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15 Leadership Strategies From Ancient Chinese Wisdom – Sun Tzu’s Art Of War

15 Leadership Strategies From Ancient Chinese Wisdom – Sun Tzu’s Art Of War

Sun Tzu’s Art Of War is believed to have been written in the sixth century or 512 BCE (Before Common Era). The text is considered to be one of the Seven Military Classics in China. The work is considered poetic, in its great wisdom. Now the famed classic may be used to determine leadership qualities, as well as, strategies in business.

1. Never Lead By Force

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    • “The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness.”
    • “The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to control success.”
    • “Hence in the wise leader’s plans, considerations of advantage and of disadvantage will be blended together.”

    2. Know The Competition

    • “Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder and crush him.’
    • “If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.”
    • “So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.

    3. Doing Nothing Is Better Than Acting Out Of Fear

    • “If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are.”
    • Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a
      hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer
      a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
    • “The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and
      destroy its victim.”

    4. Always Plan Ahead

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      • “Hence the saying: The enlightened ruler lays his plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources.”
      • “By altering his arrangements and changing his plans, he keeps the enemy without definite
        knowledge. By shifting his camp and taking circuitous routes, he prevents the enemy from anticipating
        his purpose.”
      • “According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one’s plans.”

       5. Refrain From Decision-Making When Angry

      • “No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique.”
      • “Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence
        consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
      • “Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy’s troops without any fighting; he captures their
        cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the
        field.”

      6. Study The Competition

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        • “He who knows things, and in fighting puts his knowledge into practice, will win his battles. He who knows them not, nor practices them, will surely be defeated.”
        • Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient.”
        • “What enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge.”

        7. Use Your Team Wisely

        • “The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals. Hence his ability to pick out the right men and utilize combined energy.”
        • “When he utilizes combined energy, his fighting men become as it were like unto rolling logs or stones. For it is the nature of a log or stone to remain motionless on level ground, and to move when on a slope; if four-cornered, to come to a standstill, but if round-shaped to go rolling down.”
        • “If there is disturbance in the camp, the general’s authority is weak. If the banners and flags are shifted about, sedition is afoot. If the officers are angry, it means that the men are weary.”

        8. Act Like A Leader

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          • “It is the business of a general to be quiet and thus ensure secrecy; upright and just, and thus maintain order.”
          • “He must be able to mystify his officers and men by false reports and appearances, and thus keep them in total ignorance.”
          • “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.”

           9. Trust Yourself

          • “He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”
          • He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.”
          • “He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.”

          10. Think Strategically

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            • “With his forces intact he will dispute the mastery of the Empire, and thus, without losing a man, his
              triumph will be complete. This is the method of attacking by stratagem.”
            • “It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy’s one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack
              him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two.”
            • “He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”

            11. Know Yourself

            • If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
            • “He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.”
            • “Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”

            12. Think Diplomatically

            •  “All warfare is based on deception.”
            • “If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow
              arrogant.”
            • “Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated
              with long delays.”

            13. Never Lose Sight Of The Goal

            • “In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.”
            • “He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.”
            • “To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common herd is not the acme of excellence.”

            14. Have A Plan

            • “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
            • “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
            • “When strong, avoid them. If of high morale, depress them. Seem humble to fill them with conceit. If at ease, exhaust them. If united, separate them. Attack their weaknesses. Emerge to their surprise.”

            15. Know When To Quit

            • “When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.”
            • “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”
            • “Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.”

             

             

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            Last Updated on July 17, 2019

            The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

            The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

            What happens in our heads when we set goals?

            Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

            Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

            According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

            Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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            Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

            Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

            The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

            Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

            So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

            Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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            One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

            Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

            Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

            The Neurology of Ownership

            Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

            In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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            But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

            This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

            Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

            The Upshot for Goal-Setters

            So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

            On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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            It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

            On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

            But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

            More About Goals Setting

            Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

            Reference

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