History Lessons

Han Xin

The granary keeper who became a general

When Liu Bang, Prince of Han, was at war against Xiang Yu, the Kingdom of Chu’s warlord during the Warring States Period, Liu’s Chief Counsellor Xiao He suddenly went missing.

Three days later, Xiao returned. The Prince was furious and demanded to know why he had left in the midst of a battle. Xiao said he had left to retrieve Han Xin, who was merely a keeper of the granary.

Originally born in Chu, Han joined its army and worked his way up from foot soldier. However, Xiang Yu was dismissive of the aspirant’s military strategies so Han defected from Chu.

Confusingly, Han went to Han.

Xiao got acquainted with Han and was taken by his knowledge and intelligence. Despite repeated recommendation to Prince Liu to elevate the young man to a higher position in the army, Han was kept in the granary.

Discouraged, Han decided to leave. Xiao immediately left to pursue him. Convinced by his trusted advisor’s determination and judgement, Prince Liu relented and promoted Han to commander-in-chief.

Han did not disappoint; he defeated Xiang Yu in the Battle of Gaixia and helped Liu unify the Kingdom (Liu Bang was the founder of the Han Dynasty). Han was widely regarded as one of the greatest generals in Chinese history. His story is often used as an example of a person who had risen above adversity. His military strategies were required reading for all aspiring generals.

The lesson? Perhaps a manager’s greatest talent is the ability to spot great talent.


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