In Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, I have found many leadership inspirations for understanding the characteristics that a great leader should possess.
In addition to being a military strategist, Sun Tzu was also a Chinese general. For generations, his book The Art of War has inspired leaders across various industries and professions, not just in the military. As a result of his wisdom, many have reconsidered their own leadership skills and considered how they may help or hinder their success.
Since I have worked closely with CEOs and other C-Suites leaders at the executive level, I have had the opportunity to learn a great deal about leadership and team leadership. It is recommended that you study many leaders so you can be the best leader you can be.
This ancient thinker outlined the Five Qualities of a Leader and supporting principles as timeless examples of leadership. To illustrate this point, let me share a few of my favorite examples:
1. Be a leader who is disciplined
Generals who are capable of enforcing discipline whenever it is needed are more likely to win wars. It is those leaders who can be disciplined and enforce everything they need to do in order to ensure success who are the most effective.
This can be interpreted in a modern business context as having high expectations for ourselves, our team members, and our colleagues.
If you don’t maintain and meet those high standards through personal and professional discipline, you may lose a battle in today’s business world: you may fail to grow a business, meet KPIs, and even effectively manage it.
You can ensure your success, whether you are in the boardroom or on the battlefield, by defining roles and expectations for everyone who is involved in your organization or yourself, and by working disciplined to achieve your goals.
2. Invest in your management skills
Sun Tzu led armies of thousands of soldiers when he was a general. In other words, managing the soldiers under his command and ensuring they had confidence in him were just as important as the strategy they used to win.
It has been said that management of many is the same as management of few in Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Organizing is what makes it work.
It is imperative for modern leaders to take note of how they lead their teams and to ensure that they are equally committed to managing teams as they are to meeting measurable KPIs such as quarterly growth goals.
Furthermore, Sun Tzu emphasizes that no matter how big or small your organization is, the key to success lies in the quality of your management techniques, rather than solely focusing on quantity.
3. Know your strengths and weaknesses
People who are aware of their strengths and weaknesses make the best leaders. They know how to compensate for their weak areas by building them and relying on their strongest and most proficient areas.
You can, for example, follow the path of leaders you admire and self-assess your leadership capabilities on a regular basis if you want to become an excellent leader.
A quote from the Art of War says: “He who prepares himself until the enemy is unprepared will win.” It can be interpreted as meaning that knowing ourselves allows us to identify the areas that hold us, and our organizations, back from true success.
4. Think strategically and wisely
In business as well as in military strategy, action is worthless without the wisdom required to make sound decisions. It is obvious that a leader today must spend time educating themselves, developing their skills, and taking the time to regularly reflect on their abilities in order to develop the wisdom necessary for sound and strategic business decisions.
In Sun Tzu’s words, a wise leader will take into account both advantages and disadvantages in his plans.
If you develop your critical thinking skills and improve your leadership skills consistently, you will be able to navigate professional challenges and identify potential problems in advance and take action before they become a hindrance to your organization’s success.
5. Be trustworthy and humane at all times
In order to be an effective leader, it’s essential to ensure that your team members and colleagues are confident in your ability to guide them. That means acting benevolently and inspiring confidence through personal actions.
The ancient Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu wrote: “An army is united in mind and will serve its leaders joyfully when they are treated with benevolence, justice, and righteousness.”
Those working with leaders must trust them in order to gain their confidence, and leaders should show humanity by being open and transparent.
A leader is someone who shares their struggles and is honest about their shortcomings. This makes them accessible and ensures that they treat their teams with humanity and inspires trust by showing their vulnerability.
Even seasoned leaders may find it difficult to implement these principles at first. Considering our actions critically can help us improve ourselves and increase our ROI at the same time. By evaluating your professional strengths and weaknesses, I invite you to take action now.