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What the Art of War can Teach us About Building a Successful Team

Its the same for any group of people pursuing a common purpose.

Though its advice needs to be tempered for more relaxed circumstances, The Art of War by Sun Tzu offers valuable advice to succeed in business and in life. Its always preparing a solid foundation that leads you to victory, the boring work that make the battle easier and makes success much more likely.

“He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.”

And the motivational principles behind leading an army to victory in battle can be applied to building an organization, be it a non-profit, government, or for-profit corporation. There are two fundamental keys, without which you will be fighting an uphill battle on bad terrain, and they all center on people. These are:

  1. Form a capable and trustworthy team
  2. Teach them your vision, and trust them

Forming a capable team means identifying people who have more knowledge or insight than yourself in a prospective role. It means taking their advice and creating an open space where they are free to bring all of their insight to bear to create value for the organization. While keeping the burden of making the decisions on yourself. It means putting aside your ego and your need to always be right, with the ultimate goal being the success of the organization.

“The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.” — Sun Tzu

If you have a vision you believe in, it will be easy to sell smart, capable people on it by allowing your enthusiasm to spill over and by listening with empathy to discover what they are looking for, and meeting them halfway. And if you trust them with the keys to the kingdom, and allow them to use their best judgement to secure it, they will reward you for that trust. And if you always have their back, and make sure to “own” the success or failure of the team, they will fight even harder for you.

“When one treats people with benevolence, justice, and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders.”

Ultimately, the strongest foundation of your team is your people. They do have to know where the buck stops. But if they understand that, and you treat them with kindness, respect, and dignity, the good ones will move mountains for you. And it will only be a matter of time before your team succeeds.

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