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The Art of War Quotes About Leadership, Deception, and Strategy

Nia Simone McLeod, Content Writer
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Sun Tzu’s The Art of War has influenced military, business, and overall lifestyle in the East as well as the West.

The Art of War quotes below will help you learn more about the revolutionary book. 

Have you read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War? 

The Art of War was written in about 5th Century BC by Chinese strategist and military general Sun Tzu.

It is considered the oldest known book discussing military science.

Tzu speaks to generals and commanders about tactics and strategies surrounding warfare.

Although the book was written over two thousand years ago, there are many themes within the book that can be applied to modern-day. 

To take a peek inside the mind of Sun Tzu, check out the quotes below. 

Have you read these Sun Tzu quotes and sayings?

Check out our most popular quote article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily inspiration.

Check out our inspirational quotes category page for more inspirational life quotes.

Powerful Art of War quotes

1. “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity” – Sun Tzu

2. “Quickness is the essence of the war.” – Sun Tzu

3. “Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.” – Sun Tzu

4. “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” – Sun Tzu

5. “If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things.” – Sun Tzu

6. “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.” – Sun Tzu

Art of War quotes about leadership

7. “Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.” – Sun Tzu

8. “Rewards for good service should not be deferred a single day.” – Sun Tzu

9. “Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical.” – Sun Tzu

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10. “A leader leads by example, not by force.” – Sun Tzu

11. “If soldiers are punished before they have grown attached to you, they will not prove submissive; and, unless submissive, then will be practically useless. If, when the soldiers have become attached to you, punishments are not enforced, they will still be unless.” – Sun Tzu

Art of War quotes about war

12. “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” – Sun Tzu

13. “The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.” – Sun Tzu
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14. “Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack.” – Sun Tzu

15. “There are roads which must not be followed, armies which must not be attacked, towns which must not be besieged, positions which must not be contested, commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.” – Sun Tzu

16. “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.” – Sun Tzu

17. “There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.” – Sun Tzu

18. “So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.” – Sun Tzu

19. “Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.” – Sun Tzu

If you enjoy this article, check out our collection of strategy quotes from business and military leaders.

Art of War quotes about subtlety and deception

20. “The wise warrior avoids the battle.” – Sun Tzu

21. “Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.” – Sun Tzu

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22. “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” – Sun Tzu

23. “To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” – Sun Tzu

24. “The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent.” – Sun Tzu

25. “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” – Sun Tzu

If you’re enjoying this article, make sure to also check out these military quotes to honor our heroes.

Art of War quotes about the enemy

26. “If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak.” – Sun Tzu

27. “Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will.” – Sun Tzu

28. “It is easy to love your friend, but sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is to love your enemy.” – Sun Tzu

29. “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.” – Sun Tzu

30. “When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move.” – Sun Tzu

31. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu

Art of War quotes about strategy

32. “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu

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33. “Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.” – Sun Tzu

34. “Bravery without forethought, causes a man to fight blindly and desperately like a mad bull. Such an opponent, must not be encountered with brute force, but may be lured into an ambush and slain.” – Sun Tzu

35. “When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.” – Sun Tzu

36. “Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.” – Sun Tzu

37. “Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.” – Sun Tzu

38. “Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.” – Sun Tzu

39. “The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.” – Sun Tzu

40. “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” – Sun Tzu 

How strategic are you? 

A common theme in The Art of War is how to better strategy in warfare.

For example, Sun Tzu often mentions the importance of knowing your enemy.

Being hyper-aware of your enemy’s shortcomings can show you the perfect time to counter-attack. 

Sun Tzu’s guidance to “know your enemy” can be applied to the modern-day.

If you are competing with another coworker for a promotion, understanding their faults can show you how to shine brighter.

If your coworker is often late to meetings, you can ensure you are early to each one.

Having a solid strategy can help you pave a clear path to success. 

What have you learned from these Art of War quotes and lines?

Are you planning on sharing them with a friend or coworker?

Let us know below!

1 Comment
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  1. pearler

    October 20, 2020 at 4:27 AM

    Think ,Be aware, take advantage, of every situation .

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