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I recently wrote a book review for Mark McNeilly’s book titled Sun Tzu and the Art of Business: Six Strategic Principles for Managers. Like the original Art of War, it is an excellent leadership book — this time, with a business slant.

It’s a great read for anyone who has struggled wading through Sun Tzu’s The Art of War which is a great book but not such an easy read. McNeilly lists six principles for managers, one of which is character-based leadership.

Maybe it’s because I’m passionate about leadership, but I believe that all business principles ultimately come down to leadership. Any strategy in business will require strong leadership to get them successfully implemented.

The following seven traits/principles are certainly required for a leader to be effective:

1. Share Vision and Purpose.

It is so much easier to lead a team when you know where you are going and why. A leader never loses sight of the goal and shares this vision with the team. Sun Tzu says “He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all it’s ranks.” Be sure that your team members are on board with the vision of your business, it makes it so much easier to implement the mission.

2. Intelligence.

Rather than simply a high score on an IQ test Sun Tzu’s use of the word intelligence refers more to the level of competence a leader displays across the board. How good is your level of understanding of all aspects of your business?  How well do you know, understand and support the people in your organisation?

3. Credibility.

Without question, leadership is based on trust and reliability. If you don’t have the trust of your team or your clients you face an uphill battle to succeed. Do your team know that they can trust you? Do you always follow through?

4. Humaneness.

Respect and empathy goes such a long way in today’s leadership. Gratitude for the contribution your staff makes is also important; they play an important role in your business doing well so it’s worth acknowledging them. Research has shown us that when people feel valued in the workplace, engagement levels increase, staff turnover and sick leave reduces and ultimately productivity and profits rise. It’s also a nice way to behave!

5. Courage.

I remember being very surprised at how widely my blog post ‘Leading with Courage’ was read and shared, it obviously resonates with many. We need to be brave when we lead, we need to recognise opportunities and risks, deal with challenges and make the tough calls. Leadership isn’t for the faint hearted.

6. Discipline.

Sun Tzu says that we should not win by force; it is the same with managing your team. There is no real place for authoritative leadership, a strong moral code is more effectively enforced by the leader adhering to the code themselves. Leading by example will have far more impact on the road to success.

7. Use Your Team Wisely.

A successful leader knows each member of the team, their strengths and weaknesses. Based on this knowledge the leader can choose the right person for each task to increase productivity and job satisfaction.

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