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3 Keys to Leadership as Taught by Sun Tsu

Sun Tzu was a Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who lived between 544-496 BC. His book ‘The Art of War’ teaches us the basic keys to leadership. Every business requires leadership to succeed. People must want to follow, know how to follow and be in a position to follow. All these factors are provided by good leadership. Following are keys to leadership as taught by Sun Tzu:

  1. Encouragement is Superior to Apprehensiveness – People respond to both positive and negative reinforcement. However positive reinforcement fosters a positive outlook while negative reinforcement instills fear of consequences. Positive reinforcement encourages independence and a sense of ownership while negative reinforcement discourages creativity and initiative. People contribute the most when they take ownership and act independently. Behavior is largely influenced by leadership and determined by the actions of leaders.
    • “A leader leads by example, not by force”…Sun Tzu
  2. Leadership is Fully Dependent on Clarity of Purpose – Objectives and plans must be communicated clearly or people will not know what they are expected to accomplish. If people are expected to achieve a goal that they don’t completely understand success will more than likely not be realized. If people are given conflicting objectives or a sense of purpose is not instilled then goals will not be reached. People need clear objectives and priorities and there must be no confusion as to the source of their direction.
    • “If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame. But, if orders are clear and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers”…Sun Tzu
  3. Effective Planning Takes Advantage of People’s Strengths – Clearly defined processes and procedures support success as people know what their roles are. Willingness is borne of surmountable challenges while confusion and unrealistic demands foster uncertainty. Confidence breeds success and uncertainty leads to failure.
    • “Order or disorder depends on organization; courage or cowardice on circumstances; strength or weakness on dispositions”…Sun Tzu

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