When Sun Tzu’s art of war meets the 20th century’s leaders

by Michael Gunawan


Sun Tzu’s art of war may appear to be a touch too conventional and old fashioned. People used to think of the movie “Sun Tzu” when they heard the name of this Chinese military officer, strategist, philosopher, and writer who lived during the Eastern Zhou dynasty. Sun Tzu is also recognised with writing The Art of War, a seminal classic of military strategy that influenced both Western and East Asian philosophy and military thought.

As a result, some wonder if Sun Tzu’s art of war can still be used in today’s business and leadership styles.

Mr. Khoo Kheng-khor, one of the speakers at our Art of War – International workshop, defied the aforesaid notion. This Malaysian author and speaker on the modern application of military strategist Sun Tzu’s 500 BC Chinese military book, The Art of War, had awoken 37 executives to what they consider as “ancient strategy”. He had successfully drowned the participants in his Sun Tzu’s concept with what he called as his “authentic style” of wearing white from head to toe. He  believes that a leader should act rather than just think; a leader or professional should have the bravery to launch a “war” when he knows “he will win”.

“If the situation offers victory but the rules forbids fighting, the general may still fight. If the situation is such that he cannot win, then the general must not fight even if the ruler orders him to fight,” Sun Tzu observed.

He went on to say that Sun Tzu consistently advises about five hazardous flaws: recklessness, cowardice, a fast temper, being delicate in honour, and being excessively empathetic. These tendencies will take a leader down a path of failure.

“This Sun Tzu’s Art Of War strategy really benefits us as individuals, leaders, and business owners, I would love to recommend this to my colleagues and all my friends, as I believe this workshop will be very helpful for them and this could step up our leadership skills not only in the workplace but also in relationship or in our family” added by one of the participant who later graduated from his Executive Master in Business Administration programme 2 days after the workshop.

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