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Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis
How is it that different centuries, different cultures and cultural settings, can produce such similarities of the rules for commanding men?
The historical context for Sun Wu (later called Sun Tzu) is China approximately 350 BC. His works or ‘Bin Fa’ represents the first clearly documented military strategy in oriental history.
Since publication, he has influenced many Emporers in China and Japan, until translation into French where Napolean is said to have tried to follow his strategies. Translation into English enabled US military colleges to prescribe it as a text. Even more recently it has been hailed by business champions the world over.
His strategies are said to have influenced Japan and ultimately found their way into post WWII industrialisation of that country. Application as market strategies by modern Japanese business has been immensely successful. I have always regarded the intrusion of Sony into American culture though purchase of Universal Studios as the ultimate takeover strategy! Buying a majority share holding in your enemy’s popular culture is a wonderful move sending shivers through much of middle USA. It is a supreme victory of the vanquished over the battle. They lost the war but are winning the economic race, shifting the war to their home ground: the industrial market economy. Here they are champions, building from scratch their pride, their infrastructure and their discipline with team work and such vigor that it has taken USA some twenty years to catch up with them again.
Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis
Sun Tzu’s works have clearly proven the cleverness of war strategies even as applied to industry, market and economics. Today, these strategies rule business with unnerving success. Two well accepted paradigms have been broken here, in curious harmony:
1. War Strategies apply very well to business
2. Japanese, the enemy state, own more Hollywood movies than does America; they can lay claim to winning a cultural victory over the USA
Machiavelli on the other hand, wrote during the early sixteenth century, during the Renaissance times of Italy. Deeply affected by the use & misuse of power in the State, imprisoned by a corrupt power of the Medici family, he writes first hand about his experience of power and leadership strategies.
His strategies on war and peace are as insightful & powerful as Sun Tzu’s. He can count amongst his followers, Lee Kuan Yew, Bill Gates & Warren Buffett. Machiavelli realised that war is more common than peace. He tells leaders that if they are not preparing for war then they are likely to be easily defeated.
A brief story will help to throw light on the impact Machiavelli has had in the west.
One of the toughest elite fighting forces in the world is the special operations group of the US Airforce known as the Delta Force. These are the air and land equivalent of the US Navy’s Seals.
Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis
Training and selection for Delta Force involves over two weeks of gruelling physical and mental testing. After marching and living in the jungle for two weeks, sometimes with rations sometimes without, there are just 25% of applicants remaining. These soldiers are then sent on a forty mile long march, under strict time constraints are imposed, where they are deprived of sleep, food rationing is applied and physical endurance is put to the final test. At the end of this stage, the officers amongst them are allowed a shower and are given a copy of a book. The book is Machiavelli’s, The Prince. They take a written and oral examination and have eighteen hours to convince their examiners that they have read and understood Machiavelli and can apply it to the tasks they may face in command. They must demonstrate this capability under deliberately stressful conditions, proving their combat leadership potential.
This paper attempts to take a closer look at each writer: Sun Tzu and Machiavelli comparing their strategies, assumptions and applications to modern business practice. We will consider one text from each writer as a practical focus: Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’ as translated and described by Prof. Wee Et Al. (1991), and Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’, an Oxford University Press edition (1984), translated by Peter Bondanella. Peter is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature & Professor of Film Studies, Italian, & West European Studies at Indiana University, USA where he serves as the Chairman of the Department of West European Studies. This edition is co-authored by Mark Musa, Distinguished Professor of Italian at Indiana University. Other references will be accessed, as they throw light on these two main texts.
Both Sun Tzu and Machiavelli have their respective elements of style, language and language construction. Forms that reflect their authors mind, character and intent. It is very interesting to note the difficulties in translating from both texts due to our inability to
It takes very little time for a fall in business reputation to lead to a decline profit. Like the Chinese characters in Sun Tzu’s works. significantly less so than in the business context. Each of these seem to be reducing with equal measure. It is often said: ‘All is fair in love and war’..] Explaining the misuse of Machiavelli.whether it is business or market.. Moral and ethical behavior is bounded by the ‘local’ context. There is bio-diversity. The time of reaction between reputation and profit are very much shorter in business than in love and war. We rely on the correctness of these translations. these boundaries are more elastic in these two cases only. Renaissance Italian is a multi-level language that is context bound and must be translated carefully to convey they same complexity of meaning intended by the original author. In business. Bondanella points to the difficulty of finding words in the English language to capture the multitude of different meanings of a single word in Italian.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read find words today to match the original works intention. Page 5 . as we shall see. Today we can see and translate principles developed by both Sun Tzu & Machiavelli as guides for both companies and market strategies. They can offer guidance to leaders in business with their own lessons and differences. English does not enable such translations easily. and for both books the translators have had to choose nearest available terms to reflect the apparent intention of the original authors. and cultural diversity as well as linguistic diversity. can carry up to nine different English words depending upon the context. The freedoms of love and war are also context bound. reputation controls influence and profit. national or international. Prof. our human heritage. Virtu. [It seems that we may be facing one more significant deforestation: our language. as an example.
He was also head of the Militia for the Republic of Florence. groomed Machiavelli. He was interested in identifying and developing general rules and principles for the rule of men. and compare them appropriately. Machiavelli had visited and forged strategic agreements with heads of State across Europe & Italy. as they work to define the moral boundaries of war. Lorenzo and his family had the potential to re-unite Italy. State and Nation. Page 6 . Others like the tobacco industry. Moral boundaries vary across nations but remain much closer than practices in (love and) war.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read An example of this right now is to look at the disease ruining the livestock industry in Europe. Nicolo Machiavelli wrote ‘The Prince’ as an application for the position of Chief Strategist to Lorenzo. Monsanto Chemicals and it’s Bhopal Accident or Nike and its overseas manufacturers show direct and rapid links between these two elements in business. This was unique amongst writers of his time. the ousted Florentine Republican State Secretary. So that we can identify apples from oranges. Prince of Italy. Scope of Strategies: Machiavelli It is useful in any comparative analysis to portray both the standing point and the scope of views provided by each strategist. As Son of Piero de Medici. This is also changing today with the rise of war ‘crimes’ tribunals. Soderini. Let’s begin by looking at Machiavelli and The Prince.
Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read During this period. as he observed when the Medici family took power. He observed that the Medici family faced a unique historical opportunity (occasione): to become supreme ruler and commander of a unified Italy. He saw the challenge this opportunity presented to the Medici family. that of commenting on Livy’s History of Rome. state and men by his future prospective employer. From his research there he gained insights into the rise and fall of empires and translated these observations into his contemporary political context. meeting extant capability was indeed historical fortune. He combined this with his first-hand exposure to exile and removal from influence to derive a prescription for mastering nation. Machiavelli wrote ‘The Prince’ after he was expelled from the civil service. a role he held for fifteen years from 1498 to 1512. gaining effective control of the Papal States. Machiavelli notes the benevolence of such fortune (fortuna) & had his own reasons for writing to capitalise upon them. more a collection of independent but related states. He wrote ‘The Prince’ during a break he took from his research for another book. If not its architect then at least its servant. Machiavelli envisioned this opportunity most clearly and sought to become part of it. skill and ingenuity to fulfill (their virtu). sometimes friendly collection of neighboring states. Page 7 . Machiavelli’s vision was a united and strong Italy. Italy was not a unified country. but an interlocking. sometimes enemy. imposing upon their ability. family son Lorenzo had been appointed to the papacy. Such opportunity. Not a federation. He experienced first hand the political practices that arise when heads of state roll. He was in a good position to view first-hand the fall and rise of a new empire in his own state. They had usurped power in Tuscany.
This pragmatic nonidealistic perspective of leadership was against the literary and moral rules of his times. when interpreting and translating original works. Machiavelli seems to challenge the morals of our times with his favor of pragmatism & common logic. Machiavelli tells about power and influence ‘like it is’. Machiavelli proposed a moral outcome: a strong and stable Italy. to become a secure state and nation for the betterment Page 8 . It is tempting to choose selected quotations from the works. Losing intended meaning is as good as plagiarism. Putting the means of political and state advantage towards patriotic ends is seen but not answered by Machiavelli as a righteous goal. plays this game very well to secure a satirical look at Machiavelli's management style. As identified earlier. his impassioned plea to Prince Lorenzo to pursue this cause as a higher ideal than the Prince himself is religious in nature. take them out of their original situation and misinterpret them. The answer to this partly is found in the translation process from Renaissance Italian to English. and could not be accused of being Machiavellian himself! (page xvi). None the less there are distinct moral questions raised as well as overlooked by Machiavelli.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read Importantly. Even today. his interest in becoming architect of Italian reform. Bondella (1984) notes that Machiavelli was most unlike his prescription for success. misuse of translation can reflect the translator’s intent more strongly than the original authors works. Author Stanley Bing in his book “What Would Machiavelli do? The ends justify the meanness”(2000). one who could repel attacks from within and outside it. Many have quoted him as saying ‘the ends justify the means’. however pragmatism is rather more clearly portrayed by Machiavelli as the most efficient and least harmful way to reach a strong and stable internal state.
changing as little as required to meet new events. unused to strong rule by one person. He aims his pragmatism at a morally justifiable social outcome for his country. He defines two types of acquisition of states: inheritance or by force using either one’s own or someone else’s forces. II Hereditary Principalities Places used to rule by one prince are easier to acquire and maintain. Machiavelli’s strategies can be grouped together into chapters. moral outcomes are intended and not overlooked by Machiavelli. A summary of these chapters and their strategies follows: I How many kinds of Principalities (states ruled by Prince) are there & the Ways They are Acquired Machiavelli identifies two types of states: those under rule by Prince and are used to being subjects. There are twenty-six of these chapters covering all of the preparations and principles needed for effective success at winning and sustaining Head of State & Nation. In short. Machiavelli’s Strategies in ‘The Prince’ Like Sun Tzu. These principles and strategies explained below can equally be applied to modern business. and either direct entry or piggy backing on someone else’s position in the market). we can define two types of market acquisition: take over of a market as a competitor leaves for some reason. equivalent to inheritance. Loyalty will more likely Page 9 . by adhering to the previous culture.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read of members within. or in Microsoft by Bill Gates. (In business. We might observe a similar intent and result for the Republic of Singapore through Lee Kuan Yew. & a republic.
(I can see many applications of this in company mergers and acquisitions. If this is the case the usurper can just eliminate the family of the previous ruler leaving the people alone to get together. capturing the Page 10 . its uniqueness can be lost in the annals of time. who took us (Morgan & Banks) over recently. My current employer TMP Worldwide. III On Mixed Principalities Change of ruler is problematic because those taken over must switch loyalty.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read follow a benevolent situation arising from long term singular princely rule. it is necessary to have a strong presence (The Prince himself) to live in the new place and provide direct means to issue resolution. and province in taxes & protection as well loss of opportunity. the easier they are to acquire and maintain. Use controls to remove the possibility for revenge. They ruled from the bottom up. home state. Place colonies of the home state staff into the new territory in dispersed areas so as to diminish the local strength and save the cost of maintaining an army there. has left the local management and systems intact. In the case of very dissimilar places in terms of customs. Common customs and laws can overcome differences in language. The closer the culture and values of the two states. Rebellion may follow. Use the weaker locals to support the stronger colonists as the Romans did effectively building control across Europe by blocking other foreign powers. with very few changes made. This will lead to loyalty and control. and detect & resolve trouble early. whereas the overriding quality of rule will be preserved in people’s minds. Both your own staff and the locals will suffer injury in the new order. Keeping an army outstationed injures everyone. consequently there is little impact on existing loyalty) Where innovation or change occurs.
both of which threaten the one who has claimed power. Anyone who is the cause of another’s becoming powerful comes to ruin himself. They failed to enable them to take charge in their local markets. then controlling entry to the market through their ‘gateways’ and subject to their rules. Each major decision had to go back to HQ and follow the company line. company integration from merger or acquisition. to detect such movement early. (This speaks to us of many important principles underlying change management. Time can weaken a states resolve and an army’s strength. so that choosing to fight a battle today is better than putting it off until tomorrow. They were unable to manage under disparate local conditions. occupied by Alexander. Thomson Yaohan and Sogo both Japanese retailers have collapsed from failures in international management practice. did not rebel against his successors after the Death of Alexander There are two kinds of Princely leadership strategies of State: The Leader and his authorised ministers (Such as the King in Thailand) or The Leader and separate regional leaders who choose to follow the Leader. because that power is the result either of cunning or force. neither moving fast enough or appropriately to meet local market needs. Having wide spread of colonists and good communications is essential to hear about competition or the threat of war. Page 11 . Spread these assets as far as possible.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read ‘market’ first. These companies placed senior managers from Japan HQ into senior positions in their regional operations. but may rule with their own law.) IV Why the Kingdom of Darius. and succession planning.
Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read Acquiring the first is more difficult since the Prince can command the whole States forces at once. different situations give rise to different experiences and requirements for acquiring and maintaining power. Not always liked. keeping and ruling the second is harder since the laws and practices of many must change.) Page 12 . but always respected as a decision-maker and perspective setter. the rest will follow. Desire to change will exist in the diverse situation of the second making winning easier to reach but unification much harder as there are many more factions to satisfy. (Perhaps the longest surviving leader in business in the USA is Jack Welch of General Electric. In summary. Maintaining the first is easier since they all follow one law and one rule. Identifying your situation and adapting to these requirements is vital for success. he has been able to continue to re-design his company to meet the changing market expectations for his products and services. He has always sought and gained the respect of his subordinates and his employees. Acquiring the second is easier since once the influential are subdued.
more bureaucratic and authoritarian managers ignore this at their peril. Loyalty provides better control than externally delivered rule by obedience or external discipline. Essentially there are two motivators here. must be either destroyed or occupied so as to maintain loyalty. third is to allow them freedom under your protection paying taxes to you and allowing friendly self-governance. used to self-government. (Just as Sun Tzu says!) Republics..) VI On new Principalities Acquired by one’s own Arms & Skill Introducing a new order of things takes the most skills and ingenuity. second is to occupy them personally. Men are by their nature sceptical unless by first hand experience they can be influenced.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis V John Read How Cities or Principalities should be Governed that lived by their own laws before they were Occupied There are three methods for holding states who were subject to their own laws and customs previously: first is to destroy them. those who support change will only be lukewarm to the risk of new profit. Machiavelli shows us the importance of emotional attachment at work. and speaks to us about the psychological contract there. that rice bowl and pay are insufficient reason to come to work. but interestingly. Most modern management theories subscribe to the same principle. This is more sound than external discipline enforcement.loyalty or obedience. Both writers give building loyalty as a basic tenet of leader-follower relationships. Machiavelli would advise them to build their staff’s loyalty to secure a more permanent relationship. (Like Sun Tzu. since all those under the old scheme will suffer injury. Page 13 ..
imitating their successful strategies can provide a guide to future courses of action. Each authority you place in a subordinate position can rise to overthrow you. unarmed it will whither and die naturally and quickly. A skilled leader will already be recognised and therefore has little extra to do to maintain his position. creating allies. means of transferring control. Page 14 . Learning from their mistakes can prevent you from becoming redundant or getting eliminated. The fortunate Leader may also be cursed. Significant resources are put from the top to the bottom at this company to keep innovation happening) VII On New Principalities Acquired with the arms of Others & by Fortune Becoming a leader by skill or fortune creates different challenges for maintaining that position. building support and proving his followers that he can sustain them.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read Innovation therefore requires support to become successful in the long term. 3M Company derive 25% of their profit and revenue from new products. We know that building the case for change is crucial to its success. Matching your strategy to a good analysis of the situation (state value and character – customs. he will have to do much work to maintain his position. (These two principles are reflected in everyday corporate life. Men do harm out of fear or hatred. state ownership. drive innovation through continuous programming across the company. Their memory cannot be bought over. Following the good example set by others. and it takes more time and effort than the original scheme of things took to secure. methods of supervision and ultimate goal will all direct the leaders choice of strategy). so be careful to anticipate this and build other measures or structures to counter this. and do not forget old injuries.
) John Read VIII On those who have become Princes through Wickedness Machiavelli clearly distinguishes power from glory. loyalty can be transacted but there are rules such as those defined here by Machiavelli). He cites Agathocles the Sicilian as an example. Evil must be delivered quickly and the benefits won savored long so as to justify the action. when you come to bring evil to account. and this is not enough to become classified as a great leader. in business and in corporate life. (I guess it depends on whom you ask. But at such a price and inhumanity as to be regarded and judged as evil rather than excellent. Evil can be used but must be brought back to account. in markets. Great corporate leaders are judged by their effectiveness in the share market as well as their people orientation by their employees and managers. Consequently it must be concluded that it was done for selfish reasons alone. according to Machiavelli.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis (These points speak to both corporate and market behavior. He then resisted the Catharginians several times securing the people’s safety. IX On the Civil Principality Page 15 . He clearly defines the limits of pragmatism as being bounded within religious and moral codes. There are always winners and losers. otherwise it will destroy the user as any addiction might. He states that gaining power by doing evil can never lead to glory. none of which Agathocles abided by. Great companies are judged very pragmatically by the market. who by killing the people who put him in power secured the people to him.
People get paid. since they are needed in times of attack.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read Leaders can arise by appointment. Relying on ministers or other officials can be a problem in times of attack. varying as they do with each situation. Maintaining credibility. The rules for gaining loyalty of each group and individual will necessarily vary. they don’t want to be oppressed. Balancing these two powers may give rise to a leader nominated from either party. Securing that loyalty remains the best foundation of strength for an excellent leader. This principle has driven companies and governments alike to support People Development programs. by either from the people or the nobility. and not fear. Maintaining loyalty between a Prince and his subjects is essential for effective leadership. but not against the people since they are many. Yet this is not enough. To defend against hostile nobles or subordinates one must nurture those who are loyal and eliminate those with loyalty ties elsewhere. and has never been enough to sustain loyalty. Machiavelli notes that a Prince can defend against hostile nobles since they are few. Winning the heart of the people is essential in all cases. Simply. depending which has the opportunity to choose. and the case for ‘need’ by employees for their leader. since mobilisation can take too long or even be refused. (Realising loyalty counts for effective leadership seems somehow opposite to the pragmatic viewpoint. Machiavelli has in mind the many common folk and businesses that flourish under a benevolent Prince. so they should just do their job. do what they are instructed. There are no fixed rules for gaining the people’s loyalty. will help to secure their cooperation in times of crises) Page 16 .
acquiring territories and expanding its influence. XI On Ecclesiastical Principalities These are territories governed by the Church. The Princes in these places are subjugated to the Church. A Prince who has no enemies in the people. relying on the walls of the city and their defensive position to maintain security. Machiavelli Page 17 . In the business environment these territories equate to marketplaces. especially the CEO. employing normal war and combat strategies. paying part of the price gives way to a willingness to continue to support the initial investment made until the transaction is completed. The Church can spread its power through these Princes by providing them with much needed funds and resources. (A good business example of this is the favored monopolies of Coca Cola or Walt Disney. This way the Prince can serve the ends of the Church but be removed from the Church. The prince translates to a business leader.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis X How Strength of All Principalities Should be Measured John Read There are two types of defence capabilities: those who can call upon and command an army to defend themselves in most battles. and those who cannot. (Market leaders create loyalty and will find it easier to keep it than those going in second or third. This way the Church can act though it was a ruler. resistance to change plus the wish to collect against the investment back deepens loyalty over time). by reputation they are virtually untouchable. Giving loyalty also creates obligation by those who give it even after they experience a loss. their different situations and conditions. cover the types of territories. can hold a secure territory against most insurgents. The chapters so far above from Machiavelli. and how difficult these two are as competitors for anyone trying to enter their markets).
A Prince who claims to lead cannot do so without respect of his soldiers (like the looming position in Indonesia again). They are strong in public but weak in battle. Page 18 . (I trust that Machiavelli doesn’t put consultants into the category of mercenaries. and thus presenting a strong face to the outside world. He uses Switzerland as a fine example of a country comprising inner strength in defense and armory.. XII On the various Kinds of Troops & Mercenary Soldiers Machiavelli notes that armies of mercenaries are a very poor choice of defence. to discuss the troops and special forces required to enable offensive and defensive moves to be made. Once they win for you.. So they cannot be relied upon at all to be loyal or successful. indeed war. They always seek to runaway to fight again another day. with those comprised of other peoples troops also more likely to change positions to their advantage rather than yours. Mixed and Citizen Soldiers Time and again Machiavelli cites examples from Italian. you become their prisoner.) XIII On Auxiliary. I guess that he makes keen observations about using contractors for core processes in your business. as his sole profession.that is their business. XIV A Prince’s Duty concerning Military Matters Machiavelli deduced that the leader or Prince must take up defence. Roman and European history to show that troops composed of citizens were the most loyal.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read moves on in the next series of chapters. Means to assemble such a force are easy when the citizens believe in the cause (not someone else’s war unaffecting your own territory) and are loyal to their Prince. whose loyalty is more acutely focussed elsewhere and not to you. Neglect of this art is the primary reason for the fall of states. This he gains through knowledge and practice of the arts of war.
but it appears quite true to say that in Ancient China they practiced this and still do today to a great extent. as a life-long learning matter.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read Machiavelli knows that good fortune greets the prepared mind and ill fortune is conquered by the equally prepared mind. Your people and your troops will respect you. Machiavelli deals with the methods and procedures for handling subjects and friends. practiced if they lead to his safety and wellbeing. penetrable by anyone from anywhere). reachable. There is remarkable similarity between the two schools of behavior. (In the global markets of today one can say that the new battlefield is the internet. To sharpen your wits and hone them on the experience of others who were great before you is a mark of self respect as well as respect for others. for your applications in this regard.”(p52) The aim of the Prince must be his survival. and to use this knowledge or not to use it according to necessity. Machiavelli advises his Prince to take up study of others war and combat strategies. His primary rule here is pragmatism. XV On those things for which men. To quote him: “Hence it is necessary for a Prince who wishes to maintain his position to learn how not to be good. by his Prince. (One might balk here at the callous nature of this proposition. Virtue and vices are measured against this standard. and particularly Princes. He advises that imitation is a survival strategy that relies on knowledge of past history and success in battles.) Page 19 . the new markets are global ones. rejected if they lead to his downfall. Any Prince should not ignore practising the art of war. Observing differences in current conditions also remains paramount. are praised or blamed.
if it leads to destruction of the state. this cannot be achieved by goodwill or good actions all the time. but fear remains and cannot be shaken off. overspending and ruin. He disdains it in favor of effective preparations for war. Avoid this at all costs. securing and maintaining the State. deceivers. for defence. Machiavelli notes that fear of punishment is stronger than love. The Prince has a role to play. Once you start you cannot suddenly stop. and whether it is better to be feared or the contrary Machiavelli realistically notes that it may be necessary to show some signs or examples of mercy to prevent greater loss and misery. Remember. Men will turn upon you unless it is also to their advantage to stay with you. since love is held together by a chain of obligation that can be broken when it suits. Ingratious. and for enterprises that will build his state. Page 20 . New states once occupied must be cruel to implement change but he must always seek to be merciful rather than cruel. he explains by looking at the course and records of European history. Hatred in men is the major cause of a leader’s downfall. So says everyone but Machiavelli! He knows that it can lead to loss of resources. Machiavelli quickly identifies the path to hatred from generosity for a Prince. Examples enable loyalty and unity to be strengthened. In answer to the question is it better to be loved or feared he states that it better to be both! If the Prince can only have one. XVII On cruelty and mercy. unmet expectations will lead to despite and then hatred. these are the characteristics of all men. it is better to be feared. but yet balance this with the need to be effective. chameleons and advantage takers.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis XVI On Generosity and Miserliness John Read Generosity is a virtue. then it cannot be held up as a virtue.
The Prince must be flexible of Page 21 . perhaps only because the exigencies of war and combat require much higher forms of loyalty than does business or employment. He must learn to appeal to and use both strengths. All government industries use this strategy to first dominate and then control the market by dividing it up themselves. It was fear that drove that loyalty. Machiavelli cleverly notes the difference between using such deception every time and appearing to have this power but not always using it. He must be like the lion. (One might say that this does translate into business in several ways: leadership of the market through fear of the competition is a seriously useful strategy. There are alternatives in employment. half-horse teaches a great ruler. seems to require a longer bow. Applying this to employees say. Pragmatism rules here. Sounds like a Chinese saying…can you think of one dear reader? Machiavelli notes that the Centaur. half-man.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read Fear can breed hatred and thus must be delivered carefully.) XVIII How should a Prince Keep his Word? It is here that Machiavelli transcends loyalty and identifies the highest form of leadership: “one sees from the experience of our times that the princes who have accomplished great deeds are those who have cared little for keeping promises and who have known how to manipulate the minds of men by shrewdness” (p58). He cites Hannibal as one clear example of the ability of fear to bring together different groups of soldiers from many different states and bind them together so strongly that he could accomplish so much through their loyalty. keeping your word is subject to advantage or disadvantage created. but like the fox who can detect the traps. ready to frighten the wolves.
faithfullness. But that any of these is subject to the situation. He confirms five virtues: mercy.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read strategy according to the needs of the situation and such as affairs require him to act. the few will change. Creation of the parliament in France is a good example of creating suitable structures to deal with various needs and demands from both nobleman and people. Machiavelli notes that if the ruler finds his people unarmed. kindness and religion. is a singularly important goal for any prince. The many will judge. He will immediately win their loyalty and support. He can use the love and loyalty of the people to drive fear into his enemy’s hearts and minds. These separate structures reflect a similar strategy as that of Machiavelli. Companies create bureaucracies to keep the management tasks and employee tasks separate. blind imitation is as deadly as the failure to avoid old mistakes. XX On whether fortresses and many things that Princes employ every day are useful or harmful Covering the crucial rules here. Keeping the common people contented and the nobleman too if there any. then he should arm them. so that what the Prince does will be assessed by the many people rather than the few nobles or others. and then create focus groups to bring their customers into the company. XIX On Avoiding Being Despised and Hated These are important leadership qualities for a Prince to use to secure his tenure. And the final result is the standard always. of Page 22 . integrity. So do Boards and Executive committee’s of companies. He notes that in imitating others traits or strategies a leader should be careful to use only what the situation needs and no more. Did it work to preserve and secure or did it lead to disaster and loss. In this way the market and to a certain extent the employees of a company and a nation have greater power than the shareholders. He can use success to build alliances externally as well as protect himself internally.
He discusses the idea of divide and conquering. Problems of power sharing. so use those you have armed to influence those who are not. rather than apparent friends on the inside. He suggests that it may be better to create opportunities for the Prince to demonstrate his leadership by crafting an hostility and defeating it. Then it can become news that brings friends together and warring parties into a common perspective about their leader. Those who change allegiance due to earlier dissatisfaction will be hardest to build loyalty with. is full of stories of new armies created this way as a means of securing loyalty trust and support. He notes that fortresses are good for his people whom he is more afraid of than foreigners are. When taking over a neighboring state. Page 23 . it will be necessary to disarm that state and secure it using your own forces kept near to your home. whereas not having fortresses is best when he has the love of the people. have been used by Princes for their good. It is better to build loyalty from his enemy’s people. and controlling these individuals can be significant disadvantages. He notes suspect people in power.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read course you cannot arm them all. the occupying peoples. History. This has interesting implications for succession planning and hiring and promotion decisions that are most frequently made from those we like. XXI How a Prince Should Act to Acquire Esteem Great undertakings and examples of unusual talent are clearly effective ways to demonstrate leadership and gain esteem. Another principle he cites from his historical observation is that using fortresses to protect people is also circumstantial. he cites. He concludes that this tactic is entirely circumstantial. advising us that it never works in the longer term since divided houses or states cannot be ruled. but it does not always work.
He notes that this is a choice and not an obligation. (This might be translated into efforts like corporate sponsorship. unlike joining the winning side – this situation just creates obligation not friendship or loyalty. Maintaining the dignity of his position over and above everything will win hearts and minds of the people. Page 24 . keeping his subjects busy with one or another whilst he makes moves in another still. These acts of leadership show love for the people as well for their talent. Look at the co-advisers and judge the intelligence of the adviser by his choice. stating to everyone what they are helps everyone to be happier. Being clear about his allegiances. If the adviser thinks more about himself than you then you and he are doomed.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read This may include grand schemes to overthrow other lands (markets). You will never be able to trust him. Aid from friends is only possible when you are clear to them that you remain only their friends. Rewarding talent and moderating taxes is an important strategy for a prince. Remaining neutral is mostly a poor strategy. nor his advice. unless like Switzerland. Helping all the while to celebrate special events…just like the mosaic culture here in Singapore. Being as good a friend as you are enemy clears everyone’s mind about your stance. or building champions in the public service through special award events). operating in different spheres. XXII On the Prince’s Private Advisers Advisers can be judged by their co-advisers. Going down with a friend is a stronger position to rise up from than going down alone with no allies. Making grand events of local good or evil will also impress the masses. Creating winning streaks as he proceeds. every one knows how well equipped you are and does not dare to move against you.
Act on their feedback and demonstrate that you have listened. such that staff will open up to you and tell you the truth. and not otherwise. Forgetting the rain in good times as Machiavelli says. Preparing for war is the most important task in peace times apart from building the people. Express decisions firmly once made and do not change them. Good deeds build better loyalty than simple inheritance does. The Prince must be able to tell what is good advice and what is not. and then if you defend but do not build eventually you will have nothing worth defending. And losing by escape when all else fails. Do not overwhelm him in reward or duties. at their mercy. XXIV Why Italian Princes Have Lost their States Newly arrived leaders are much more closely watched than existing ones. such that there is no room left for falsehoods such as flattery. honor them and share responsibilities with them. Wee). rather let him perform so that he can also manage when changes come. Since it does not use your own resources but makes you dependent upon others. Idleness in peaceful times is a strategic loss of opportunity. He must seek counsel when he needs it. is a common failure in Princes. If you build and cannot defend. otherwise he will not last long. Demonstrate your listening skills well. Page 25 . (An interesting interpretation of Strategy 36 of the 36 Strategies also by Prof. put them in your debt. Not making hay while the sun shines is the reason that most states were taken. so that performing well creates opportunity to build the strongest form of support. reward them well. may be the only means but it can also be fruitless. all is lost.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read For good advisers. XXIII On How to Avoid Flatterers Teach your advisers and subordinates to tell you the truth.
” (p. risk-taking over caution is preferred because fortune is a woman who must be subdued. and arms are sacred when there is no hope except through arms. Our expectations of business Page 26 . two men. 81) This cautions all in business to be careful about alliances. like chance it always meets the prepared better than the unprepared.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read To quote Machiavelli on this matter: “And those methods alone are good. that depend on yourself and your own ingenuity. For two men who use the same strategy. He cites Livy’s historical works as follows: “Only those wars that are necessary are just. are certain. are lasting. XXV On Fortune’s Role in Human Affairs & How She Can Be Dealt With Living as if there was only fortune will lead to loss of state and dominion. Living as if matters can be influenced and controlled prepares one for events precipitated by fortune. one of who uses good strategies prospers and one who uses evil strategies and prospers depending on the times and conditions prevailing. partnerships and similar structures that involve sharing of ownership and responsibility by leaders and their teams. XXVI An Exhortation to Liberate Italy from the Barbarians In this final chapter Machiavelli uses all of his earlier principles to show how Italy should be liberated from the various regional states and their rulers that currently occupy them. As a general trend. Acting in tune with his times is a better strategy than not doing so. either of these is influenced by fortune and can be met with preparations.” These exhortations seem to have only minor application to the business world since the boundaries of war are so much vaster than that of business. Equally. Whether natural or man-made events. She is fickle. But adapting to the changing conditions and times is the superior strategy. one can reach and the other does not.
preparing for war. know the weather.3) Supporting these principles. including secrecy and deception are important tools for leaders 5. War is more common than times of peace. fire. Sun Tzu recommends tactics that involve two or more rings up to five for best military effect: ground. Let’s move now to Sun Tzu’s ‘Bin Fa’. One can better see now the origins of Machiavelli’s works.” (p. and your victory will be complete. Business is subject to the written laws. at the ballot box or in the marketplace are likely to be defeated 3. Their scope and application to business cases especially to leadership has been pursued by a number of writers. defining his case this way: “Know your enemy.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read are more clearly defined and more widely communicated. Know the terrain. wind and void. He has written a complete set of instructions for military success. Preparing and inspiring new leaders to meet the challenges arising is a noble and important act. since this has widest impact on the largest number of people. and your victory will not be threatened. on the battlefield. at least at this point in history. about leading men and applications to modern business and politics. Communication. He identifies the following key messages for leaders today: 1. Together with rules for deception. Michael Leeden (1999) identifies many useful messages and rules about the nature of man. know yourself. Scope of Strategies: Sun Tzu Here we can place Sun Tzu in his context as the greatest oriental military strategist ever. Loyalty is necessary for motivation in an age where choice is enabled 2. war is less so. use of surprise and much more that we shall review briefly here reflect a Page 27 . water. Luck favors the prepared and the skillful 4.
Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read much more detailed treatise on military strategy than Machiavelli has produced. such as can be explored in this short work. They are similar in many ways to the rules of engagement by Sun Tzu. His focus however is more detailed and complete as it addresses the steps to winning wars. Machiavelli has another work also titled “Art of War”. and complete like comparing an encyclopedia or complete workshop manual with a novel. He goes on to advise on how to prepare for war in detail. Sun Tzu equally states that knowledge of and preparing for war are essential survival tasks. like Machiavelli does. that each leader or Governor must either be busy consolidating his territory or preparing to expand into new territories. None the less Machiavelli has many serious points to make about human nature and leadership survival that are useful and fundamentally important. It may even be speculated as to the possible links between this work and Sun Tzu’s! ‘The Prince’ however is not directly aimed at encompassing exact prescriptions for war making. equally applicable in the market as on the battlefield. I am interested here about lessons in principle and their application to business. Sun Tzu’s Strategies in ‘Sun Tzu: War and Management’ In this book he begins by defining a sequential process for choosing your battle strategy: • • • • • Situational Strategy Formulation of Goals and Strategies Evaluation of Strategies Implementation of Strategies Strategic Controls Sun Tzu notes. from both writers. At this point it is worthy to note one limitation of this comparison between these two books. I find Sun Tzu’s works much more thorough. So far we see Page 28 .
Like the distinction between the owner of the company or Chairman of the Board versus the Chief Executive. and thus secure the hearts minds and hands of the organisation. These mirror both the writers who equally tell us of the importance of building loyalty first and discipline second. They build a foundation of trust between the leader and his followers. Sun Tzu notes five critical competencies for a general: wisdom. In business we face many instances where the battlefront is quite remote from the headquarters. Wee collapses these into eight categories. benevolence. I have left this true to the original perspective put by Sun Tzu. where the local markets are very different from the home-base market. For Sun Tzu these roles are performed by different people with different perspectives and distance from the ‘front’ of the battle. In these cases we must behave like the general in Sun Tzu or like the Prince in Machiavelli where these both have strategies for the battlefront. This provides us with a clear distinction with Machiavelli’s work.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read many more convergences in principle. at different times! Sun Tzu identifies that all of these must be assessed when planning military strategy: 7 Dimensions 5 Factors Moral influence Climate Terrain Generalship Doctrine Moral Influence of Ruler Ability of General Advantages of Climate & Terrain Execution of Laws & instructions Numerical strength of troops Training of officers & men Administration of rewards & punishment Prof. courage and strictness. by overlapping various common issues. Page 29 . Machiavelli is addressing his remarks to the single leader as Head of State. and not for the Emperor. The generation of principles and their application to different levels of people are separated by Sun Tzu. sincerity. a remarkable result from such different branches of human history and geography. In ‘The Prince’. This post is seen to be a leader of the battle front or general as well as the figurehead or Emperor role. to show his deliberate separation of these aspects.
Many of my friends in the insurance sector suffered losses in Indonesia due to the economic crisis. China is a very good example and so are India. political cycles – regulations. economic cycles – currency. and equally define the standard of command. Indonesia and many other SEA countries with changing conditions and constraints imposed within their borders to business. We must consider the business cycles that operate in our domains where we operate. security and favoritism. and how the context can determine to a large extent. the strategy used. The terrain is both the physical location of business. This is his situational strategy. Sun Tzu is speaking to us of change management. including influence of the internet. but there is much more to learn about the situation from Sun Tzu. their exposures being very large to property and other classes of insurance risk there. fixing or enabling more or less mobility for the company. sources of supply for labor. competition and industrial cycles. Machiavelli argues that organisation has several rules derived from the many battles of history that he has researched. inflation. The law of doctrine is of importance to business management. responding to changing situations. These are all very important external factors that any CEO must respond to and strategise around. of acting in response to changes and acting with clear intent. Many management gurus argue that structure should follow strategy. taxation and output. Usefully and in a very up to date way. technology – rise and fall of various technologies. management talent.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read They create a moral relationship between these two parties. There are many of relevance to a business: market cycles – rise and fall in demand. It is a fundamental one: organisation and structure. It also defines the competition. Advisers are given certain roles and limits on their Page 30 . and all other resource requirements needed by the business. Both writers declare the importance of opportunity created within a suitable context.
Sun Tzu is also clever enough to identify the importance of playing to strengths in business as on the battlefield. Sun Tzu sees the primary role of organisation is to enable battle strategy to be effectively implemented. mobility. Military are best ruled with a strong heart and a strong and decisive will. capability and reach that create artificial monopolies. if you are not in war then you had better be preparing for war. Napolean was a cut-throat and although he won many Page 31 . 27. Discipline is the controller of operations. This aspect is not so well explored or defined in The Prince by Machiavelli. but is mentioned in relation to developing local nobleman. training determines readiness. He notes that “order and disorder depend on organisation”. equipment and resources. Nobleman are managed differently from the masses whose concern is primarily free trade and a full rice bowl. It can be through any number of men. He also saw. that people development is vital investment in the future of security of a territory. as Sun Tzu did. In terms of business as in an army. quick yet not cut throat. but effective. My own employer TMP Worldwide who own Monster. There are many examples of economies of scale. local soldiers and local business men their capabilities to perform to advantage to the Prince. It must be benevolent. now a problem for this company. the principles remain the same. as with Machiavelli. he says. then they will soon defeat you.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read behaviors. methods of signalling and assignment of responsibilities such that the strategy can be implemented. He defines organisation as creating a system of rank. technology. Sometimes for the good such as Microsoft before the antitrust case in the USA. Strong yet soft. and even simple properties such as size and reach (wide or deep into markets).com has 50% of the internet jobs market and can wipe out the competition by sheer volume. In business if you are not equipping yourself to beat the competition.000 other competitors share the other 50% market share! Training as an essential part of military doctrine has its direct equivalent in business. He defines strengths to encompass: capability.
Like Machiavelli in The Prince. to simple disciplinary procedures. From the number of businesses going out of business. Sun Tzu promotes non-war alternatives too: prepare & strengthen defenses. as well as to the conditions stated above. as well as reducing the need for the other side to wage war against you by building alliances with others whom will exert their influence on your competition for you. Sun Tzu proposes that strategy is responsive to the competitor. Page 32 . Machiavelli advises that better non-war strategies include posting your representatives to live amongst the locals and influence them. and avoid being wiped out. Using reward and punishment systems in business is a major lever towards directing behavior in a company. strong assurance of victory. these rules are not followed very often. He clearly states that war in not a desirable option. values and goals of the company ties the company to its market more effectively than one who doesn’t practice such integration of systems. on price products or services or any other aspect of your business is frought with dangers. Ensuring alignment as I have discussed here is fully supported by both Machiavelli and Sun Tzu. & consolidate resources. The final concern of Sun Tzu is the desirability of war. the last resort when other options have been tried and failed. He defines necessary parameters for war to be justified as a move: definite advantages over the enemy. a short term solution to both strategists. going head to head with the competition. noted by both writers about effective leadership and management. Matching these systems to then strategy.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read battles. he motivated through fear. From effective corporate governance systems to compensation and benefits. In business. They are put forward as primary drivers of effective strategy for any company. It is often said that systems drive behavior. these are all-important aspects of managing an organisation. and you have an invincible defence. Following these rules will help to minimise your exposure to loss.
as conceived by Prof. (1991) Each one of these components is related to the same function in the business context by the authors. The total picture is as follows: Situational Appraisal Formulation of Goals & Strategies Evaluation of Strategies Implementation of Strategies Strategic Controls Wee Et. Page 33 . Wee Et. Al. Al. There are four more stages used by these authors to put Sun Tzu’s work into a more understandable and logical format.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read We have scoped the first element in the ‘model’ of Sun Tzu’s Art of War.
as well as many actual case histories to show the application of their model and the fit of the Arts of War to modern business management. of waging and winning wars on the battlefield as well as in the boardroom and marketplace is clearly demonstrated by these two sources. in some remote African tribes or Papua New Guinean highlanders. Page 34 . We have shown and seen such remarkable similarities between the two divergent sources of strategy for surviving. This very same strategy is adopted by Michael Ledeen. Like Sun Tzu and Machiavelli both advise. Loyalty derived from engaging the hearts of people. It is unnecessary to do otherwise except in special circumstances. Allowing for some license within this restructuring. My experience is that the principles are the same but the context changes and therefore delivery must be also be changed to fit.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read For example. Machiavelli has written a plea for action to the head of State. both books: The Prince by Machiavelli and Sun Tzu’s Art of War provide us with strongly similar perspectives about management and leadership. However these seemingly diverse sources of learning represented by Machiavelli and Sun Tzu suggest that universality is stronger than particularism when it comes to strategic management and leadership.SWOT. and give him rules of action or a series of success strategies. looking at the culture (social terrain) and norms of those you need as troops is fundamental to successful management. Boston Consulting Group product portfolio matrix. the authors cite these approaches . Clearly the two texts are very different in their purpose. wining battles and prospering. brings untold rewards and benefits to any leader. author of ‘Machiavelli on Modern Leadership’ to update and apply older material to today’s business and management context. One can conceive of still more variety in human interactions and expectations say. The universality of managing and leading human beings. Summary and Recommendations This has been only a preliminary analysis.
these sources need to examined and will provide even greater depth of analysis for the researcher. as a leader. Sun Tzu’s work is much more detailed. dealing with neighboring states. That two such different cultural and epistemological sources can produce such similar findings is truly another wonder of our world! Page 35 . focused on identifying the rules of engagement on the battlefield. In future it would be wonderful to see even more comparative analysis in this domain. papers and even a title called Art of War in 1516. doing battle. management and corporate strategy. This too can add more to our collective understanding of the universal principals of leadership. and surviving the nature of man. Wee Et Al have done great work to translate this into the boardroom using analogy between the marketplace and the battlefield. Since Machiavelli published many other letters. Secondly we need more work on the earlier records of battle across Europe.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read They do cover overlapping ground with Sun Tzu in areas of substance including principles of loyalty. More accurate comparison could be made between both author’s works about war. including Livy’s historical analysis of Ancient Rome. Prof.
A.. (2000) ‘The Ruthless Leader: Three Classics of Strategy and Power’ John Wiley & Sons NY Sui Yun & Wang Xuanming (1998) ‘Sunzi’s Art of War: Worlds Most famous Military Classic’ Asiapac Publication Singapore Wee C.S.H. & Musa M. Lee K. (2000) ‘What Would Machiavelli do? The ends justifies the meanness’ HarperCollins Books NY Bondanella P.W.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis References John Read Bing S. (1991) ‘Sun Tzu: War and Management: application to strategic management and thinking’ Addison-Wesley Publishers Ltd APPENDICES: 1. Business & Political Cases: Comments from Sun Tzu & Machiavelli Page 36 . (1999) ‘Machiavelli on modern Leadership: Why Machiavelli’s Iron Rules are as timely and important today as five centuries ago’ Truman Talley Books NY McAlpine A.. (1984) ‘The Prince’ Oxford University Press UK Leeden M.. Detailed Comparative Analysis of Sun Tzu and Machiavelli 2. Hidajat B.
Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read Appendix 1: Detailed Comparative Analysis of Sun Tzu and Machiavelli Page 37 .
fully held by leader MACHIAVELLI 1. lead in defence too Page 38 . supply and distribution channels and use them From this perspective let’s compare Sun Tzu and Machiavelli against different management and leadership issues. Differentiate and lead in offence. boardrooms (war for control & dominance of perspective etc • • Win/lose doesn’t happen amongst competitors Take others customers. Responsibility is to outcome & people. Must always clear conscience. Loyalty is the best motivator. locations (regions. global versus local. Principles apply equally to war & business leadership Know yourself & know your enemy are two common principles to both 2. Loyalty to people is natural defence of 3. Responsibility is to survival = people & self 2. give prepare for war loyalty & build loyalty 4. labor market (war for talent). All moves must be of troops planned 3. Detailed Comparative Analysis of Sun Tzu and Machiavelli Nature of War: • • • win – lose take others resources and pilfer them overcome ground/territory. loyalty & focus. John Read Business is a battleground: • Ground/territory = marketplace (war for marketshare). build it COMMENT They share the same principles of leadership. SUN TZU Leadership 1.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis 1. Must constantly prepare for war even just by building defenses 4. strategic positions). Esp. not Ruler.
learn from histories success & failures too. & enlightened 2.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read SUN TZU 5. Must seize opportunity & meet it with capability 3. building & maintaining loyalty Same here too! 1. Allocate clear roles establish clear goals & to hold ground strategies to achieve them 3. Establish good behavior. Leader is someone judged to be successful by history. create clear strategy. Have clear & effective communication 4. suffer with the troops 1. but Machiavelli’s work is not his Art of War. Leader takes calculated risks. makes fewer mistakes. Set achievable & acceptable goals 3. Must not substitute fear for loyalty. not historical greatness Achieving Unity Strategy Structure & They should follow each other in that order. leads to temporary greatness. win hearts and minds/hands will follow Define strategy first and adapt organisation to fit circumstances and situation Page 39 . withstands stress. Differentiate roles of noblemen from soldiers 1. need more data from him Different contexts but the same principles: clear roles. so assign clear advisers roles to ranks and 2. Leaders job – needs to be highly motivated. communicate it clearly. COMMENT Sun Tzu is clearer in this work. Not just one battle but many successes. Structure breeds 1. esp. Must personally take charge 2. Unselfish conduct & sacrificial behavior. division of labor and use of hierarchy Lead by example or walk the talk as the west would say…all the same gear here for success in leadership & unity. distances competitors and dominates ground Organisation MACHIAVELLI 5.
Use your own forces first. establish your strengths & enemy’s position. terrain. know different kinds of states enemy and one’s self. Worst to besiege walled cities. use the least Machiavelli harmful way to gain towards an control historical role of 4. strength & and your enemy doctrine before deciding 3. and previous rulers as added elements in his appraisal that Sun Tzu does not appear to address. Identify clear them. Can also win by different inheritance sources and 3. consider past rule before deciding your own tactics Formulating Goals 1.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read SUN TZU Situational Appraisal MACHIAVELLI COMMENT Machiavelli has to deal with different cultures. environment. Attack as a last resort to attack. Disrupt alliances 3. Attack enemy’s strategy 2. Take advantage of intentions. Consider the longer the Prince to meet good term in choosing goals & strategies as fortune well. and the ways of acquiring & ruling 2. otherwise they are the same 1. Study climate. weaknesses for you resources. derive clear advantages/net tangible benefits 1. well as opportunity Sun Tzu in the specifics of war Page 40 . history. Look at culture. others forces second These are different perspectives driven from 2. Attack his army 4.
his other works do offer more specific guidance in this area Evaluating Strategies 1. deception and speed to overcome all enemy’s including spies 3. Direct & Indirect forces MACHIAVELLI 1. past history of territory 4. using decisiveness. Sun Tzu agrees with this principal too. Plan according to that. both yours & what you know about your enemy. Concentration of forces 3. Choosing Strategies battleground 2. things are considered meanwhile expediency will do Page 41 . Consider situation 2. Plan for the long term. History is the final judge of all space to make sure all strategies. Machiavelli leads The Prince to look at the situation and adjust his approach. Compare action with results & adjust 2. Look at results and aim for short term survival and long term success 4. There is a more cautious and careful planning sequence offered by Sun Tzu compared with this work of Machiavelli. Compare plan with doctrine. & apply learnings to current strategy where the conditions & situation are similar 2. Methods of attack 4. as before said. 3. Define total business 3. using spies information etc.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read SUN TZU Formulation of 1. Learn from history. Adapt strategy to situation: type of rule. type of acquisition. & according to the level of risk COMMENT These are both similar and different: Sun Tzu is more specific towards choice of options. Consider timing of actions 1.
many countries.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read SUN TZU Implementing Strategies 1. The references to operating in different cultures is therefore more important to Machiavelli than for Sun Tzu. create tensions between others to move their focus away from your territory. use deception. anticipate enemy’s moves 3. It remains starkly obvious that we have universal truths that apply across humanity as far as Page 42 . in this case principles of better that you stay motivating there to keep watch on the people & respond to support for strategy any threats Use distractions. Arguably much more varied than Sun Tzu’s situation. Spies 2. yet where the language & both reflect culture is completely common different. culture and language. but one continent. 2. Although they varied for Sun Tzu. races. and unclear motive. communication & control (discipline) 2. Context for ‘The Prince’ involves many quite different languages. Operational Aspects: move fast. Build & maintain security MACHIAVELLI COMMENT Context and history are As you would the keys to expect Sun Tzu implementing strategies: is more detailed than our Gaining loyalty is citations from hardest in territories Machiavelli. He has much greater uniformity by race. many systems for Sun Tzu. religions and peoples. be ready for change. cultures. capitalise on opportunity. Essentially one country. Human aspects: leadership & morale. The similarities far outweigh the differences in this more detailed analysis. Use intelligence gathering tools incl. states and different peoples for Machiavelli’s Prince. Opportunities to win Strategic Controls 1. these variations were not as wide as across Europe. maintain secrets even from your advisers and troops Both emphasise that strategic plans depend to a certain extent on surprise. thus secrecy and intelligence are tools that both writers announce as important to effective leadership Notes: 1.
adaptability and other constructs that explain application across different cultures. just the cultural context and practices.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read leadership and management are concerned. a core competency if you like. or the ‘how’ is unique. There remains great opportunity for more comparisons between these two writers Machiavelli in particular draws many more principles in his other works including his discourses and his Art of War. needs to be better understood. The implications here are for a common curriculum for management and leadership. 4. Another interesting field of research suggested by these works and their startling similarities is to consider other Chinese texts such as the 36 Strategies of the Chinese or the Annals of the Three Kingdoms. These are both psychological constructs as well as competencies for global leaders and managers today. The ‘what’ of these issues remains common. Next our focus must move to flexibility. Page 43 . Secondly their translation into a business context where the game allows win-win as well as win-lose. Cross reference these with other historical western works such as Livy’s historical works citing empires like Rome and Persia will provide fertile ground for bringing forward the lessons of the past to modern day management and leadership. An ideal modern day Executive Development program would embrace both! 3.
Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read Appendix 2. Business & Political Cases: Comments from Sun Tzu & Machiavelli Page 44 .
However each station would rather not discount and try to build up its margin over these times to help to carry it across times when prices are higher. SPC is further supported by being the lowest price in the industry. It will achieve better brand recognition by being consistent. they were back six weeks later doing it again. For some it is brand loyalty derived from frequent user programs like Shell & Mobil have or service standards such as each offer to try and out perform each other (I often wonder though if this market cares about service since they don’t give it. This similarity with the Israeli/Palestinian territorial dispute is strong. Shell as the market share ‘tiger’ is competing with its nearest rivals: Esso & ExxonMobil. It explains their actions in this locale. using pricing given the geography of the location as justification. The size of the discounts is also a measure of their determination to win: they are currently offering 10 %. ST April 10. The remaining players can only jostle for custom based upon some other more (or less) distinguishing aspects of their marketing. just as Machiavelli & Sun Tzu would say is necessary to secure loyalty. 2001 John Read A very interesting case of marketing strategy meets market share in a small geographic location. The local supplier SPC has been consistently offering 10% discount since October last year. and yet also reflects attempts to create and occupy other grounds that their competitors do not occupy. The regulator CASE. And yet after they had agreed to a ‘ceasefire’ in February. reach the battleground early to capture the best position and weaken the Page 45 . Trying to differentiate themselves.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis BUSINESS AND GLOBAL POLITICAL CASES: CASE ONE: Petrol Wars In Singapore. is reminiscent of situational appraisal from Sun Tzu. they can’t recognise when they have it or don’t have it. was pleased to see the discount war as the prices of crude oil are falling. Moving the grounds to suit each player is a recommended strategy of Sun Tzu (bring the enemy to your ground. anyway Shell again seems to have the best service levels in my experience here). a position no doubt orchestrated with government influence to push prices lower across the market.
Situational appraisal takes time. Sun Tzu reminds us that war (economic as well as territorial) should not be prepared for lightly. poverty. ownership of the problems of economy. This takes time to re-generate for each successive president and his counterpart.W. He has been entirely unsuccessful in securing the cooperation of the Chinese and continues to put his foot in his mouth diplomatically speaking. Bush conceives of China as a strategic “competitor”. Sun Tzu would probably respect GW Bush for his circumspect engagement of China. G.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read enemy) all of these are replicated in the marketing strategies of the petrol business in Bukit Timah. Shades of grey become the norm in bilateral relations so that common interests of commerce and trade can flourish. This case has all the hallmarks of a novice leader meeting an unknown cultural context and having little or no idea how to achieve his goals there. Bush has no prior exposure to foreign policy. Interestingly this case reflects the shift towards the centre by successive presidents. Build up of arms by China is another aspect of the equation alongside the size and wealth of the population. health and Page 46 . CASE TWO: USA-China Crisis ST every day for the past two weeks. This result can be compared with Clinton who was able to reach a close relationship with China they defined as a strategic “partner”. As they engage with China they learn a softer form of language and a more inclusive style that reflects a growing acceptance of the need for common ground. Machiavelli would certainly expect Bush to take a pragmatic look at their previous relationship and consider the relative strengths and weaknesses of each party. He is much more cautious of their presence and rightly so when one considers the potential economic strength and wiley nature of the Chinese on political and economic levels. eastern culture or the Chinese race.
This forces Xiamen to turn to peacemaker and soft solutions provider whilst ringing the most from the perceptions created on the populist front with the masses. Pragmatism wins again! This is further supported by Jiang Xiamen’s own home political territory. It is also frought with dangers with an increasingly factionalised central political body. Bush is moving business and economic opportunities to the centre of focus in the political agenda with China. Like Clinton and other recent politicians in USA. These are also concerns and interests for Bush as he watches and tries to learn about another culture and political dynamic very different (but also quite similar as we seen before) to his own.Machiavelli & Sun Tzu: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis John Read development all must be considered by Bush. Page 47 .
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