Notes politics Psychology

Strategy 7: Transform Your War into a Crusade: Morale Strategies (The 33 Strategies of War)

You know, I am sure, that not numbers or strength brings victory in war; but whichever army goes into battle stronger in soul, their enemies generally cannot withstand them.

Xenophon (430?-355? B.C.)

In this chapter, Greene turns our attention to team motivation. To successfully build a winning army of any kind, you must know how to appeal to their psychology. If you can do that, you have a tool that is more powerful than money.

The most important psychological target you can aim for is to unite your army with purpose – to give them a vision that will make them feel they are working towards something greater than themselves. Fulfill this human need for them by giving them a purpose, but to do so, you must lead by example. It is not enough to communicate your vision, but to show them that you truly believe in it. When Lyndon Johnson was an ambitious 23-year-old who wanted to enter politics, he demonstrated a keen ability to earn the loyalty of his troops.

An unexpected gesture of kindness was his first powerful move. He recruited two of his ex-students to help him communicate with his initial base of supporters, but previously, he had unexpectedly kept in touch with the after the course was over. This created a sense of loyalty in them. When they joined him, they worked 18-20-hour days, constantly trying to earn his approval. He didn’t pay them well, in fact, he was exploiting them to their human limits, but they didn’t turn against him. He showed them that he was willing to sacrifice as much as they were, working endless hours without complaining. They believed in him and were sure that he was destined for great things – they were ambitious too, and they thought of him as the perfect ally to help them achieve their goals.

Eventually, Lyndon Johnson won the American vote and became president, and his two ex-students rose with him in politics. They were always preferred to new faces – and as assistants on a much larger scale, they still competed for his approval. Johnson’s rise in politics was not due to money, but his leadership. He understood how to motivate his men, to give them a calling rather than a vocation. He rewarded them with acts of generosity, but never spoiled them with too much. He knew that if he did not strike this delicate balance, he would either be taken or granted, or would be resented.

A small army that is focused and disciplined is worth more than an army that is magnitudes larger, but disaffected and disinterested. And an army that is united with purpose, where dissenters are not tolerated, and where those of strong character and self-sacrifice are favored over those with impressive resumes and experience, is the strongest kind of army.


One day, enmity broke out between the dogs and the wolves. The dogs elected a Greek to be their general. But he was in no hurry to engage in battle, despite the violent intimidation of the wolves. “Understand,” he said to them, “why I deliberately put off engagement. It is because one must always take counsel before acting. The wolves, on the one hand, are all of the same race, all of the same color. But our soldiers have very varied habits, and each one is proud of his own country. Even their colors are not uniform: some are black, some russet, and others white or ash-grey. How can I lead into battle those who are not in harmony and who are all dissimilar?’ In all armies it is unity of will and purpose which assures victory over the enemy.


Read The 33 Strategies of War

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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