5 Leadership lessons from Aikido

Last week I was in Sun Valley for a conference about finances and the future of the economy.  Every morning before the conference started there were Aikido lessons. Aikido is a Japanese martial art that means “the way of unifying life and energy”. It is based on 5 principles that are powerful lessons in leadership.

  1. The Victory over oneself: it is the basic principle of learning to control oneself before attempting to influence others. Without the ability to manage ourselves it is impossible to avoid an attack or apply any move or technique to others. In Leadership, awareness is the first step to know ourselves and manage our state and emotions. This is crucial in leadership! The more you know and control your self the more impact and influence you will have on others.
  2. Oneness: The idea behind this principle is that we must harmonize with the laws of nature. To do so, we must first learn to develop and maintain the right attitude of becoming one, keep harmony in every situation and specially in times of distress. The right attitude greatly affects the efficiency of the actions we take.  The same principle applies in leadership. The more we keep the “right attitude” and are able to manage our state the more resourceful we become and the more effective our actions will be.
  3. Circular Motion: The foundation of Aikido techniques is the spiritual circle. The idea is that regardless of the ways the opponent attacks, linear or angular,  you will respond with a circular motion centered at your lower abdomen, or your “hara”. This circular motion will help you to use your inner strength and blend it with the one of the attacker so that you can execute a controlling art with efficiency. In the same way leaders must learn to connect with their inner core and be more authentic. Authentic leaders create more rapport, build better relationships and lead more effectively.
  4. Range of Effectiveness:  Another major principle in Aikido is the ability to defend yourself by learning what is your range of effectiveness. In order words we need to understand how close or far we must position from the attacker without losing balance and effectiveness in our movements. This range of effectiveness is not constant but changes every moment. The same idea translates into leadership, change is the only constant. Effective leaders need to know themselves, be flexible and adapt to change.  They are visionaries, and do not react but rather anticipate change.
  5. Ki:  Ki is the essence of our world and therefore the basis of all matter, emotion, sense, direction, consciousness and conscience. At the same time it is also the source of energy and the binding force of our mind and body.  Great leadership requires work and alignment of our heart and our mind.

In essence the leadership lessons we can take from Aikido are: learn to manage yourself by improving your self-awareness, connect with your core and be authentic, understand what your talents are and hence you range of effectiveness and last but not least to align your mind and heart to increase impact and influence.

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