He believed winning a war, or anything in life, was best accomplished without firing a single shot. Ancient Chinese general, strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu liked to win before the other side even knew they had lost.
His teachings on effective strategy have been followed by leaders throughout time. Today, we can learn from Sun Tzu how best to lead ourselves when climbing the ladder of success in business and in life.
1 – The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.
Years ago, I competed to become the manager of our department. I was all set to do battle. But the big boss in charge of the company took me aside and shared a secret with me. He told me the key to securing the position was not in trying to look better than my competitors or by criticizing them. Instead, I should ignore them and focus on creating the conditions that would compel the hiring team to give me the job. Those “conditions” included consulting my co-workers on what they wanted to see happen. That “listening” campaign resulted in their support and ultimately my appointment.
Replace open competition with quiet strategy.
2 – Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.
One of the mistakes so many of us make is to broadcast our intentions. In a way, this sabotages us. We become known for “talk” and no action. We also tip off others to what we’re planning, forcing a competition that doesn’t need to be there. In one case I’ll never forget, a competitor applied for the same contract I talked about – and got it. There is power in silence, keeping your affairs to yourself. Then, to the surprise of others, you’ll be speaking to them from your victory chair.
Turn off the volume on your intentions.
3 – Know yourself and you will win all battles.
The best way to tackle any situation in business and in life is to first know your own strengths and weaknesses, and deepest hopes and dreams. Only then can we make a plan that will work.
You will get what you want if you start with self-evaluation.
4 – Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
Social media is a tactic. Blogging is a tactic. Resumes are a tactic. But what you need to accomplish, and how you plan to do it, comprise the strategy. Too many of us today focus mainly on the tactics with too little forethought.
5. Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?
This mind blowing statement forces us to come to terms with our self-imposed limitations. What if the great people of history decided they were not good enough? What if they opted to hold back? Just imagine what we could accomplish if we gave it our all.
The possibilities are endless when we refuse to hold back.
Sun Tzu is well known as the author of “The Art of War”, originally meant as a military strategy guidebook but later used to manage any kind of conflict, and more recently, as a tool for business in staying competitive.
Despite the word “war”, Sun Tzu was never in favor of going to battle.