One of the more fundamental concepts in Sun Tzu is “The Moral Law,” one of the Five Constants of warfare, as translated by Lionel Giles in 1910. Regardless of the label we use for it, Sun Tzu’s definition serves well: “The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.” Thus, “The Moral Law” is the unifying cause that unites a nation, an army, or a corporation; it is, in a more military sense, the mission. In business, this is what constitutes the content of the mission statement to all stakeholders.
Sun Tzu’s concept of generalship is public service, albeit for a ruler who, in his day, was a king, and thus a law unto himself. Nonetheless, the same core principle holds: a nation with a stronger reason to fight and more vibrant leadership has an advantage in war. This advantage is far from absolute; it is merely one of five constants Sun Tzu writes of. However, its importance cannot be dismissed.
In American history, various self-appointed missions have come and gone. One of the more notable ones in war was that expressed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his “Day of Infamy” speech; he laid out to the nation a great cause justified any hardship and any sacrifice in obtaining what was considered to be righteous vengeance against Japan, in addition to full war against Japan’s ally, Germany, in ending further threats to American soil. What matters here is that the American people were heavily motivated by the idea behind American involvement in the war, now that the war had been brought to America (from their layman’s perspective).
The Moral Law is unity of purpose. Unity of purpose, in turn, provides the motivation for those participating in the organization to act, to follow orders, to obey regulations, and to further the interests of the leader. It is the foundation of organized action. Its importance must not be dismissed.