Saturday, January 14, 2012
5 Keys to Victory
My favorite passage from The Art of War begins, Thus there are five factors from which victory can be known:
1. One who knows when he can fight, and when he cannot fight will be victorious.
This first thought is the essence to successful leadership and drives the individual to truly explore their own strengths and weaknesses. After doing that, one must be able to detect the strengths, weaknesses, and most importantly, the commitment level of the opponent.
Any person that is challenging a line or rocking the boat is doing so for a reason. Is it worth engaging this challenge, or letting it pass and not risking a loss? Can you actually affect change and victory or is this a brick wall of resistance that needs to be revisited another day?
2. One who recognizes how to employ large and small numbers will be victorious.
Is this something you need the entire team to execute or is this something a small group can accomplish? Does the entire team even need to know about this initiative?
If you march through the door with your guns blazing, you are asking for a fight--and maybe this is the only way to achieve victory. Or, maybe a series of diplomatic conversations to foster a trust and an alliance is the best strategy.
3. One whose upper and lower ranks have the same desires will be victorious.
This element is elusive and may take time for the leadership to build and establish a culture. Recruiting the right people, embracing energy and initiative, and letting people walk away are crucial to establishing a common set of goals and desires.
4. One who, fully prepared, awaits the unprepared will be victorious.
This recalls the John Wooden quote, "Failure to prepare is preparing to fail." However, Sun Tzu pushes deeper. To be fully prepared, one has to experience failure. A person has to know what failure feels like, what the road to failure looks like, and needs to develop early recognition skills to avoid such paths.
5. One whose general is capable and not interfered with by the ruler will be victorious.
Mark Brumley addresses the problems with public school reform in his blog. But what about athletic programs? At any level, does a coach truly have freedom to work with his team? Do parents, alumni, sponsors, AAU coaches, and other forces have an interfering influence?
The chain of command needs to be transparent. To whomever is entrusted with responsibility and leadership, get out of their way and let them execute. Otherwise, trust someone else.
The passage is from Ralph D. Sawyer's "The Complete Art of War."