The Three Strategies of Huang ShiGong on Business and Leadership (Part 2)

Interested in Becoming a Member?

An SIM Membership like no other, provides you with an abundance of tools, resources and opportunities to help you achieve your professional and personal success at every step of the way! Be part of our learning community of more than 34,000 corporate and individual members.

For more information about membership, please click here »

Member Login

If u are a subscriber, please use ur subscriber login.
If you are a SIM Member, please use your SIM Membership login.

Forgot your password?

Member Login

Forgot your password?
login  Cancel

Sign Up

If you wish to sign up for a SIM Membership, please click here


If you wish to subscribe to Today's Manager, please click here

If you wish to subscribe to Singapore Management Review, please click here

Website maintenance notice: Website will not be accessible from 27 June (11 pm) to 28 June (9 am) due to scheduled maintenance. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Home > Articles > The Three Strategies of Huang ShiGong on Business and Leadership (Part 2)

 The Three Strategies of Huang ShiGong on Business and Leadership (Part 2)

Sheh Seow Wah | Today's Manager
September 2, 2019

​Huang ShiGong’s Three Strategies were organised into three hierarchies of importance, namely the Lower Strategy, Middle Strategy, and Upper Strategy. Part two touches on the Middle and Lower Strategies.

Middle Strategy (中策)
The middle strategy primarily discusses the role of a ruler in managing and controlling his generals and officers to unite the people. The following highlight some of the key tenets of the middle strategy that are relevant to contemporary business management practices.

•     In recruitment, a ruler uses all types of people and uses them differently. The courageous one can be motivated by establishing a ‘ladder’ tall enough for him to climb since personal achievement and accomplishment are important to him. The greedy one can be motivated by tangible rewards. The less intelligent one can be motivated (or even manipulated) to sacrifice on the battleground. Similarly, in today’s organisational context, courageous employees will be assigned to do marketing work while timid employees will take care of accounts. The more intelligent employees will be assigned to do mental work while the less intelligent will handle manual work.

•     In mobilising troops and advancing in the battlefield, the sole authority should be given to the least. An effective leader knows how to empower his/her employees to perform and excel. Top management should delegate part of their authority downwards to allow middle- and lower-level officers to ‘taste’ responsibility and learn from their own mistakes. In a way, it is an effective method to gain the full commitment and dedication of employees.

•      Leadership is essential in uniting people and keeping them loyal. A wise ruler knows how to execute his authority and issue orders to ensure compliance. Besides this, the use of a meritocratic system will ensure that good subordinates are well-rewarded for their merits. A ruler cannot be without virtue or his ministers will rebel or leave him. In any organisation, unity is strength. Without unity, there will be no internal stability and the organisation will be unable to enjoy long-term prosperity.

Besides possessing the ability to attract capable and talented people, the leader’s key ability is to motivate them through good leadership and management. A ruler or leader should possess effective execution power and exercise effective control over his generals and officials.

Lower Strategy(下策)
The lower strategy primarily discusses the types of rulers or governments and their relationship with their followers. Some of the key tenets of the discussion that can be applied in contemporary business and management practices are:

•     In recruitment, if a country brings in capable people, the less capable ones will leave. On the other hand, if a country begins to recruit less capable people, the existing capable employees will either perish or leave and that is the beginning of a disaster. These are examples of lower strategy. Thus, an organisation should be very careful in recruitment and selection of new employees so that the existing capable employees can be retained.

•     In meting out punishment, a good ruler/government should be strict and impartial. If a ruler honours those who are greedy and uncivilised instead of punishing them, he actually sends the wrong message to the people. On the other hand, if a ruler metes out punishment impartially, good moral conduct will prevail and evil will be eliminated. Similarly, if a ruler dismisses a good man, then all good men will lose heart and leave office. These are examples of lower strategy. In the organisational context, while it is important to reward top or star performers, it is also important that we do not condone poor performers and those with bad conduct. At times, it is important to punish one and use him/her as an example to warn the multitudes. In rewarding people, if a ruler profits one person at the expense of a multitude, people will leave the city. On the other hand, if the ruler gets rid of one person and profits the multitudes, people will be loyal.

•     In expanding his territory, the wise ruler will pay equal if not less attention in ensuring internal stability. If a ruler expands his territory without first obtaining internal stability, future generations will suffer and the prosperity will not last. All successes will be short-term and in a matter of time be defeated by others. Similarly, a wise businessman always keeps a balance between internal competency and strength, and external competitive edge. If a business keeps on expanding and growing market share with little regard for improving and developing management capabilities and core competencies, the business will be heading towards disaster.

Overall, Huang ShiGong emphasised on the importance and the benefits of attracting capable people to work for the state. A wise ruler should always exercise caution in managing the capable and the less capable. Rewards and punishments have to be clear and impartial. If a ruler rewards or promotes the wrong person, the entire state will go down the drain. Similarly, in contemporary times, having an incapable leader with a poor management team is the beginning of a major disaster.


Dr Sheh Seow Wah is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the University of South Australia. He is the author of The Humanistic Way: Lessons from Confucius and Mencius, The Strategic Way: Lessons from the Chinese Strategic Thinkers, Chinese Leadership: Moving from Classical to Contemporary, and Wise Leadership: Timeless Wisdom from the Ancient Chinese.


Copyright © 2019 Singapore Institute of Management

Article Found In

Today's Manager Issue 3, 2019

View Issue

Browse Articles

By Topic
By Industry
By Geography