Visible Felt Leadership as a Strategy from the Sun Tzu lessons

SHARE   |   Monday, 20 June 2016   |   By Isang Lekhutlile

“When one treats people with benevolence, justice and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders” - Sun Tzu. My previous article centred on the leadership and visible felt leadership. I am urged to increase awareness on the subject above as most leaders in organisations forget that part of their duty is to create safe and secure working conditions. Sun Tzu is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War, a widely influential work of military strategy that has affected both Western and Eastern philosophy. Sun Tzu was a Chinese general and philosopher who lived over 2,000 years ago and is most known for writing the Art of War. The teachings of Sun Tzu extend far beyond the field of battle because they are focused on finding the easiest way to achieve a specific goal. When business managers can apply Sun Tzu’s principles into consideration in strategic decision-making, they will create more and more strategies and methods in solving the countless problems.  


According to David Brim (2009), in regards to business, too many times people focus on tactics without having a proper overall strategy in place. Sun Tzu often wrote about the importance of strategy and the wisdom that he shared is still extremely applicable today whether you’re referring to business, sports, or military endeavours. It takes a special kind of leader to implement these strategic concepts and maximise the tremendous potential of employees. Sun Tzu describes the many traits of the preferred type of leader. The leader should be wise, sincere, humane, courageous, and strict. Leaders must also always be “first in the toils and fatigues of the army”, putting their needs behind those of their troops. It is leaders with character that get the most out of their employees. Strategy implementation involves a broad range of efforts aimed at transforming strategic intentions into action. It is the sum total of the activities and choices required for the implementation of a strategic plan (Wheelen and Hunger, 1995). A successful strategy depends on corporate culture, organisation structure, resource allocation, compensation programme, information system, etc. Thus we can say that the firm’s performance is not so much a result of the firm’s strategy but a result of the firm’s ability to implement the strategy effectively.  


David Brim accounts that becoming better is not simply a matter of willpower or work ethic. It’s also a matter of strategy. What people assume is a lack of willpower or an unwillingness to change is often a consequence of trying to build good habits in bad environments.  Felt leadership is a public proclamation of an organisation’s commitment to caring about people. It is a building block in constructing trust and real-world relationships among employees, customers, shareholders and communities. According to Schweitzer (2007) when felt leadership as a strategy is demonstrated within an organisation in the area of safety; a cultural transformation can and will occur. More importantly, that transformation is sustainable because it becomes part of the fabric of the company and the environment in which employees operate. Strong, visible management commitment is the basic component of a successful safety management system, and this commitment must exist at the top, permeating all levels of the organisation.


Safety does not come about by accident: most accidents happen because they have not been prevented. Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe workplace for employees. Legislation more often than not places the responsibility of employees’ health and safety on the employer. The Mines, Quarries, Works and Machinery Act provide regulations for order and discipline at the Mines, Quarries and Works. This is an Act to provide for the safety, health and welfare of persons engaged in prospecting, mining and quarrying operations including any works which are part of and ancillary to mining and quarrying operations and to make provisions with respect to the inspection and regulation of mines, quarries, works and of machinery used in connections therewith and for matters incidental thereto. My point here is; responsibilities and duties of officials and competent person outlined in the Mines, Quarries and Works (Part 2 – Management Control) places safety of employees under managers as employers. The difference between managers and leaders, lies in the conceptions they hold, deep in their psyches, of chaos and order. Managers embrace process, seek stability and control, and instinctively try to resolve problems quickly—sometimes before they fully understand a problem’s significance. Leaders, in contrast, tolerate chaos and lack of structure and are willing to delay closure in order to understand the issues more fully. Don't think accidents and occupational ill-health can't happen in your company. Above all don't wait for things to go wrong and then go for the 'quick fix'. Build health and safety in from the start. Don't delay – make time and space to get started today! In conclusion, Felt Leadership as strategy is key regardless of the size of the organisation.