6 Ways to Win Boardroom Battles with Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”


Every day is a battle.

For the busy office worker, for the hardworking eight to fiver and for any successful business leader, every single day on the job is no less than a battle that needs to be fought.

We go through our daily grind facing many challenges at work. While conventional knowledge and wisdom go a long way in navigating the various challenges in the office, they’re not enough to win us the battles that truly matter. So how does a 2,000 year old book on military strategy help us sweep through the important challenges at work?

Put it simply that the lasting lessons Sun Tzu offers in The Art of War takes a whole new meaning in the modern workplace. Take away some of the book’s heavy use of “warrior speak” (mercenaries, chariots, gold coins and banners) and you’ll have a classic guide for you to survive any adversity that comes your way and ultimately win any type of competitive endeavor be it in the boardroom, in the workplace and even in life.

Here are some of the most important pieces of advice Sun Tzu offers.

1. “Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.”

Whatever you do, you always need to plan and be prepared. When attending boardroom meetings, making important presentations or pitching future projects to your boss, it is important to weigh in on all the possibilities and challenges that you may encounter along the way before even making a move. Use your resources, no matter how limited they are, to make good decisions and minimize risks. Planning is an important advantage in itself. Don’t lose that advantage!


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

When things aren’t going as planned, when you face rejection, when all you’ve had to hear is “no” – these are all the places where great opportunities lie. It is very rare for us to accomplish greatness when we are comfortable. It is when the going gets tough and when the stakes are raised that we achieve our utmost potential. The many challenges and the countless failures we face in our job are instrumental to the growth and success that lies ahead.


3. “One may know how to conquer without being able to do it.”

While organizations essentially function as a big brain, knowledge is not everything. It is what you do with knowledge that actually counts. Whether you have the guts to act upon what you know is an entirely different question. Remember that great leaders (and workers) are also doers not just thinkers. What you know doesn’t count unless you do something to make it happen. Muster the courage to take your knowledge to a whole new level in order to make things happen rather than just letting things happen.


4. “Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.”

Don’t be a one trick pony. It’s quite useful for us to have our own arsenal of strategies or tactics to solve problems and defeat “enemies” but don’t expect any of these to work all the time. While strategies and tactics get old, problems have infinite ways of reinventing themselves. So get creative and learn to innovate. Just as innovation is a critical part of the business, the ability to innovate is also a vital trait of the people within it.


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

Whether you are trying to be a good leader or simply striving to be a better employee, good character is essential. The way you treat your superiors and subordinates reflect the character you have which is why you should never fall short in giving them the loyalty, respect and fairness they deserve. The path to success at work (and in life) is paved with a lot of battles that you alone cannot win. You’ll need the support of others. Build and invest on a close professional relationship with the people you work with for they will be the first one to come in your aid the moment you need help.

6. “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

In most movies, the victory often goes to those who are most skilled at combat, those with the most firepower, and to those who are stronger.  While that may count as winning, it’s the most aggressive path to victory. Napoleon might have won many battles, but so did the Gandhi. Victory can come without fighting when you strive to change the conviction of others and influence their hearts and minds. When objections arise in the boardroom or in any discussion, win them over with logic and wisdom rather than using combative statements and harsh words.

Sun Tzu’s “prescriptions for victory” in The Art of War are no less important today than the day it was written. Sure, we’ve gone unimaginably far since our ancestors but the battles we need to fight and the wars we need to win remain constant. With age old wisdom and enough courage, you can start winning any war – one boardroom battle at a time – today.