November 1, 2012

"When superior and subordinate are in harmony, equally brave in battle, that makes for strength".

The line is from The Art of War by Sun Tzu. It speaks about the strength that an army possesses if the mounted soldier is in harmony with the foot soldier. It refers to the power that an army has if the commander respects his men as much as his men respect him.

In war, especially during olden times, the leader of a war party plays a bigger role than what logic dictates. A war pitting a 1000-member force against a 100,000-member force may look like an unfair fight. But it's not, if you are to consider the men leading each force. Think of the legendary 300 Spartan soldiers who were able to keep off an army that grossly outnumbered them. The Spartans were much stronger even though there were a handful of them. This strength did not come from brute power alone. They had a leader they respected, loved and followed with their lives. The leader in return respected every single one of his men and would give his life for any of them should the need arises. That's harmony. That's strength. 

Besides mutual respect and loyalty, harmony can also mean fighting for the same cause or fighting under the same principle. If a war leader is fighting for freedom but his men are fighting for the spoils of war, then there is no harmony. Once the war is over, the soldiers will likely turn their swords toward their leader. Harmony keeps the force intact both in defeat and in victory.
Image Source: flickr/kainet
The same with respect and loyalty, the leader should match the bravery of the soldiers under him. Soldiers get their strength from their leaders. For as long as wars existed, war speeches played defining roles. Alexander The Great. William Wallace. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Winston Churchill. Adolf Hitler. Joseph Stalin. And dozens of other war leaders. They made war speeches in front of their troops before they send them off to war. Why? To inspire their troops by looking brave and courageous. 

It's simple, a soldier won't follow his superior if he sees fear in him. Fear in the eyes of a leader instills fear in his subordinates. Thus when war comes, their army is weak. For an army to be strong, the leader should be as brave as his soldiers.

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