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The Annotated Art of War (Parts 9.42-45: Control of Soldiers)

 

Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 9.42-45: Control of Soldiers

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IX. The Army on the March

 

Sun Tzu said: Commentary
42. If soldiers are punished before they have grown attached to you, they will not prove submissive; and, unless submissive, then will be practically useless. If, when the soldiers have become attached to you, punishments are not enforced, they will still be unless.  

Many people, even today, in command still use the stick before the carrot, believing this is the way to gain compliance.

Few soldiers are, by nature, submissive. Starting out with a hard approach risks creating grudges and consequent truculence and subterfuge.

If you first get their respect, however, then they will accept punishment more easily.

43. Therefore soldiers must be treated in the first instance with humanity, but kept under control by means of iron discipline. This is a certain road to victory.

The principle of bonding applies here, including gaining trust and rapport. Care must be taken here, however, as interacting with soldiers is not the same as with civilians.

Just being 'nice' is not enough and is likely to lose respect. Give respect in order to get respect. Be reliable and honest.

As long as discipline is seen as fair, albeit harsh, and you are seen as competent, then it will far more likely be accepted.

44. If in training soldiers commands are habitually enforced, the army will be well-disciplined; if not, its discipline will be bad. Never let a command be ignored as this is teaching soldiers that commands are optional.

Once a command is given, it should be seen through, although this should not make you blind. If it appears that the command was unwise, it can be changed with another firm command.

45. If a general shows confidence in his men but always insists on his orders being obeyed, the gain will be mutual. When you expect a high performance from people, and they seek your approval, then they will strive to meet your expectations.

In business, showing confidence includes avoiding micromanagement and other poor and disrespectful techniques.

 

 

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