Monthly Archives: October 2012

Virtues of Leadership in Innovation

Seeking wisdom first: one of the the many lessons Sun-tzu’s The Art of War offers an innovative leader.

Statue of Charlemagne with guards

Command is
Wisdom,
Integrity,
Compassion,
Courage,
Severity.

- Sun-tzu  [1]

On a recent trip to France I was reading The Art of War and during a brief wait at the Charles de Gaulle airport I came to Sun-tzu’s list of characteristics required for effective command. This passage stayed with me throughout the trip and upon seeing the statue of Charlemagne in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral I was struck by the power of Sun-tzu’s insight. What had the most impact on me was not, in regards to effective leadership and command, the rendering of Charlemagne looking ahead into the distance, but the impression left by the vigilant and fearsome guards guiding the emperor on horseback. This visual created a lasting metaphor of leadership in my mind with respect to innovation—to effectively manage a team which is innovating requires a leader, first and foremost, to be wise and thoughtful, because the reins of the horse driving an innovative process are not held by a single person at the top.

Jason Freeman is the founder of Work of Start.


1. Sun-tzu (Sunzi); translated with an introduction and commentary by John Minford. The Art of War (New York: Penguin Group, 2009), 106.