Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sun Tzu - ancient author or Leadership guru?

In the field of leadership and management we are being constantly bombarded by new fads, some useful and some not so useful. In recent years we have seen charismatic leadership, transactional leadership, transformational leadership, level five leadership, emotional intelligence (EQ) and now spirituality.

These are all useful models and without them we would be hard pressed to make sense of the complexities of modern organisations and the people that lead them. But where do these models come from? Do they emerge from some sort of primeval soup, do people sit down in their offices and carefully construct them, or have they all appeared somewhere before?

How far have we really come with Leadership Thinking? If we go back to Sun Tzu's 'The Art of War', a 2,500 year old book on military strategy, we find that much of its teaching is still relevant to us today.What we do not see there, are the patterns and cycles to tell us what is next. Could it be that the next 'great thing' is sitting there on page forty two or is something big coming that we cannot see?

If you are interested, you should read the book for yourself. In a nutshell it has thirteen chapters ranging from Making of Plans to Espionage, all set in an Oriental context, many years ago. We need to use metaphor to draw out the learning. For instance the chapter Empty and Full provides lessons on leading from the front and leadership qualities that look like charismatic leadership. If you look carefully you can also find links to emotional intelligence and spirituality. So what's next?

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