Principles Of War And Military Leadership | Happy Student Education ™

Principles of War and Military Leadership

Article Category NYCDOE | Parents | Principals | Schools | Students | Teachers
Published June 10, 2021

The Principles of war

Principles of War and Military Leadership. There are numerous ways to describe the Principles of War including the time period. The interpreter either Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, and B. H. Liddell Hart or modern scholars. Nevertheless, Clausewitz laid out a set of Principles that determined the guiding principles of war.

According to Clausewitz’s “On War”; war has three principles, to destroy the enemy and take their territories, to take his resources and his strength, and to appear peaceable to the public.¹ Nevertheless, it is very difficult to point out a set of guiding principles of war since every period in time has established a set of principles of war.

General George S. Patton, Jr.
General George S. Patton, Jr.

Sun Tzu in the Art of War points out a set of principles that should drive a commander in warfare. Such as, “Win all without fighting”, “Avoid Strength attack weakness”, “Deception and foreknowledge”, “Speed and preparation”, and “Character-based leadership”.²

Admiral William S. Sims set out a guiding principle of war during the age sail. Additionally, Major-General J.F.C. Fuller set out a set of eight principles of war during the early 20th century.

Ineffective leadership

There is the safety of training conditions and the dangerous combat conditions. A capable leader will shine under combat conditions and training conditions since he naturally will protect his followers even if that includes self-sacrifice. However, in training conditions a leader is hard, disciplined on his troops to conditioned for the reality of battle.

President Jefferson Davis Ineffective leadership
Epitome of Ineffective leadership Jefferson Davis

In addition, a leader pushes his troops to the ultimate conditions. The troops understand the drive of their leader to their survival. Additionally, their training makes them more effective than their foes. Thus, the leader may be viewed as a father and followed with respect and inspiration.

An ineffective leader many excel in combat conditions, nevertheless, when it comes to combat donations he will not succeed. Hence, “When it comes to combat, something new is added. Even if they have previously looked on him as a father and believe absolutely that being with him is their best assurance of successful survival, should he then show himself to be timid and too cautious about his own safety, he will lose hold of them no less obsoletely”.¹

The problem with ineffective leadership is that in combat conditions men will not follow a timid leader. During the Roman Empire many generals, and emperors were slained by their fearful troops. However, in training conditions a leader may appear heartless and harsh nonetheless. But when he proves fearless in combat situations his troops will follow him unconditionally.

 Effective Leadership

There are numerous qualities that make an effective leader. For instance, according to Military Leadership, there are two characteristics of leadership. Behaviortask accomplishment” and “interpersonal relations”, often leaders shared both characteristics. In addition, there are two types of leadership styles discussed in the text. Transformational, and Transactional leadership.

Transactional leadership deals with the role of the followers in respect to the role of the leader and the followers, while transformational leadership “involves strong personal identification of the followers with the leader”.¹

Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806
Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806 of Effective Leadership

Transformational leaders push their followers to high, and effective performance whereas transactional leaders expect high performance from their followers, and the followers expect somewhat effective leadership. Additionally, one of the most important qualities of a military leader is courage in battle. Courage is irreplaceable for a military commander; courage to protect his troops and to make the right call at the right time.

For instance, “on the filed there is no substitute for courage, no other binding influence toward unity of action. Troops will excuse almost any stupidity; excessive timidity is simply unforgivable”.² With that being said, additionally, effective leaders need to be self-aware, or emotionally intelligent, and motivated in order to understand his weaknesses and take action whenever the enemy shows a weakness.

Principles of War and Military Leadership
Effective Leadership

Sun Tzu’s Attack by fire

According to Sun Tzu and the Art of War “attack by fire” consist of five different ways of attacking. The first way of attacking by fire is to “burn the soldiers in the base”, then “burn the stores”, follow by “burning the baggage train”, and then the “arsenals and magazines”, then “hurl dropping fire among the enemy”.¹

Sun Tzu argues that in order to effectively carried out fire attacks fire materials should always be ready. Surprisingly, Sun Tzu also adds the perfect weather to attack by fire, which is when the weather is very dry. In addition, Sun Tzu adds the possible developments in readying an attack by fire. During a fire attack, Sun Tzu argues, an outside attack should follow.

Sun Tzu explains the best way to attack by fire and when and where a fire attack should take place. In addition, he adds “In every army, the five development connected with fire must be known, the movements of the stars calculated, and watch kept for proper days”.²

Sun Tzu's Attack by fire
The Art of War

With that being said, Sun Tzu exploits the qualities of an enlightened ruler who understands the power of fire attacks, and praised the ruler who is ready to confront the development of “attack by fire”.

The Empty and the Solid

In Sun Tzu and the Art of War, the “empty and the solid’ refers to weakness as the solid and strong as the solid. Sun Tzu used examples such as; “Use the most solid to attack the most empty”.¹ 

In addition, the Empty and the Solid, according to Sun Tzu, represents his principle on the war of attacking weakness and avoid strengths, Now, when planning a military operation one should avoid the Solid which represents the strengths, and focus on the empty to achieve ultimate success.


1. Sun Tzu and the Art of Modern Warfare by Mark McNeilly Apr 10, 2003 P. 49

1. Carl von Clausewitz On War Published December 30, 2010 P. 97
2. Sun Tzu and the Art of Modern Warfare by Mark McNeilly Apr 10, 2003 P.1

1. Robert, Taylor, L. (Contribution by). Military Leadership: In Pursuit of Excellence (6th Edition). Boulder, CO, USA: Westview Press, 2008. p 3

2. Ibid P. 37

Sun Tzu the Art of War translated by Samuel B. Griffith

Published May 16, 2012 P. 56

Ibid P. 57

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