“The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness.”
Those accustomed to believing Machiavelli’s “The Prince” was the only work on strategy read in older times may find these words surprising; worse, they may assume such words to be hypocritical nonsense. However, Sun Tzu was quite serious: how a Commander, or one acting in a similar capacity, treats his enemies, should not have any bearing on how he treats those he counts as subordinates, peers, allies, and sovereigns.
To be wise is not to constantly seek to impress others with one’s wisdom; it is to speak with the words that are necessary. To be sincere is not to reveal all of one’s secrets; it is to be truthful with what one does say. To be benevolent is not to be soft; it is to act in the best interests of others in the long run, rather than for short-term gain. To be brave is not to be reckless; it is to discard useless fear and hesitation to take advantage of the critical moment. To be strict is not to be cruel; it is to ensure that one’s instructions are obeyed, so that the Commander’s words are treated with respect and not contempt, and for the organization to function effectively.
Those who are deficient in these virtues are not guaranteed to fail. However, they are making implementing their strategies more difficult by sowing doubt and dissent. Only by building trust, communicating effectively, and having a well-founded reputation that inspires respect, can a leader truly use his organization in a dynamic and effective manner.
Above all, the Commander should separate war from peace and never conflate the two. His enemies should know how he treats his friends, and his friends should know how he treats his enemies; in this manner, his friends will not want to become his enemies, yet his enemies, will wish to become his friends.