nexus point | Leadership Development ~ Talent Management ~ Realising Potential

Musashi’s “The Book of Five Rings”

This is another text steeped in the mists of time that presents principles that resonate strongly with what is being searched out in the present day.  It was written in 1643 by the Samurai warrior Miyamoto Musashi, and is considered to be in the league of ‘Art of War’ in its applicability to modern-day strategy development.  The key values espoused in this text are those of mastery – in which learning is a life-long process, and of balance.

It is asserted that “true mastery does not come from knowing one practice alone – it is from being grounded in a number of disciplines.”  Even then, the value of diversification was known.  It states to “know your tools, learn them, and use them as intended.”  This can apply to skills, as well as to physical and human resources.  It is worth checking that each is being employed to it best capacity.  “Learn to see accurately, and become aware of what’s not obvious.”  It is so easy for us to think that we are relating to reality, to the facts, when more often than not our perception is coloured by our point of view.  In identifying this, there is then the opportunity to then see that which was not obvious, and in doing so, be clear to act for the optimum outcome.  “Be careful even in small matters.”  There is no task too small to warrant a lack of attention.  Hunt out these areas with yourself and your staff, and watch the quality of work escalate!  “Do not do anything useless.”  Don’t waste your time on futile activities!  You have more than enough to attend to without this!  “Win at keeping good people, correctness of personal conduct, taking care of the populace, and enhancing one’s honour.”  Your staff are your greatest asset.  It is worth taking time to check that they are being attended to appropriately.  “Look yourself and others in the eye.”  You can really only do this if you are managing yourself with integrity.  It will also leave others with a sense of being appreciated and respected.

Be clear of your intention and course of action.”  Critical for leadership!  If you do not know where you are going, or why, good luck trying to get there!  “Think unhurriedly and maintain focus.”  Do not be hasty; consider your actions, and do not become distracted.  Easy to say, not always easy to do.  “Keep order; do not have slack or excess in your own actions.”  Do not under or over-invest your time, attention, or resources on activities, and have the wisdom to know when this is the case.  “Do not be controlled by your mood.”  You and others do have emotions.  You just do not have to be governed by them.  “If you are going to take on an opponent, prepare; and do not be obsessed with this.”  Of course you will have opponents.  Any leader does.  It’s healthy.  Just don’t allow them to pull your attention.  They can, sometimes inadvertently, have a lot to contribute to what you are causing.  “Perceive abilities and intentions.”  This can take some skill.  Rather than just taking what is said or done at face value, take the time to consider where the action was coming from.  It will give you a great insight into the values and motivators of the staff, and provide you with an opportunity to acknowledge and tap into their strengths in a way that you might otherwise not have.  “Do not move too fast or too slow.”  Leadership must strike a balance here to maintain momentum amongst the staff.  Either extreme will cause you to lose their support.  Again, the wisdom is in knowing which is which.  “Do not sustain upset.”  Interesting, it does not say, “Do not get upset.”  Just ‘do not sustain it’.  That equally applies to you as to others.  Do, or say, whatever you need to do to resolve the upset and to prevent or minimise the chances of it happening again.

It seems that all this really should be just common sense, but how often has it been observed that common sense just does not seem to be that common.  It is also another matter to operate with these basic principles at the forefront of one’s mind.  That is where the coach can contribute, as it is purely a matter of training and development.  It is worth not overlooking what seem to be almost misleadingly simple principles.  Indeed, it is there that access to the greatest breakthroughs is most often located.

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