Wednesday, July 24, 2019

BOOK REVIEW The Ruler's Guide: China's Greatest Emperor and His Timeless Secrets of Success (2017)

The Ruler's Guide: China's Greatest Emperor and His Timeless Secrets of Success (2017)
by Chinghua Tang

"The ruler has only one heart," says Tang Taizong, the greatest emperor of China (598-649), a good leader and wise ruler, "but it is the goal of many people. Some want to win it by bravery, some want to win it by eloquence, some by flattery, some by cunning, some by satisfying its desires. The ruler is being assaulted from all sides. Everybody tries to sell him something in order to attain power and wealth. If he drops his guard for one moment, he can make a serious mistake and get into trouble. That is why it is difficult to be a ruler." Just change the word ‘ruler’ to ‘leader’ and The Ruler’s Guide automatically become a leadership book.

I have to choose between reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War and Chinghua Tang's The Ruler's Guide because if I read one and then I don't like what I read, I won't read the other one. I'm glad I've chosen (if you believe in human's freewill) The Ruler's Guide. Probably I will read The Art of War soon. In this 160+ pages book, Chinghua Tang, Shanghai-born who runs his management consulting firm, Concorde Universal Inc. in New York, presents conversations between Taizong and his wise and talented advisors that reveal core aspects of leadership, management, government and personal legacy. I don't like the fact that he killed his brother to gain the throne but after he became China's emperor, he was a change – not perfect – man. When he founded the Tang dynasty (his dynasty lasted about 300 years, the longest), Taizong was only 28 years old. He was a fierce warrior who killed about 1,000 enemies on the battlefield but more than that, he is a great leader on par with Augustus, Genghis Khan and Napoleon.

The format of this book is simple. The primary source for the quotes based on the conversations between Tang Taizong and his advisors is from The Zhenguan Executive Guide (670-749) and then organized into 12 topics/chapters, namely:

#1 On Being Emperor
#2 On Human Resources
#3 On Moral Character and Talent
#4 On Management
#5 On Remonstrance
#6 On Virtues
#7 On the Art of War
#8 On Crime and Punishment
#9 On Frugality
#10 On the Rise and Fall of an Empire
#11 On Parenting and Educating the Next Generation
#12 On Being Well Remembered

What makes Tang Taizong extraordinary are many, but three (3) are most admire: 1) Personal Leadership. He assembled a team of advisors who are much older and wiser than him before he assumed the throne; 2) Polymath Leadership. He was a gifted administrator, a master military strategist, a mighty warrior, an archer, hunter, horseman, poet, composer, philosopher and calligrapher; and 3) Tolerance Leadership. He allowed women to speak especially in his relationship with his wife. He also, although he was closer to Taoism, was very tolerant of religion. He allowed both Christianity and Islam into China for the first time and was, indirectly, the cause of Buddhism's being planted in Tibet. Taizong has many shortcomings, but I love the way he admitted it and daily he tried to improve himself. "Today, [Tang Taizong] is revered as among the greatest emperors of China," writes Chinghua in the last chapter. "As a wise and rational monarch, he is a role model for all rulers. And his dynasty is recognized as one of the most glorious eras in Chinese history." Love this book!



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