11 January 2011

Sun Zi Art of War-6: Leadership Skills and Creating HPO

I thought I have covered Sun Tzu (Sun Zi) Art of War well with just 5 postings. But I felt I needed to cover one more important area, Leadership Skills or Leadership Principles to bring out the point that the 'Art of War' is more than just strategies for war. It is first about the building of High-Performance Force or Organization(HPO) if I have not made it clear enough in the first 3 posts.

Leaders hold the greatest responsibility for creating the mission and culture for a High-Performance Organization. Hence, let me cover the leadership skills from Sun Zi with the following mind-map:

Five Qualities of a Leader
  1. Wisdom - knowledge, skills, capability, competence
  2. Integrity - walk the talk, deliver promises, trustworthy, ethical.
  3. Compassion - love, and care of staff and even of their families.
  4. Bravery - Boldness. Bravery is not recklessness. Bravery is acting on calculated risks. Bravery is also about maintaining one's cool head in the midst of pressures to think and decide objectively.
  5. Strict-Discipline.
    Let me emphasize that the set of values listed above are counterbalancing one another (as mentioned in Sun Zi Art of War-2: How to Manage the Five-Factor). Compassion must be moderated with strict discipline and vice versa. So it with wisdom and integrity, bravery and wisdom, wisdom with discipline (be flexible when needed), etc. See Complementary Values from Chinese Zodiac Signs for a longer list.
What are Stronger than Number?
To a good leader, strength in number is not something to count on. Big market-leading companies are dethroned by start-ups. Here are the five things that are stronger.
  1. Alignment - shared mission and values provide concentration and focus of laser-sharp cutting strength. Read my posts on Corporation Performance Management (CPM). Kaplan & Norton's Strategic Map Driven Balanced Scorecard method is a great framework to follow to create a focused and aligned corporation.
  2. Foreseeing Enemy's actions or reactions - In the business world, I will translate to mean the ability to understand and foresee the trends in the market, customers' preferences, industry, technology, social, environmental, economic, and political situations.
  3. Getting Commitment of Staff - Highly engaged and motivated staff are key to corporate growth and performance. Happy employees create happy customers who in turn reward the corporation with money and loyalty.
  4. Detailed & Careful Planning with Agility - As covered in previous posts, Sun Zi believed in planning on real data, of weather, terrain, staff, and enemy's intelligence. Sun Zi also teaches about agility and flexibility to adapt and exploit changes.
  5. Humility - Never Under-estimate the Enemy - Our customers and our competitors are no fools. They can tell our 'lies' and 'spins'. With social media, one 'small' customer can create a great impact. Don't assume our competitors are dump or dead that will not react or pro-act against us. Continued learning and innovation is the key to long-term survival and growth. 
Love & Discipline
The strongest motivating force for people is still LOVE - I Care about you. It must be demonstrated and not just spoken of. Yet love is not indulgence. Standards need to set and discipline needs to be enforced.

The order is important - love first and then set standards. Discipline without love will produce temporary and on the surface following commands. Deep down in the heart is the feeling of misuse, abuse, bitterness, anger and will create sabotaging whenever there is an opportunity.

Lead by Example
Leaders must walk their talk. The best form of teaching is not by instruction but by example. This is the teaching of Lao Zi, teaching without talking! see The Tao Bible in One minute and Levels of Leadership – Which Level are Yours?.

Lim Liat copyrighted 2011

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