Transcript of "The Ways Of The Generals - Zhuge Liang's Treatise"
“The reason the weaker was able
to prevail over the stronger is not
simply a matter of celestial timing,
but also of human planning. Cao
Cao now has a million followers;
he controls the emperor and gives
orders to the lords - he cannot
really be opposed.” – Zhuge Liang
“Another warlord named Sun
Quan, in control of the area east
of the river, is already the third
generation hegemon there. The
territory is rugged and the people
are loyal to him; the intelligent
and capable serve in his employ.
He would be a suitable ally, but
he cannot be counted on”
- Zhuge Liang
To the southwest are precipitous
natural barriers beyond which lie
vast fertile plains. It is where the Han
dynasty really began. General Liu
Bei, you are a descendant of the
imperial family, and are known
everywhere for integrity and justice.
You gather heroic men and eagerly
seek the wise. If you occupy this
whole region, guard the crags and
defiles, establish good relations with
the foreign tribes to the west and
south, make friends with the warlord
east of the river. If you can really do
this, hegemony can be established,
and the house of Han can be
- Zhuge Liang
Liu Bei agreed, and it turned out to be Three Kingdoms,
which were Shu, Wei, and Wu as planned. Zhuge Liang
became one of his top strategists since then.
The Way of the General (by Zhuge Liang) is the
Political Treatise by the most Brilliant Strategist
in the Three Kingdoms. We will Look into the
application of Zhuge Liang's leadership and
management strategies during the era of the
# 1 : Knowing People
Nothing is harder to see into people’s
natures. Though good and bad are different,
their conditions and appearances are not
Hard though it is, to know
people, there are ways.
1. First is to question them
concerning right and wrong,
to observe their ideas.
2. Second is to exhaust all their
arguments, to see how they
3. Third is to consult with them
about strategy, to see how
perceptive they are.
4. Fourth is to announce that
there is trouble, to see how
brave they are.
5. Fifth is to present them with
the prospect of gain, to see
how modest they are.
6. Sixth is to give them a task to
do within a specific time, to
see how trustworthy they are.
Let us return to view Dong Zhuo’s
meteoric rise to power. His success
in recruiting Lu Bu was the pillar of
his success in seizing control over
the remnants of the Han Empire.
During his latter days, his hubris
clouded his understanding Lu Bu’s
psychology, ultimately contributing
to his untimely death.
# 2 : Capacities of Commanders
The capacities of commanders are not the
same; some are greater, some are lesser.
‘I would rather betray the world than have the world betray me!’
One whose humanitarian care extends
to all under his command, whose
trustworthiness and justice win the
allegiance of neighboring nations, who
understands the signs of the sky above,
the patterns of the earth below, and the
affairs of humanity in between, and who
regards all people as his family, is a
world-class leader, one who cannot be
Cao Cao was as a
brilliant ruler and military
genius who treated his
officers like his family.
# 3 : Rewards and Penalties
A policy of rewards and penalties
means rewarding the good and
penalizing wrongdoers. Rewarding
the good is to promote achievement;
penalizing wrongdoers is to prevent
Rewards should not be given without reason,
and penalties should not be applied arbitrary.
If rewards are given for no reason, those who
have worked hard in public service will be
resentful; if penalties are applied arbitrary,
upright people will be bitter.
Lu Bu should have governed in
an upright and fair manner. By
dispensing penalties in such an
arbitrary manner, he lost the
confidence and support of
upright people. By formenting
such bitterness in the hearts of
his officers and supporters, he
merely hastened his defeat at
the hands of Cao Cao.
# 4 : What Hurts the People?
There are five things that hurt
1. There are local officials who corrupting
their offices, and bleeding the people.
2. There are cases where serious offenses
are given light penalties; there is inequality
before the law, and the innocents are
subjected to punishment, even execution.
3. Sometimes there are officials who cut off
the avenue of appeal and hiding the truth,
plundering and ruining lives, unjust and
4. Sometimes there are senior officials who
repeatedly change department heads so as
to monopolize the government
administration, favoring their friends and
relatives while treating those they dislike
with unjust harshness.
5. Sometimes local officials extensively
tailor awards and fines, welfare projects,
and general expenditures, arbitrarily
determining prices and measures, with the
result that people lose their jobs.
# 5 : The Authority of
the Military Leadership
Military authority, directing the armed
forces, is the matter of the authoritative
power of the leading general.
Liu Bei’ s Consultant
If the general can hold the
authority of the military and
operate its power, he oversees
his subordinates like a fierce
tiger with wings, flying over the
four seas, going into action
whenever there is an encounter.
If the general loses his authority and
cannot control the power, he is like a
dragon cast into a lake, he may seek
the freedom of the high sea, but how
can he get there?
Yuan Shao was the overall leader
of the Coalition. Yet, he failed in
the simplest of task, by appointing
his incompetent brother, Yuan Shu
as Chief of the Commissariat. His
failure in choosing the right person
for the job was the decisive factor
in the Coalition's defeat at the
River Si Pass. A golden opportunity
to defeat Dong Zhuo and restore
the Han Empire was forever lost,
merely due to petty squabbles
and internal rivalry.
# 6 : Cultivating Oneself
The practice of a cultivated man is to
refine himself by quietude and develop
virtue by frugality.
Without detachment, there is no way to clarify the will;
without serenity, there is no way to get far.
Study requires calm, talent requires study.
Without study there is no way to expand talent;
without calm there is no way to accomplish study.
If you are lazy, you cannot do thorough research;
if you are impulsive, you cannot govern your nature.
Cao Cao’s disastrous defeat at the
Battle of Red Cliff was a huge
setback for the Wei Kingdom. The
burden to reunite the Han Empire
would lie with Cao Cao’s successor
as such a monumental task would
take decades to achieve.
# 7 : Psychological Configurations
Some generals are brave and think lightly of death
Some are hasty and impulsive
Some are greedy and materialistic
Some are humane but lack endurance
Some are intelligent but timid
Some are intelligent but easygoing at heart
Those who are brave
and think lightly of
death are vulnerable
Those who are hasty and
impulsive are vulnerable
Those who are greedy
and materialistic are
vulnerable to loss
Those who are humane
but lack endurance are
vulnerable to fatigue
Those who are intelligent
but timid are vulnerable
Those who are intelligent but
easygoing are vulnerable to
知己知彼 Know Thyself,
Know Thy Enemy
百战百胜 A Hundred Battles,
A Hundred Victories
(In the book “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu)
# 8 : Decadence in Generals
There are eight kinds of decadence in
1. First is to be insatiably greedy.
2. Second is to be jealous and envious of
the wise and able.
3. Third is to believe slanders and make
friends with the treacherous.
4. Fourth is to assess others without
5. Fifth is to be hesitant and indecisive.
6. Sixth is to be heavily addicted to wine
7. Seventh is to be a malicious liar with a
8. Eighth is to talk wildly, without courtesy.
According to legend, Zhang Fei together
swore an oath of brotherhood with Liu Bei
and Guan Yu, known as the Oath of the
Peach Garden. Yet, he too, had his faults.
All too often, he was warned by Liu Bei
that his habit of over-punishing his own
soldiers by lashing and sometimes killing
them, would bring about his own disaster.
# 9 : Instruction and Direction
A policy of instruction and direction means
those above educate those below, not saying
anything that is unlawful and not doing
anything that is immoral, for what is done by
those above is observed by those below.
Therefore true leaders first rectify themselves
and only after that do they promulgate their
directives. If they are not upright themselves,
their directives will not be followed, resulting
Therefore the Way of leadership puts education and direction before punishment.
To send people to war without education is tantamount to throwing them away.
The Imperial Prime Minister of Han, Cao Cao was one of the greatest men of his time.
He managed to wrest control over all of Northern China against all odds. It was not
by accident, that he commanded the respect and obedience of his army and the
populace in general. The following incident illustrates his qualities as a leader.
It is only through actions alone that a leader can seek to inspire his followers.
Leaders of low morals often practice the proverb ‘Do as I say, not as I do!’ If they
do not walk the talk, why then should they be surprised if their followers rebel
against their leadership?
# 10 : On Cultivation
In order to succeed in life,
perseverance is necessary.
“True education comes from
real life. You must learn to apply
your knowledge to life and
design different solutions for
different situations! Take great
caution in everything you do.
You must see everything in its
true form. This is my farewell
advice to you! I will be leaving
Zhuge Liang never forgot his Master’s
advice, especially his parting advice.
He made a feather fan out of the divine
crane’s tail feathers to remind himself to
take great caution for the rest of his life.