Recently I read a book about leadership to see if I could get some inspiration and motivation for my business.
The book is The Ordinary Leader by Geoff Lew, where the author literally dissects Sun Tzu’s famous work — The Art of War — to extract every possible teaching for readers to apply in their position as leaders.
Indeed, the book is inspiring right from the Introduction, where Lew explains that winning in various life situations is certainly pleasurable, but wanting to win all the time denies us a full life, ruining our mental health with guilt and shame.
Also, to Sun Tzu, leadership is not about winning all the time, but the peculiarity of someone who sees wisdom both in winning and in losing.
Wisdom is seeing everything that happens in life as a lesson!
That enables us to become better people, because while losing is painful, that pain also helps us help others and our future selves.
In the end, it’s accepting that life will always come with challenges.
The Traits of a Leader
Leadership, says Lew, is “moving forward in the face of uncertainty.”
So, The Art of War is about wisdom, resilience and decision making, because real success is obtained through strategy and hard work, not luck.
In the end, Sun Tzu’s book is not really a book about deception. Sun Tzu wrote for leaders, not for the so-called “wicked people” (the people who are twisted).
The main takeaway from Sun Tzu’s book is that “wisdom [is] about deeply believing that all problems are workable” and that decision-making is not a binary activity, like nothing in life is.
Perspective is important. As are courage, loyalty, justice and self-accountability.
A Wise Person
“A leader is a craftsman” who “uses their wisdom to create a bright new future”.
A leader always has a strategy, and they take time to slow down and think.
Also, a good leader is a wise person because they accept failure as well as success, as both are part of life. And does their better to ensure progress, no matter the outcome.
Another teaching is that a good leader looks for win-win outcomes, rather than destroying the enemy.
This is true success in Sun Tzu’s terms. The real power is not in dominating over the enemy, but in changing minds through persuasion, for a good leader knows people are all different and it takes a smart strategy to make them a team.
A Good Leader Knows Fear
Fear is imagination trying to protect our egos from getting hurt, but that actually causes even more pain.
The solution is to look at our weakness as a temporary problem, subject to change.
Self-control during pain or fear makes us stronger in the face of others trying to use our mistakes to their advantage.
Learn to Observe and Be Patient
Observe the situation and act or make decisions according to it, don’t expose your weaknesses: if you think you don’t have enough information to act, don’t act. Strategy must be appropriate for the situation in order to make progress.
And even when a situation feels desperate, there’s always a way out. For example, if you make a mistake that hinders your reputation, you apologize and promise to do better. And then do it.
Always look for opportunities to bring change to your business and use patience. Patience is another virtue of a leader.
I loved how The Ordinary Leader is full of good teachings for leaders.
For example, the teaching that there are no absolutes in life: things change, all people have weaknesses and strengths. Life is colored grey, or better, it’s a rainbow.
And there is always a way to achieve success; all it takes is for us to be strong, patient, and open, so we can get creative without waiting for the mythical perfect moment, using the resources we have wisely.
That includes empathy and being proactive.
But for me, the best advice from this book (and Sun Tzu) is to stop dwelling on the past… something I tend to do too much.
“Learn from your mistakes and then let the past go.”
Really, I should do letting go. It would help my mental health. And I should also take the advice to slow down and not let events drag me with their full force.
Finally, another lesson for me is: “Why let fear define you or the way you think?”
Seriously, why do I do that?
Thank you, Geoff Lew. 🙂
Writing Style and Final Thoughts
Overall, I loved the writing style in The Ordinary Leader: simple, direct language.
The book was an easy and quick read and I enjoyed the journey, minus some anecdotes from ancient China that were too gory for my High Sensitivity.
I still think it’s incredible I liked this book so much given how hesitant I was to read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Perhaps I will get to read the ancient book one day.
I recommend this book to business owners and anyone in a position of leadership. It will help you guide your decisions.
Thanks for reading my The Ordinary Leader book review!