By definition, “Leadership is the management of relationships in a community, group or people.” By extension, then, we must also understand that leadership is “the use of social influence to produce results.” The Japanese philosopher, Mitsuru Ueshiba (the founder of Aikido), explains the philosophical and practical nature of the highly successful martial art, which stresses peaceful resolution of conflict by means of peaceful persuasion. The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba (the founder of Aikido: “the way is peace”), stated in a correspondence with Dr. Usuiyehara, “The method of Aikido is not directed towards attaining power but the elimination of tension.” Thus, from this plain meaning of Aikido, it can be reasonably concluded that the key to leadership is not so much attaining power as eliminating tension.
Tension in Leadership
Tension, is the outcome of contention, and to eliminate tension the source of its origination must be found. The first step in this direction is to recognize the tension and the resultant response in others. This, of course, presupposes that there is a scope for change; otherwise, change becomes a reaction against the origination, rather than its outcome. However, if there is no scope for change, then the tension will be re-established, unless it is channeled through some other channel. In that case, there may be a need to apply Aikido Principles and Leadership in order to neutralize the initial impact of the initial tension.
The next step involves the application of Utsuri Goshi techniques to alter the tension of a situation. Changing the tension means altering the course of action. Therefore, the effectiveness of Aikido in changing an undesirable result is dependent upon its ability to change the actions of an opponent or, more importantly, the mindset of the opponent. This concept of mind-change is at the core of the principles of Aikido, and the basic idea of Aikido is to create a state of harmony through a sort of leadership/martial art action.
Is the Team Member Always Right?
The Aikido Leadership Principle “A student is always right,” is an important basic principle for Aikido. The application to leadership would imply that the team member is always right. But “right” about what? I would like to take this a step further and say that the student or team member is the absolute polar opposite of the leader, because, as they grow in their career path the leader must learn to modify to fit the changing needs of their student or team member. For example, one day a team member wants to be strong, and they see no reason not to be competitive in another team member’s role at work, then the leader should allow the team member to be strong but not manipulate them. On the other hand, maybe the next day the same team member begins to be sensitive and wants to be responsive, then the leadership principle “A student is always right,” must be modified to say “A student must be allowed the space to respond to leadership.” In the latter case, maybe the leader must recognize that he/she is human and then adjust the “A student is always right” principle to read “A student must have the space to learn what it means to be a leader.”
Self-Knowledge in Aikido Principle for Leadership
The self-knowledge Aikido principle is similar to the planning principle. When you are able to know yourself well enough to control your Aikido, you are at least half way there. Self-knowledge allows you to make rational choices about your behavior, and about how you will engage in your Aikido. You may have problems with your self-knowledge, but if you are dedicated to learning and willing to work at making your self-knowledge better, your Aikido will improve with time.
The next Aikido leadership principle is “the leader cannot lead without the followers.” This might seem simple; however, there are three major flaws with this basic premise. First, Aikido isn’t a popularity contest. Sometimes, perhaps the majority of the time, leaders have to make the unpopular decisions in order to have the business move forward. Second, leaders need to lead. No matter how good a leader is, without followers the Aikido Principle will have no purpose. Third is the premise, “people will follow a leader even though he doesn’t lead them directly.” Of course, this argument depends on your understanding of Aikido and leadership. What Aikido actually teaches is that a leader doesn’t need to directly lead their people; what they need to do is guide their minds to understand the spiritual nature of Aikido. In other words, leading people by controlling their minds is not a part of the Aikido technique. Direct leadership is just one component of Aikido. This third point is aimed at indirect leadership.
Aikido Principle and Leadership – Written in Stone?
These Aikido Principles are not written in stone when it comes to leadership behavior. A leader can choose to modify these principles as they see fit, but they will always need to understand and accept these basic premises. If they do not, then they run the risk of either leading people onto the wrong path, or squandering valuable talents of their team members. The leader also risks alienating people if they do not modify these principles to fit the specific situation the organization finds themselves in. There needs to be a harmony among the various principals that make up Aikido, otherwise it will be doomed to fail when applied in a leadership setting.
Aikido Principle and Leadership Resiliency
On the other hand, if you modify one of these principles, people may respect you and your ideas as a result of your leadership resiliency. They will see you as a leader, because you are one. They will see your vision for the future, because you clearly articulated it. They will respect you and your leadership, because you deserve to be respected. This respect will grow and expand the ranks of the Aikido Principled organization, making the leadership art — and business — more successful in the future.
The essence of these principles is that the leader should lead by example. Aikido should be enjoyed by all before it is practiced, because if it is enjoyed, then it is performed with complete passion and purpose. If the leader cannot relate to their people, or cannot demonstrate their ability to lead by example, then they are not a suitable Aikido Master for themself or for the people under their leadership.
In conclusion, these are the fundamental principles on which Aikido is built. If any of these apply to you, then you probably have a solid foundation on which to build. Are there things that you need to change? Of course there are. However, if you take the time to understand these basic principles, then you will already be halfway home to being an effective Aikido Master when it comes to Leadership.