4 Leadership and management lessons taught by The Art of War

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The Art of War - Sun Tzu
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This article was written by the partner of LUZ Breno Patrick, a specialist in customer relationships.

O book The Art of War was written around the year 476 aC; This is a great compendium of Master Sun Tzu's teachings. Born in China, he was a Chinese general, strategist and philosopher. It lived in the period of the Springs and Autumns, known like a time of great battles. His job was precisely to reflect on how to win battles wisely.

See also: Case study - Leadership in a family business

Sun Tzu - The Art of WarAlthough the book addresses militarism, it became a reference in the world of management. This occurred precisely because it addressed issues such as: people management, administration, strategy, leadership, etc. His reading is indispensable for anyone who ventures into the study of management and leadership.

We separated 4 important learning for managers taken from the book. They follow below.

1. Be strong

When the commander shows weakness, has no authority, his orders are unclear, and his officers and troops are undisciplined, the result is chaos and utter disorganization.

Sun Tzu

As an excellent leader, Sun Tzu points out the importance of strong leadership. The strength of a leader is expressed in his ability to present an image of trust and strength to his team. These aspects create a synergy among its leaders.

It is no wonder that the main function of the leader is to influence people. When I say this, it is not simply to sway an idea. But, through your strength, help each person to develop their potential.

sun tzu - the art of war - influencing peopleHave you stopped to reflect how important this is? Imagine a leader who is afraid of obstacles and shows dismay and weakness to his team. It would be hard to follow him, would not it? And, even more, it is not able to instruct and demonstrate knowledge of the situation. No one would feel steadfast in following you into a challenge. This would simply generate a negative of all, leading to failure of the team and consequently of the leader.

Now imagine a leader who is able to motivate his team, keeping the emotional balance, and showing each person his or her courage and strength. How strong can your team be united against a challenge? Would not it be great to show you that you're stronger than you think? Of course yes! The result of this would be the organization and the engagement of the team to solve the obstacles.

2. Learn to make decisions

Focus on strengths, recognize weaknesses, seize opportunities, and guard against threats.

Sun Tzu

The manager who develops the habit of observing the situation certainly determines his ability to make decisions. At that point, Sun Tzu gives an excellent tip on factors to be observed in making decisions. The manager who learns to focus on strengths is able to move and act for a cause that boosts their abilities, providing greater safety in each given step.

Managers must recognize that weakness is not as bad as it seems, by recognizing it. You have noticed that point made you fail and you will need to act differently in similar situations.

Another important factor that the manager must observe are the opportunities. For example, what worries me is sometimes not a negative of life, but a "yes"! It may seem strange, but how often did the lack of observation and immaturity make you lose opportunities? So the manager must be alert and ready for the situations.

Finally, a valuable tip: protect yourself against threats. We have already said that the manager must be able to observe well the scenario in which he is, in order to make decisions. Only people who update themselves in their daily lives are capable of this. Threats to the manager are not born instantly, but a chain of changes occurring in the market. Therefore, the manager must always update himself with information and tendencies in order to make decisions.

To learn more about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, see SWOT Analysis.

3. Learn how to create and execute strategies

Tactical strategy is the slowest way to victory. Tactic without strategy is the noise before defeat.

Sun Tzu

Developing strategies is important, implementing them is necessary! Sun Tzu gives a great recipe for both. Strategy must be accompanied by tactics. It is interesting to observe these concepts, since strategy and tactics are confused. The manager must use both for success.

Strategic Planning Worksheet

As stated previously, when designing strategies, the manager must observe the action scenario. Throughout their application, they perceive the means to make new decisions, change details and follow new directions in order to obtain results.

Strategy should never be unchanged, precisely because it can not measure contingencies in its course. That's where you need tactics. They are intelligent means of action in the face of obstacles. Some managers lose great opportunities because they do not have good tactics. At play time, make it a habit to always observe which paths strategies are taking you. Ask questions like:

  • Is it really necessary to take this attitude?
  • What are the gains we already have so far with this tactic?
  • Can anything be changed to improve?
  • Should we go on or sit down to plan again, and start over more intelligently?

The questions will help when you are running strategies in your business. If you need to change and plan again, do not look at it with a bad eye. Here's an opportunity to start again, and thank you, for a threat has been avoided.

4. Focus on developing the talents of people

The true method, when we have men under our orders, is to use the miser and the foolish, the wise and the brave, and to give each one the proper responsibility.

Sun Tzu

A good manager should develop an analytical look at the people around him. One secret of coordinating people given by Sun Tzu is knowing how to direct each person a proper responsibility. In that it can do well and get good results.

This is what I call managing talents! It is not merely a technique, but an art. Be a manager capable of managing talents. You may ask yourself, but how can this be?

Learn to observe the people you coordinate. Do not just look at them, but watch. This requires rapprochement and relationship building. Learn to observe details in them, this is important for a manager who will maximize each person's potential.

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