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Management Report

Management reports, briefs and video-clips issued by Samsung Economic Research Institute

New Art Of War: Conviction and Responsibility is a Herald of Success

New Art Of War: Conviction and Responsibility is a Herald of Success

PARK Jae-Hee

Mar. 21, 2008


Hello, I am Jae-Hee Park on The New Art of War.

Last month, Namdaemun, the gateway to the nation’s capital for 600 years, was badly damaged by fire. This tragedy illustrates the importance of reviewing our risk management and emergency systems. Had the initial response been less disorganized and indecisive, the fire might have been contained and the wooden tower of Korea's No. 1 National Treasure would not have been reduced to ashes. Namdaemun was lost because no one took responsibility in the organization tasked with protecting it. All organizations are vulnerable to similar oversights.

Leaders’ decisions can be made based on existing general principles, as well as according to particular circumstances. Capable leaders will learn how to balance the two to cope with the changes facing their organization.

Here is a passage about ad hoc decision making.

Chunyu Kun, an official of Qi, asked, "Is it not the rule that males and females shall not allow their hands to touch in giving and receiving anything?" Mencius replied, "It is the rule." Kun asked, "If a man's sister-in-law is drowning, shall he rescue her with his hand?"

Mencius’ famous reply was this.

"He who would not rescue the drowning woman is a wolf. For males and females not to allow their hands to touch in giving and receiving is the general rule; when a sister-inlaw is drowning, to rescue her with the hand is a peculiar exigency."

Mencius was not rigid in his beliefs and understood people’s need to be flexible. According to the sage, people should fully understand impending challenges and learn the best way to cope with them. Likewise, damage from the Namdaemun fire could have been prevented if someone had been flexible and brave enough to take action.

There are many things for a leader to consider in making his decisions, and results can vary widely. This is what the Art of War speaks of in deciding to attack or to retreat. “Generals should advance without coveting fame and retreat without fearing disgrace.” When going forward with a situation, leaders should not worry about winning fame and praise. Likewise, in pulling back from something, leaders should not be afraid to raise eyebrows.

Sun Tzu went on to write, “Generals, whose only thought is to protect their country and do good service for their sovereign, are the jewel of the kingdom.” Jewels are those who make big decisions for the organization, regardless of what criticism or punishment they receive. Leaders, who focus on receiving praise and fame, or who hesitate and back down in fear of criticism or punishment, do not deserve to be called leaders at all.

These days, not enough Korean leaders possess the vision and confidence to bring their organization to the next level. Instead, we see many timid leaders that only seek self preservation above the prosperity of their organization. What organizations need are not those who always look to escape responsibility but leaders who are not afraid to deploy bold strategies for the success of the organizations, and take responsibility if they fail.

This has been a lecture on The New Art of War by Jae-Hee Park.

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