What We Can Learn From the 4 Most Powerful Military Leaders of All Time

Military leaders are masters of strategy.

They have to be.

They make decisions that can change the course history, so those decisions have to be right.

The beauty of it is that their strategies of war are timeless and can be applied to any field, at any time. Good strategy is universal to all.

The following are the 4 most powerful military leaders of all time. I will show you the strategies they used to succeed in their warfare, and how you can apply it to your own life.

Sun Tzu

Everything can be broken down into a system

Sun Tzu was a Chinese general and military strategist. He is well-known for his book on military strategy, The Art of War, which has been shared and applied by leaders all over the world. The most prominent theme in the book is how every strategy can be broken down into a system of state and action.

State: You are close to the enemy. Action: Make him think you are far

State: You are far from the enemy. Action: Make him think you are close

State: You are in a weaker position. Action: Evade your enemy and avoid conflict

State: You are in a stronger position. Action: Attack and fully destroy your enemy

With such a clear and direct instruction manual, it becomes easy for military leaders to directly and quickly apply the actions without wasting valuable time thinking.

How to apply it

You can come up with systems for your own life in order to make the best decisions. If you’re buying stocks, come up with a very specific set of criteria where you would say “buy” and another set of criteria for “sell.” The same idea goes for finding a job, choosing a partner, and starting a business. Define firm and explicit criteria. By creating such a system you can be sure that your decisions will always be swift, automatic, and rational.

Genghis Khan

Apply full power to your strengths

Genghis Khan was the leader and creator of the ancient Mongol Empire, one of the largest empires of all time. Khan’s army was known for their savage attacks. They came in as fast as lightning and as powerful as a thunderbolt. Most importantly, Khan’s forces always put their full power on their strengths.

The Mongols were horse archers with very light gear that allowed them to move quickly. Their main attack was based on hit-and-run done in waves. Men would ride in, keeping their distance within shooting range, and rain down a barrage of arrows on the enemy. While the enemy soldiers were recuperating, another wave of Mongols would hit them.

If the opposing force ever tried to charge at them, the Mongols would simply run away while shooting backward. Once the enemy was tired of chasing them, they would circle back again to attack with more hit-and-run. It was an unbeatable strategy. No one was better at the hit-and-run than the Mongols, so they used and abused their strength to the fullest.

How to apply it

Trying to bring up your weaknesses won’t get you very far because they’ll never be good enough to give you any serious advantage. Instead, focus on your strengths. Find out what you’re good at and spend most of your time doing it in your career. That’s where you have an edge and can really thrive in the world.

Alexander the Great

Learn from the best mentors

Alexander the Great was an ancient Macedonian conqueror. In just 13 short years, he established the greatest empire the ancient world had ever seen at that point (336–323 BC). His father had actually established much of the empire before him, but Alexander does not attribute his success to that. He attributes it to his teacher, Aristotle.

“I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.”

Aristotle mentored Alexander in every subject under the sun when he was just 13 years old. He taught him about medicine, philosophy, morals, religion, logic, and art. In particular, Aristotle triggered Alexander’s interests in medicine and philosophy. Alexander would go on to apply these teachings during his campaigns.

He ensured that the medical provisions were top-notch during his campaigns in order to sustain the army. His new learnings of philosophy really motivated him to make a long-lasting impact of Greek culture on every area he conquered. The influence of the Greeks is still seen around the world today in the old conquered regions.

How to apply it

Find a great mentor and learn as much as you can from them. Mentors who are specialized in your field of interest are great because you can learn how to progress and move forward quickly. At the same time, you can also have a mentor who is more knowledgeable in other areas that you haven’t yet explored. They will open your mind to new views of life that you can also learn from.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Be efficient with your energy. Save it to strike at the opportune moment

Napoleon Bonaparte won nearly 90% of his battles. That’s an incredible statistic for a military commander. It led to him dominating most of Europe. The only thing that eventually defeated him was an alliance of armies from Britain, Prussia, Austria, and Russia.

Napoleon’s greatest strength on the battlefield was his ability to remain focused on one single objective and strike it with all his force.

During the battle of Austerlitz, he recognized a high point that needed to be taken to win. His enemies were scattered all around the area. He quickly sent his entire force to that point, capturing it and ultimately winning the entire battle.

In the year 1806, fighting broke out between France (Napoleon) and Prussia, with Russia coming to Prussia’s aid. Napoleon realized that if the Russian and Prussian armies were to link up, they would be too strong to defeat. Rather than waiting to build up his army, he moved immediately to attack Prussia before the Russian reinforcements could come. Since Prussia was still preparing, Napoleon’s forces easily destroyed them.

In Napoleon’s own words:

“Take time to deliberate but when the for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.”

How to apply it

There will be times in your life when great opportunities arise, but you’re not fully prepared. Like Napoleon, you must learn to quickly move in and seize these opportunities. If there’s a job opportunity for a higher position, take it and be confident that you’ll figure things out along the way. If you have a great idea for a business, don’t wait, go for it as soon as you can. When you see a great thing, take action immediately, because opportunities don’t always wait for you.

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