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The Annotated Art of War (Parts 11.32-34: Leading Everyone)


Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 11.32-34: Leading Everyone

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XI. The Nine Situations


Sun Tzu said: Commentary
32. The principle on which to manage an army is to set up one standard of courage which all must reach.

The best way to set a standard is to model it. The next is to teach it. Then is to encourage it. Last is to enforce it.

In practice you will likely need all of these, but should use more of the better ways.

Without courage, an army will fail at the first hurdle. With great courage, they can overcome overwhelming odds.

Courage should be allied with intelligence. Suicide is seldom a good choice, though in battle it is sometimes the best option for some so the war may be won.

33. How to make the best of both strong and weak--that is a question involving the proper use of ground. The secret of winning is to use everyone, playing to their strengths rather than forcing them to put forward only their weaknesses.

Hence those who are not good fighters may be found more useful behind the lines, for example if they can run well then they may carry messages. If they are intelligent, they can process information. If they lack all skill then perhaps they can just carry things for you.

It is a mark of leadership to be able to identify strengths and weaknesses and then play to the person's strength.

In business, the 'Peter Principle' is that people get promoted to their level of incompetence and then remain there. In war even more than in business, this is a losing approach.

34. Thus the skillful general conducts his army just as though he were leading a single man, willy-nilly, by the hand. An army or a business is made up of individual people. Whilst there is collective action, each is an independent agent. Hence, in order to gain a collective motivation, each person must receive the same message.

Leaders hence must be constant in their purpose and copious in their communication.



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