Sun Tzu on the importance of inner and outer leadership

Art of War in Chinese characters

Probably the most famous leadership quote of all time is Sun Tzu’s statement:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

What he was essentially talking about here, two and a half thousand years ago, is the need for inner and outer leadership.

First, we have to know and lead ourselves. If we cannot lead ourselves how can we expect to lead others? This is inner leadership.

Then we need to know our enemy — or in today’s environment, our marketplace, our competitors, our suppliers, our legislators, our customers — as well as we know ourselves. This is outer leadership.

If we know both, then we need not fear the result of a hundred engagements.

The Churning comes in two volumes.

Inner Leadership provides a structured set of tools and frameworks for gaining inner knowledge: for understanding, leading, and inspiring yourself and the people around you.

Outer Leadership provides a structured set of tools for gaining outer knowledge: understanding where your market is heading, what the key success factors will be, the implications for your business, and what to do about them.

Photo By thierry ehrmann via

Leave a Reply