers, he must learn how to use strategy. In battle, effective strategies require knowing the enemy well and being able to predict conditions. You must strategize on the potential obstacles you can come across and also be flexible when encountering the unknown.

There are a few points to consider:

Which army is stronger?

  • On which side are the officers and men more highly trained?
  • Which of the two generals has the most ability?
  • In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?

A great quote from Sun Tzu on strategy:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”  

An army must know the strengths and weaknesses of their enemy before they go into battle. When you face an army that is far superior in strength, tactics and creativity will play an important role to minimize their advantage over you. Fighting head to head will not be a practical solution. It takes extensive planning, strategy, the ability to change tactics on the fly and cunning to win such a battle.

When an army is facing an enemy that possesses superior training and leadership, the strategies of a campaign should reflect that. A great general or leader knows how to create positive strategies using proven techniques, but also knows how to make changes to these strategies depending on the situation.

One of the strengths a general can have is knowing and accepting the fact that they are not capable of leading a team and then stepping down to allow a capable general to take control. Personal pride and the desire for power can be a weakness as it prevents the general to see reality.

“Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.”

Tactics

 Strategies focus on what to do, whereas tactics focus on how to do it. The best strategies will fail if they can’t be implemented with effective methods in place. Men who follow blindly are loyal, however, men who understand tactics of a strategy are far superior. Let’s take a look at a few conecpts from the book.

  • So in war, avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.
  • Therefore the good fighter will be terrible in his onset, and prompt in his decision.
  • Whoever comes first to the field and waits for the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.

If you are facing a stronger and far superior enemy, then you need to understand their weaknesses in order to increase the chances of your victory. No matter how strong or well trained an army is they will always have a weakness that can be exploited. Once you attack these weaknesses and you become successful, then this will create confidence.

A general who shows his men confidence, purpose and who leads effectively has prepared his team for action. With strategies and tactics in place, a general and his men are prepared to attack quickly and ferociously.

Generals understand the importance of arriving to battle first. When an army can get to the battlefield before their opponent, they have some distinct advantages. They are able to prepare, both physically and psychologically, for the battle to come to them. When the enemy arrives, they are tired from the journey and then must face an opponent who is rested and ready.

 

“Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.”

 Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Safwan Khan

Safwan Khan is the founder of Startupily and also has an App & Website development company. He consults with several small businesses and is always working to build new passive incomes.