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Are You a Wise General?

Award-Winning CEO Shares Tips for Being a 21st Century Leader.

by Corrine Sandler
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The wise general understands that to fight and win all of your battles is not supreme excellence. Supreme excellence, rather, is breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

Business leadership in the past was dominated by managers who ruled from the top down; organizational hierarchies were structured along military lines and people climbed the ranks. But today’s wise general needs to be like Sun Tzu, the ancient philosopher who went on to become one of history’s greatest military commanders.

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Twenty-first century leaders are reshaping the best-led global companies. Authentic leaders need to be focused on customers and not on serving short-term shareholders.

If you are a wise general you will come to work to empower your colleagues and your customers. I have a famous saying: “I come to work each day to delight my customers; the result is I make money.”

In the 21st century the most successful leaders focus on creating superior performance by aligning people around a corporate culture and living and breathing that culture while concentrating on wowing customers. In my book, “Wake Up or Die,” (, a comprehensive guide to the use of intelligence in the contemporary business environment, I talk about one of the most important traits for a wise general or leader today: emotional intelligence.

Managing and directing employees involves a great understanding and application of emotional intelligence, which leaders, wise generals and CEOs too often simply ignore or don’t understand.

As a leader deploying your troops, you’ve got to engage them in your vision, connect with them, and assure cohesiveness among them.

The good news is that this distinguishing feature of your personal nature can be strengthened over time. Through experience I have learned the importance of acquiring and using emotional intelligence because of its impact on business success.

Emotional intelligence (EI) -- or in casual shorthand, EQ (emotional quotient) -- helps define both incoming and outgoing behaviors, either of which can be detrimental to simple relations like customer service and co-worker partnerships. The biggest surprise for me has been the impact of EI in the world of business, particularly in the areas of leadership and employee development.

The Harvard Business Review has hailed emotional intelligence as “a ground-breaking, paradigm-shattering idea,” one of the most influential business ideas of the decade. I believe EI to be so vital to the success of any organization that I have devoted an entire chapter in my book to it.

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. —Lao Tzu

About the Author

Corrine Sandler is the founder and CEO of Fresh Intelligence Research Corp, a global market research agency; international professional speaker and author of  “Wake Up or Die,” ( a new book that applies lessons from Sun Tzu’s ancient classic, “The Art of War,” to contemporary businesses. Corrine has been on Profit’s top 100 Female Entrepreneurs list two years in a row. With more than 20 years’ experience, she has established a reputation for unparalleled consumer understanding and insight development working with Fortune 500 companies.