In THE ORDINARY LEADER, a practical and lucid guide, author Geoff Lew simplifies and summarizes the principal ideas in the 5th CE work The Art of War by Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu. Despite the title, Lew’s version of the text is not about engaging in any sort of combat, nor is it the sort of machismo-drenched self-help book about being an aggressive business leader one might expect to encounter based on the Sun Tzu association. Instead, this is astute philosophical instruction that can be applied by anyone, to virtually any area of life. Lew is careful to point on that Sun Tzu did not believe in fighting except when absolutely necessary and instead argued that the best way to neutralize a potential enemy was to make them a friend. This is not to say that the book is a feel-good treatise on peace and harmony, but it persuasively argues that more can be accomplished by thinking than by swiftly acting with force.
Lew’s central premise is that one should be less focused on winning — whatever that may entail based on a person’s individual goals — because this mentality invariably leads to disappointment and dissatisfaction with life. A true leader understands that failure is inevitable and so learning from one’s mistakes is one of the most critical skills a person can develop. One should “value progress over success” because the former usually leads to the latter. This is a key takeaway from THE ORDINARY LEADER — while the book contains philosophical ideas, it is also concerned with developing new ways of thinking and acting that are easily applicable to real-life scenarios. Lew includes stories from his own life and career to demonstrate just how this can be accomplished.
The book does get a little repetitive, as Lew sticks with the same format for chapter after chapter, generally including a story from Chinese history or lore, an anecdote and maybe a joke or two, and then a distillation of what these stories mean and how they relate to everyday life. Still, there are a lot of valuable ideas here. Lew advises readers, for instance, to sit with their own thoughts more often, to think about context and other people’s motivations, and to embrace change, all of which can be tremendously helpful in the workplace and in personal relationships.
Geoff Lew draws from ancient Chinese military strategist Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War to provide a broad-reaching advice book that will help readers improve their outlook, focus, and their chances of achieving success, no matter their goals.
~Lisa Butts for IndieReader