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Effective military leadership demands that the leader should have basic leadership qualities so as to conquer and counter the strategies of the enemy. As a military leader, Sun Tzu’s leadership approach had a number of similarities and differences to the leadership strategies used by great military leaders throughout history (Gagliardi & Tzu, 2012).
America’s defeat in Vietnam exposed a number of leadership strengths and weaknesses that many historical military leaders had. Tzu’s cunning ability is revealed in his ability to train and equip women and youths into powerful military forces. The cunning attribute is similar to leadership strategies employed by Hannibal Barca, Georgy Zhukov, Ghengis Khan, and Julius Caesar (Cawthorne, 2004; Harvey, 2008). These military leaders were cunning and often focused on understanding their enemies.
As Gagliardi and Tzu (2012) reveal, Julius Caesar and Sun Tzu constantly maneuvered and showed respect to their enemies. This made their enemies expose their strengths and weaknesses easily. Unlike many aggressive military leaders who include Adolf Hitler and Hannibal Barca, Sun’s leadership approach entailed subduing the enemy. Sun avoided engaging in a physical war. He appointed and trained concubines and used them to prove that giving clear directives was an important military leadership approach. Sun’s military policy involved reminding himself that war was never an end in itself but rather a means to achieving a greater goal.
Like Socrates, Sun, and many other great leaders encouraged leaders to be humble. Great leaders believed that high military numbers did not always transform into having an advantage over an enemy on the battlefield. The choice of soft targets in a war was a successful strategy that Sun and other successful leaders used. Having knowledge of the battlefield terrain, Sun’s military strategies proved that conceptualizing one’s military doctrine and being focused on the set goals was important. Unlike many leaders, Sun always focused on winning the trust and support of his followers (Gagliardi & Tzu, 2012).
Avoidance of confrontational military attacks was a major military strategy. Most successful military leaders such as Julius Caesar and Sun Tzu used insurgent forces to disarm their enemies. Contrary to what leaders such as Hitler and Ghengis did, Sun always relied on military spies and intelligence information in acquiring crucial information about his enemies (Harvey, 2008; Gagliardi & Tzu, 2012). Leaders such as Ghengis, Field Marshall Bernard, Saddam Hussein, Douglas Haig, Armstrong Custer, and General George McClellan failed to acquire adequate knowledge about their enemies.
Today, military leaders focus on showcasing their military artillery. These forms of military leadership often cause a lot of havoc and loss of both property and human life. Modern military leaders also focus on strictly adhering to the rule of law and working in accordance with the policies of democratically elected presidents and other heads of states.
Military leadership that is based on informative principles, creativity, hard work, and enhancement of cohesion in the team enhances success. It can be concluded that intellectual battles are easy to win if relevant military strategies are implemented.
Cawthorne, N., (2004). Military Commanders: The 100 Greatest Throughout History. Enchanted Lion Books, LLC.
Gagliardi, G. & Tzu, S., (2012). The warrior class: Sun Tzu’s the art of war as 306 lessons in strategy. Clearbridge Publishing Company.
Harvey, R., (2008). Maverick military leaders: The extraordinary battles of Washington, Nelson, Patton, Rommel, and others. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing.