Judo Leadership

Judo Leadership—“Invite in the on-coming force, find the balance point, add your own power, and redirect it”

There is a powerful lesson from great leaders that borrows from the principles of Judo.  In Judo, as is true with some of the other martial arts, one does not shy away from the incoming force.  In fact, the incoming force is invited in to create purposeful energy.  Judo masters are adept at finding the “balance point” – or the exact moment when the opponent’s balance might be thrown off.  That is when they add their own force to that of their opponent to redirect them for a takedown.

Similarly, exceptional leaders seem to carry the ability to look at adversity and challenge as an opportunity to reach even greater heights in creativity and performance. They use it as a rallying cry to motivate their teams.  They learn the lessons that are always inherent in adversity rather than going into denial and other defensive maneuvers.  Great leaders are able to create clear and emotive visions by using the trials and tribulations of difficult events, failure, and even great personal pain as context and a source of energy.  Following are some powerful examples of this phenomenon.

A global healthcare organization was put under a Consent Decree by the FDA.  Those of you who know of and have had experience with Consent Decrees can appreciate the stress and anxiety that this scenario generates for the organization as a whole, and in particular, for the quality and manufacturing departments.  In one of the planning meetings, someone started to say “benchmark.”  The other members of the team were dumbfounded and asked the individual what he was referring to.  He said, “We have the full attention of the organization.  We have unlimited resources to fix this problem. We have consultants coming out of our ear.  Why should we stop at just meeting the FDA requirements for safety? Why don’t we shoot for becoming an industry safety benchmark?”  His leadership motivated others on the team to take up the rallying cry to transform the organization.  Clearly, this leader leveraged the organizational momentum generated through the adversity of the Consent Decree to achieve a bigger and bolder vision.

According to his own accounts, throughout his life and while in prison for 27 years at Robben Island, Nelson Mandela used the hate and anger that surrounded him as fuel to craft his vision of a South Africa made of a “rainbow coalition.”  Upon assuming power, and as vividly illustrated in the motion picture Invictus, Mandela preached and practiced the mindset of inclusiveness rather that of hate and divisiveness.  He would often say that while he was in prison, he made it a point to actually learn the culture and mindset of his captors to form a vision that would benefit from and include them in the future of South Africa.  He knew that for South Africa to remain economically viable and ultimately a great society, he needed not just the black support, but equally the support from the Afrikaners.  Ultimately, the course of history came down to the leadership and beliefs of one man, Nelson Mandela.   The choice was clear – one of the bloodiest civil wars in the history of mankind versus a peaceful, purposeful, and inclusive transition.  Nelson Mandela practiced “Judo Leadership” par excellence…

What are your favorite examples and stories on Judo Leadership??

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2 Responses to Judo Leadership

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