[September 19, 2016] In my entire lifetime there are two books I’ve read more than any other, read more intensively, valued more, and beholden to the wisdom from them. They are the Holy Bible and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. To some these two books would seem to be a contradiction; one of peace, one of war. This observation would, of course, be too simple to ignore. Both are writings of those who had deep insights about people in ordinary and extraordinary circumstances. Both help bring an understanding of the complexities of human interaction to those of us who desire straightforward application of the principles of leadership. Neither uses the term “leadership” but each provides us with sage counsel.
The Holy Bible
For those of us who study leadership and value the wisdom of the writings of those who have made major contributions to understanding people, the Holy Bible is the number one choice. I’ve read the Holy Bible (mostly the New Testament), the Tanakh, the Qur’an, and much of the Tripitaka to help me be a better person and to gain some insight into why humans are the way they are. Perhaps it was my upbringing but I find that reading historically recognized books from major religions provides me with a wealth of understanding that can be gain only elsewhere through experience. There are many translated versions of the Bible and each person has a preference. Reading any of them will begin you on a journey of great value and your time will be rewarded.
The Art of War, Sun Tzu with Thomas Cleary as translator, 2005 (original dating from the 5th Century BC)
Understanding leadership at the most senior level means understanding leadership at all levels of its application. Sun Tzu’s treatise (called a “book” only in its translated form) is the definitive manuscript on the strategy and tactics of war. Yet while its influence has ebbed and flowed throughout the centuries, modern day military and civilian senior leaders have placed its content at the apex of advice; for it is about, ultimately, the human mind and spirit. Translator Cleary’s version of Sun Tzu’s book is one of many editions. I’ve read about 25 translated versions and the one’s I like the best are those that comment various passages from Tzu’s works. Cleary does this and adds a valuable introductory that helps put Tzu into perspective; especially good for the novice reader. Highly recommended. This book should be read many times, dog-eared, written on, and valued for its wisdom.
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