Over the years, management consultants and human resources experts have attempted to uncover common traits of exceptional leaders. We’re not talking about people who make their companies the most money or who dominate an industry. Rather, we’re talking about people who can guide and inspire so that the individual and business thrive.
One thing we’ve found, through the experience of Intivix Co-Founder, Rob Schenk, is that the practice of martial arts is grounding and helps with discipline and patience. Rob studies Aikido, Japanese martial art that focuses on the cultivation of the spirit. In Aikido, you control an aggressor by blending with and redirecting the force of an attack.
Embracing his martial arts studies, Rob endeavors to instill its values and key principles of focus, discipline, character, and cultivating a Beginner’s Mind into the Intivix corporate culture.
The first principle of Aikido is to be fully present in the moment. Utilizing this principle helps practitioners remain connected to their environment and respond to situations, rather than react hastily. The “be present” practice makes better people as well as better leaders.
Todd Nordstrom, Content Director at the O.C. Tanner Institute points out that martial arts teach confidence, which every leader needs. “Although confidence may often seem like it’s some sort of personality trait,” he says, “when you stop and truly assess it, you’ll quickly understand that it’s something learned.”
In learning confidence, Nordstrom suggests using martial arts to practice the process of mastering basics, receiving feedback, and handling high-pressure situations; all of which are necessary skills in creating confident, inspiring leaders.
Nordstrom goes on to say, “sparring in the martial arts is almost like playing tag where you learn how to respond under pressure. You learn that everything will be okay. And, you develop a sense of calm in high-pressure situations.”
Martial arts can train you to handle challenges in real life. With the help of your martial arts practice, you can learn to view challenges as growth opportunities rather than slights to your ability.
Mastering martial arts takes discipline, patience, and hard work, much of what is required to achieve goals in business. Still, this progress usually happens in small steps, rather than giant strides – in both the business world and martial arts – teaching us to appreciate the journey rather than the destination.
“Black belts are just white belts who never quit,” Nordstrom says, remembering the words of wisdom from his martial arts instructor.
A similar sentiment applies to leadership development – no matter what field you’re in – great leaders are people who never quit improving. As Rob notes, “If you get knocked down 6 times, then get up 7 times.”