Business Lessons from “The Art of War”

There is a reason why “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu has survived for over a millennium. The secret lies in the values and lessons that are applicable to even this day and age.

The book might be taken as a tactical guide to a war or a battle. But in actuality, it imparts you with knowledge around some critical topics like psychology, planning, leadership, strategy, and entrepreneurship. The book is also helpful in learning some general principles which one can apply in their daily regimen.

Below are some of the excerpts from the book that modern-day workers and entrepreneurs can apply in their daily lives.

We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country — its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps.”

To be an effective leader, it is important to explore the market and the competition. Doing this will give you a clear idea of what you are up against, and also help in putting forward a well-thought plan

“If a general shows confidence in his men but always insists on his orders being obeyed, the gain will be mutual.”

Micromanaging a team can go against the motive of raising team morale. Give your team the freedom to list their ideas. Listen to them and make a collective decision.

“When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.”

Whenever negotiating with a client, make sure to leave them a way out. It is not wise to pressurize them into making a decision that is in your favour. This avoids the development of hostility between you two.

“We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors.”

Trust is an essential component when forming a team. If you cannot rely on someone, there is no point in forming a team with them.

“If those who are sent to draw water begin by drinking themselves, the army is suffering from thirst.”

It is important for employees to focus on team goals rather than individual goals. It is a failure of leadership as well if their objectives don’t match with those of their team.

“The difficulty of tactical maneuvering consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain.”

Life will keep throwing difficult situations at us. It is our duty to handle these situations and turn tragedy into triumph. After all, every cloud has a silver lining.

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”

In between all the chaos and difficulty that a business is facing, there is also the opportunity to learn and do something great. It will prepare you to face the same situation in future with a proper plan in hand.

“Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.”

Treating your employees well is an essential component of a successful business. It is the employees that make a company. When they are happy and satisfied, the business will definitely bloom.

“Great results, can be achieved with small forces.”

Many times it is not required to put the complete workforce behind a certain task. Instead of going down the route of hard work, make smart work your best friend.

“Rewards for good service should not be deferred a single day.”

Rewards and salary bonuses act as motivational factors for the employees. Any delay in these can highly discourage the team members from doing their work diligently.


The Art of War is an extremely rare form of text whose teachings hold true even today. It is not to be seen as a text to help you fight only actual wars, but also business battles.

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