On Having the Same Spirit

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
~The Art of War, Sunzi (Lionel Giles, translation)

Have you ever read The Art of War? It’s an old text by a Chinese general and strategist, Sunzi (also known as Sun-Tzu). It’s probably the oldest guide to military strategy in the world, and has endless applications for those who are so inclined to seek them out. Take today’s quote as an example.

On the surface level, he is pointing out that the greatest army is going to be one that is on the same page from top to bottom. This can apply in the business world, sports world, religious world, in any field where a group of people are working together for a common purpose. Because in order to achieve this common purpose, everybody really needs to be on the same page.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t room for disagreement or discussion about the course of action ahead of time. It means that when the time comes to act, everybody is on the same page. So, what does it mean for a group to be “animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks”? I can think of three key steps:

#1 — There is a larger vision at work.

This is really where it all starts. In order for everybody to be on the same page, they need to have a big picture idea of where they are going in the first place. If people can’t see the bigger vision, they could begin to doubt the reasons why something must be done. When this happens, fracturing is going to happen.

This vision should be something simple, memorable, and powerful. When that is the case, it’s easier to get people to buy in with the idealized future that the vision represents.

#2 — People are on board with the vision

It’s not enough to have a larger vision. People need to buy in; they need to be on board with it. I can understand the larger vision and completely disagree with it. Think of the political party you tend to disagree with the most (a dangerous pastime, I know). Chances are, they have a larger vision at work.

Now, you may fundamentally disagree with where they stand on particular things, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a larger vision. Ideally, the political party with the better vision for the future is the one that ends up winning elections. It’s an oversimplification, and that may or may not always be the case in our current political system, but you get the idea, right?

So, once the vision is cast and people are on board, then…

#3 — People see their role and are willing to do what it takes to fulfill it.

People can find their place within the work that needs to be done in order to fulfill that vision. This is the thing about a compelling vision — people will set aside their egos, and do whatever is necessary to make it a reality. We all want that idealized future and are willing to work for it by utilizing our gifts, talents and time to make it happen.

As an organization, if you can get to this point, then you are probably rolling. It may feel like you’re going down the rapids at times. You’re moving fast, there are always some bumps and complications, but you’re most likely going to make it to your destination. Once you get here, you are well on your way to fulfilling that vision and capturing that idealized future. Not that this stage isn’t hard work, but the majority of the really hard work is already done.

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Matt Swisher

Matt Swisher

Just some guy who is looking to make my pocket of the world a better place. Life is a journey; let’s walk together and help each other along the way.