The Art of Management by Zhuge Liang (Part One)

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Home > Articles > The Art of Management by Zhuge Liang (Part One)

 The Art of Management by Zhuge Liang (Part One)

Sheh Seow Wah | General
November 18, 2021
Drawing from 16 lessons from The Art of Management by Zhuge Liang, a great strategist during the Three Kingdoms of China.

One of the famous war strategists who is worth discussing is the right hand man of Liu Bei(刘备)under the Shu Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms, Zhuge Liang (諸葛亮): A.D. 181–234, courtesy name, Kong Ming. The 16 strategies of Zhuge Liang encompass teachings about how a ruler should govern a country, lead and boost the morale of the army, and use the power of reward and reprimand to motivate the subjects. The following depicts the 16 strategies of Zhuge Liang’s Art of Management and their application to contemporary leadership and management.

Strategy One: Governing a Country

Governing a country is like managing a household in the sense that one needs to get the fundamentals right. The foundation of a family lies with the head of the family, while a country’s foundation lies with the ruler.

The key difference between a performing and a non-performing organisation is the leader. It is the leader that makes the difference. A strong leader provides an organisation with a sense of direction, a vision and a purpose. In contemporary times, many organisations are still poorly-led.


Strategy Two: Relationship between the Ruler and the Subjects

A ruler is obliged to treat his subjects benevolently, and in return, the subjects will be obligated to serve him faithfully. If a ruler treats his subjects with care and concern, the subjects will also reciprocate by serving him loyally. A benevolent ruler treats his subjects with respect while the subjects reciprocate with loyalty and faithfulness.

In an organisation, a wise leader treats people with a compassionate heart. A wise leader is people- and relationship-oriented. People are the most important intangible asset in an organisation. Without having good people, the business will not be able to enjoy long-term prosperity.


Strategy Three:         Be Observant and Listen Attentively

A wise ruler is able to diagnose a problem comprehensively before seeking a permanent solution—this is an instance of being insightful. In order to study things from all angles, a wise ruler must be able to see beyond the eye (of things visible and invisible) and listen beyond words (beyond sound and silence).

Listening is an important communication skill for a leader. In communication, speaking should constitute 50 per cent, while listening should constitute the balance 50 per cent. There are many managers who do not listen enough to their customers, suppliers, and employees. Listening is the best way to understand others.

In Part One, I had discussed three strategies of The Art of Management by Zhuge Liang. In Part Two, I will further discuss another four strategies of The Art of Management.

Dr Sheh received his doctoral degree in Transformational Leadership. Dr Sheh serves a lecturer with several universities (both local and foreign). He also serves as an Organisational Behaviour Consultant and Change Management consultant. 
His book The Art of Leadership: Wisdom from the Ancient Chinese is available on Kindle and Amazon.


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