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A New Year's List of Books on Strategy and Leadership

Here is a New Year's list of books for those who are looking to start the year out with a mindset towards strategy and leadership. We believe these books should be in the library of everyone who is interested in the Asian strategic mind.

Let's start with the book the premier book on Chinese strategic mindset—Sunzi (or Sun Tzu) Art of War. according to Amazon.com, "The Art of War is the Swiss army knife of military theory—a different tool for any situation. Folded into this small package are compact views on resourcefulness, momentum, cunning, the profit motive, flexibility, integrity, secrecy, speed, positioning, surprise, deception, manipulation, responsibility, and practicality."

Most passages, however, are the pinnacle of succinct clarity: "Lure them in with the prospect of gain, take them by confusion" or "Invincibility is in one's self; vulnerability is in the opponent." Sun Tzu's maxims are widely applicable beyond the military because they speak directly to the exigencies of survival. Your new tools will serve you well, but don't flaunt them. Remember Sun Tzu's advice: "Though effective, appear to be ineffective." Amazon.com
-- Brian Bruya

Presented here together for the first time are the greatest of the ancient Chinese classics of strategic thought: The Complete Art of War. Probably the most famous work of strategy ever written, Sun Tzu: The Art of War has sold millions of copies in many languages around the world. Lost for more than 2,000 years and only recently recovered, The Military Methods of Sun Pin (by Sun Tzu's great-grandson) is a brilliant elaboration on his ancestor's work. Only The Complete Art of War brings the wisdom of these two ancient sages into a single volume and gives the reader a unique opportunity to master the essentials of Chinese thought on strategy, organization, and leadership.

Our favorite interpretations of Sunzi's The Art of War are shown below (can be ordered from Amazon.com):

It has been rumored that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) made it a rule that any of their analysts who were learning about Asian culture were required to read this book. In the early 90's, there was also a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article on the United States Marines using Sun Tzu's book as part of their training.

Historically, there have been little written about this mysterious Chinese military advisor, Sun Tzu of Wu. According to the author and historian Ssu-ma Ch`ien, Sun Tzu was a native of the Ch`i State. Around 512 B.C. the Warring States period of ancient China, Sun Tzu was ordered by Ho Lu, the King of Wu, to develop tactics for battle that would enable his army to defeat Ying.

Ho Lu questioned the efficiency of the strategies presented and asked that Sun Tzu's theory on managing soldiers be tested on 180 women who worked for the King. The women were divided into two groups that were each led by two of the King's favorite concubines. The women did not respond to any of Sun Tzu's commands as they were accustomed to taking orders solely by the King. After a few attempts to train the women with no support from the two group leaders, Sun Tzu ordered the two concubines to be beheaded. Accordingly, the leaders were beheaded and the next two women were put in charge. This time when the drill began, all of the women, without hesitation, followed and executed every command given.

Once the King understood Sun Tzu's philosophy on military management and discipline, he appointed Sun Tzu as the general of his army. It has been said that Sun Tzu was notorious for his well thought-out, psychological analyses on defeating the enemy. He became one of the most successful military philosophers and strategists of his time.

Outline of the Book

The following is a listing of the 13 chapters that are found in The Art of War:

  • Calculations:   The first chapter focuses on the first phase of strategic thinking, where the importance is in carefully considering your approach and plans.
  • Waging War:   The next stage discusses what it takes to develop and deploy a plan.
  • Offensive Strategy:   How to compete without competing at all.
  • Dispositions:   How to control the situation before the conflict even begins.
  • Energy:   How to use momentum and timing to defeat the competition.
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Sun Tzu The Art of War book cover Wesley Snipes in the Art of War Graphic from movie The Art of War

Art of War (Wesley Snipes) (DVD)
(VHS)
Release Date:   December 26, 2000

Wall Street Movie Graphic Wall Street (DVD) VHS

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