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The Annotated Art of War (Parts 11.56-59: Confusing Leadership)


Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 11.56-59: Confusing Leadership

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XI. The Nine Situations


Sun Tzu said: Commentary
56. Bestow rewards without regard to rule, issue orders without regard to previous arrangements; and you will be able to handle a whole army as though you had to do with but a single man.

If you give rewards where they are expected, you just create a sense of entitlement. When you give rewards where they are not expected, you create surprise and delight. You also underline your absolute authority.

Changing your mind is the officer's prerogative. It can be dangerous to think that once you have issued an order that it cannot be countermanded. Changing even for its own sake can also be used to keep the army on its toes.

When everyone is now waiting on your next uncertain action, you have attention. When they know reward can easily be given, they wait in hope.

57. Confront your soldiers with the deed itself; never let them know your design. When the outlook is bright, bring it before their eyes; but tell them nothing when the situation is gloomy. When a deed is done or to be done immediately, there is no time for debate or dissent. It must be accepted.

Emotions go in spirals, up or down. When people are feeling generally positive, they will see your plans in a positive light. When they are gloomy, they will be pessimistic.

58. Place your army in deadly peril, and it will survive; plunge it into desperate straits, and it will come off in safety. You see the best of people and armies when they have their backs to the wall and there is no options but to fight or otherwise face peril with a total dedication.
59. For it is precisely when a force has fallen into harm's way that is capable of striking a blow for victory. The arousal that threat naturally creates can turn an average army into a powerful one.

Being able to create and manage such situations is a mark of a clever general. In particular, when Fight-or-Flight is triggered, the skill is ensuring that only fight is chosen.



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