Many westerners read Miyamoto Musashi’s “Go Rin no Sho”, the Book of Five Rings in the hopes of finding the secret to Japanese business success. Perhaps the real secret to success was told to Tokugawa Ieyasu by the daimyo of Satsuma, Shimazu Yoshihisa.
Shimazu Yoshihisa is seen as one of the greatest leaders of his time, rising from lands in Kagoshima, southern Kyushu, to almost conquering all of Kyushu on his own.
As the head of Shimazu clan, he led his brothers Yoshihiro, Toshihisa, and Shimazu Iehisa, in the unification of Kyﾅｫshu. By the mid 1580s, the Shimazu clan controlled most of Kyushu, until Toyotomi Hideyoshi made his bid to claim the island with an overwhelming 200,000 samurai, forcing the Shimazu to concede defeat. Yoshihisa surrendered becoming a Buddhist priest, and spent his final years composing poetry.
The story goes that after the Battle of Sekigahara, where the Shimazu clan had fought against the Tokugawa, Yoshihisa was invited to visit Tokugawa Ieyasu in Fushimi Castle, where he was asked to give a lecture on his successes in Kyushu. Yoshihisa refused at first, but is later said to have simply and humbly explained; "My 3 younger brothers united, and their samurai fought so well I didn’t have to fight. I simply waited in my castle for news of their victories. "
Impressed, Ieyasu told his samurai that "This is how a General should fight wars. By being modest and letting those under him do their best."
Ieyasu was also touched by the warlords’ humility, and understood well the reasoning behind allowing his allies to commence the initial skirmishes, and achieve the bulk of the preparations before his arrival. It is the same with businesses these days. A manager or company president should allow those below them to get on with their jobs and do their best without interference. If credit and praise goes to the men in the field, they become motivated, and respect their leader. That is the secret to success.
Yoshihisa died after a short illness in 1611. He was 78, a wise old man, and a true Sengoku samurai.