Want to Become A Better Leader? Follow Sun Tzu's Advice!

The Art of War is more than just a book. It is a systemic guide to winning tactics for rulers and commanders. Authored by the renowned Chinese military general Sun Tzu (544–496BC), the book discusses war-time maneuvers and the effect of a good strategy on the outcome of battles.

What can an ancient Chinese military strategist and philosopher teach you about leadership in the modern workplace, and that too in the IT industry?

Turns out, quite a lot!

Leadership in The Business World and The Art of War

Leaders in IT organizations are faced with fierce competition. They represent their business to the entire world and also to their employees and internal stakeholders. They fight a war on two fronts, and it can be a lot for one person.

Doubt can set in at any time, virtually destroying a person’s self-confidence. In times when you are unsure about yourself, consider Sun Tzu’s best advice “Fake it till you make it!”

Modern business wisdom deems information to be your most crucial weapon. It can help you leverage quite a lot of control during negotiations, which according to Sun Tzu are the key to ‘supreme excellence.’ He says, “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” The Chinese general had an affinity to psychological warfare. He firmly believed that if a fight can be won with subtle diplomacy that it’d be a better win instead of an outright war. And this lesson applies very well to modern organizations as well; many smaller businesses have been able to go head-to-head with giants, using dialogue and partnership deals.

Value Your Own Time and Treasure Your Team

Sun Tzu believes that a manager who can influence his team members to work his way, instead of forcing them, is a real leader. Using the sheer force of will gets managers nothing more than minimal compliance.

It’s fascinating that we know so little about the author Sun Tzu, and yet his ideas and philosophies have had a profound impact on how our organizations are run. But that’s not all! The revered general’s ideas have influenced armies, politicians, people in business, managers and entrepreneurs throughout the ages. After all, running companies these days is just as cutthroat as the wars of the era bygone.

Size Doesn’t Matter

The book was written when seven armies were fighting for the control of China. You would think that that’d be the perfect time to invest in the most prominent and most influential military known to humanity.   However, as Sun Tzu mused that the size of an army doesn’t matter, it’s how the army is used that determines its victory.

Sun Tzu wrote “Management of many is the same as management of few. It is a matter of organization.”

Perhaps that’s why Sun Tzu mused over the importance of providing the right leadership and carving out well-thought-out strategies for a capable army.

Today, the business world is the epitome of that principle. Companies with a few hundred employees can rival large organizations regarding sales, turnover, and profit. In fact, these smaller companies are on the cutting edge of technology, revolutionizing their industries, and business as we know. The size of your army, i.e., your workforce doesn’t determine the growth or prosperity of your organization.

Trust and Humanity Are Important Qualities of a Leader

When soldiers and employees feel that their bosses see them as human beings, value their input and take them into confidence, it makes them even better followers. However, if they believe they are considered as just another collateral loss, they will do their best to avoid the war (and the work) and lay low for as long as possible.

Humanity is an essential quality for a successful leader. In modern management culture, empathy towards the staff can go a long way towards motivating them. You are only a real leader when you understand the personal and professional limitations of your staff and willingly work towards a solution that takes each team members to progress along with the organization.

Initially, adopting these principles may be difficult, but you will be accustomed to these once you are habituated with these principles and qualities in practice.

A Great Leader Is Aware of His Weaknesses & Strengths and Those of His Team

Leaders are people too. They have their strengths and weaknesses, they understand their limitations and capabilities and know how to work with these while ensuring success for their whole team.

If you want to be an amazing leader, someone people aspire to be, then create an impeccable self-assessment model to evaluate all that you do critically. Sun Tzu says that you can manifest all your goals if you put in considerable efforts in controlling your weaknesses and working on your strengths.

Lead By Example!

It’s surprising what one of the most calculating warriors in the history of the world, can teach us about leadership. According to him, these are also some necessary rules for a successful leader:

  • A leader leads by example, not by force. 
  • Be very subtle, even to the point of shapelessness. Be very mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. That is how you become the director of the opponent’s fate.
  • If you don’t believe in your organization’s vision and your ability, success will not happen. It all starts with you.
  • Opportunities multiply as we seize them. Are you conscious of the opportunities available to you? Are you saying “yes” to them?
  • If you know your enemy and you know yourself, you will not have to fear the results of battles.  

If you want to be a leader who is revered and followed by his team and other teams too, then learn to appreciate and value others. Sun Tzu characterized a great leader by these traits: credibility, humanity, intelligence, discipline and of course, courage. Fortunately, no one is born with these qualities. We can all learn to develop these traits for success. Ultimately, to be a leader, a business manager must be self-aware and adapt to people and situations for maximum benefit. Follow Sun Tzu’s timeless laws of leadership, and you’ll excel at the art of management.

If you are looking to become a better leader, do check out the leadership training courses we have on offer.

VP Channel Sales at QuickStart

Shamsah Malik

Shamsah is an entrepreneurial, innovative professional with over ten years of sales, relationship management and business development experience within highly competitive SaaS, information technology, and SLED markets.