Successful Teams: Calculations, Practicalities and Ambitious Men – with Duke of Wellington, Sun Tzu & Plato


Battle of Waterloo – Google Images


The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.

Excerpt From: Tzu, Sun. “The Art of War.” iBooks.

For any leader to succeed be it in a State or a smaller team, he or she must make many calculations. Adequate planning is required for success, this includes paying attention to the minutest details, this can be a very tough and painful process, and could come across as procrastinating, with the temptation to hurry things up. Sun Tzu in the quote above however makes clear the consequences of no, few or many calculations. There are no short cuts, even if success comes by some chance, without calculations, this cannot be sustained.


While heeding the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules. According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one’s plans.

Excerpt From: Tzu, Sun. “The Art of War.” iBooks.

The following was narrated by a commentator on Sun Tzu’s advice above:

[Sun Tzu, as a practical soldier, will have none of the “bookish theoric.” He cautions us here not to pin our faith to abstract principles; “for,” as Chang Yu puts it, “while the main laws of strategy can be stated clearly enough for the benefit of all and sundry, you must be guided by the actions of the enemy in attempting to secure a favorable position in actual warfare.” On the eve of the battle of Waterloo, Lord Uxbridge, commanding the cavalry, went to the Duke of Wellington in order to learn what his plans and calculations were for the morrow, because, as he explained, he might suddenly find himself Commander-in-chief and would be unable to frame new plans in a critical moment. The Duke listened quietly and then said: “Who will attack the first tomorrow — I or Bonaparte?” “Bonaparte,” replied Lord Uxbridge. “Well,” continued the Duke, “Bonaparte has not given me any idea of his projects; and as my plans will depend upon his, how can you expect me to tell you what mine are?

Excerpt From: Tzu, Sun. “The Art of War.” iBooks.

Careful calculations notwithstanding, the superior leader must have the capacity to recognize that practical considerations will override some theories. This may appear as a given, but it takes a witty leader to recognize such situations instantly, and not only after things have gone awry.


Napoleon Bonaparte – Google Images

Ambitious Men

And what do you say of lovers of wine? Do you not see them doing the same? They are glad of any pretext of drinking any wine.

Very good.

And the same is true of ambitious men; if they cannot command an army, they are willing to command a file; and if they cannot be honoured by really great and important persons, they are glad to be honoured by lesser and meaner people,—but honour of some kind they must have.


Excerpt From: Plato. “The Republic.” iBooks.

No matter the capacity of a leader to make calculations and apply practical considerations, he or she must also have a knack for identifying the ambitious men in his/her team. This is important as almost all teams regardless of size have some of these. As Socrates said, their quest for honor regardless of whether it is from mediocre sources, makes them to identify causes of dissatisfaction in the team, and exploit this. They become self-acclaimed saviours of the dissatisfied. Identification of such person’s and including them in a leaders calculations, especially in situations where such persons cannot be relieved of their duties is critical; because these persons are insiders and cannot be satisfied by anything else but the honor which they crave, and which in turn comes only from dissatisfaction, thus they will continue to stir up discontent among lieutenants. They have access to critical information, and will include sabotage in their tactics, success will require spotting these and dealing appropriately.

The ability of a leader to heed the counsel of the Duke of Wellington, Sun Tzu and Socrates above, should set a leader on the path to success.

Duke of Wellington

The Duke of Wellington – Google Images

Dr Ande Elisha

The Amateur Philosopher