The Art of Management by Zhuge Liang (Part One)
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
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
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
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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