LESSONS FROM SUN TZU
In his article ‘Enduring wisdom’ Business Review Weekly September 25 – October 1, Colin Benjamin draws on the lessons of Sun Tzu that leaders must listen to and learn from their subordinates. Benjamin concludes that managers need to adopt an open mind to ideas and suggestions that offer a break from conventional wisdom and a path to ‘something different\'.
He also quotes Michael Wyly who in an article Thinking Like Marines, argues that leaders must stay in close touch with subordinates and encourage initiative in them. Subordinates must use their initiative and act and inform rather than seek permission.
Right on both counts! But while information gathering and analysis and employee satisfaction are important to managers, unfortunately many of them do not understand what is involved in good leadership and therefore frequently do not put good advice into practice.
They seem to be unduly influenced by the example of another of Sun Tzu’s lessons.
Ho Lu, King of Wu, set Sun Tzu the task of managing 180 ladies of the palace. Sun Tzu placed two of the King’s favourite concubines in charge and when the ladies burst out laughing at his commands, he had the two concubines sacked (beheaded) and installed the two next in line in their stead. He thenceforth achieved complete obedience to his commands, but this was hardly the approach even then to encourage initiative and job satisfaction in the remaining employees!