Do Women Need the Art of War at Work?

The news is filled with war chatter. Talk of wrong, right, mismanagement, unprepared, incompetence, freedom, democracy, oil, politics, conflict, casualties, brutality and war fill the airwaves and print. War—the war there and the affect of the war here.The West and the East have different takes on war. We Westerns think of the battles, deaths and injuries. The Chinese have a different take. War isn’t the fighting; it’s the determination of finding the most efficient way to gain victory with the least amount of conflict. It’s about leadership.

One of the most influential books every published on workplace strategies is the Art of War by Sun Tzu 2500 years ago. It stands to reason that there are knock offs and look-a-likes.

But who would have thought that a descendant of the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty would come up with a modern day version, and one that is designed for women on the art of war?

Chin-Ning Chu is a descendant of Chu Yuan-Zhang, the pauper who became that first emperor. Her latest book is The Art of War for Women: Sun Tzu’s Ancient Strategies and Wisdom for Winning at Work (Currency Doubleday).

This master strategist’s previous books have outsold Tom Peters, Tony Robbins and Hillary Clinton, and have been translated into 17 languages in 60 countries. She pops up on CNN, Bill O’Reilly and Larry King debating the likes of General Scrowcroft and Senator John Kerry… and being the winner. Chu is a global force.

Leadership Is Not a Job Title
When asked why a book for women, she responded, “Most women are brought up to think that they should act like a well mannered lady. Being a leader requires one to be more assertive. As a lady, she should not be assertive on her own accord; rather, she should be appointed to a position of leadership first before she can act asserted. Wrong. Leadership is a state of mind, not about a job title.”

Leadership means you take risks, but they need to be planned and calculated. Chu reminds us that Sun Tzu was quite clear when he wrote that there were there types of planning leaders choose to follow: meticulous, careless and none.

Each has consequences.

With meticulous planning, you have already won whatever the war is before engaging in the battle; careless planning means you may have already lost the war before it starts; and no planning guarantees failure.

Your “war” could be competing with a bevy of others for a new position or the opportunity to lead a project that you covet. It could be securing a new client or a big order or even creating the next “must have” item that you don’t presently have a clue as to what it will be.

So, before any boss sees and identifies you as a leader, it’s critical that you exhibit your leadership quality first. If not, you will be passed by. Your boss, and colleagues, will view others who do display their skills and decision making as leaders first.

Timing is Everything
Planning and timing go hand-in-hand; you can’t have one without the other and succeed. The war can’t be won. Chu identifies six key areas:

· Notice the signals of timing hidden all around
Most ideas announce their presence with subtle hints, even leaving a physical trail;

· Be in tune with the timing of potential partners
Smart timing is critical—don’t approach a client, customer, boss or coworker during “busy” times;

· Be award of the relationship between your objective and your timing
Realism is critical, have a clear understanding of how long it will most likely take to achieve an objective;

· Use your intuition to improve your timing
Everyone has some form of intuition—that gut feeling, that if you listen to and follow it, will lead you to the right decision. The more you tap into it, the more likely you will be able to determine the “rightness” of your timing;

· Back up your situation with data and planning
Success comes from planning—until you are really certain that your intuitive skills are spot on, make sure you back up everything you do with data that you have researched thoroughly to back up your intuition; and

· Use common sense
Pay attention to the forces and posturing of your workplace before you introduce any new ideas.

Workplaces Are Changing
Our Western culture revels in the direct, rational and logical sayings that are on our mind … we like to get to the point. Those traits are more inclined to be identified as more male oriented than female.

The Eastern culture leans more toward the intuitive, subtle and dualistic qualities, which just happen to be in the female trait column and the ones emphasized in The Art of War for Women. The ability to discern fine shades of meaning and negotiate what is unseen will turn out to be the essential competitive tool in the new work place.

Chu says, “The Pacific culture recognizes a full spectrum of gray; that life is filled with ambiguities and paradox. That which is absent is more real than what is present—what you see, touch, and hear is less important than what you cannot.”

Can the West meet East in the workplace? The Art of War for Women isn’t just for women.