Every Saturday here at Basche’s Martial Arts, Sensei Basche teaches a leadership class for our students. While this class still has martial arts at its heart, it aims to teach students how to become leaders in the community. However, these skills become valuable long before the student has a leadership position. A person with a leadership mindset uses their skills even as a follower.
There are many skills any leader needs for success. Just as our students practice a new kick, so too must they practice leadership skills. What are the most important skills for a leader to practice?
A “Big Picture” Mindset
When we practice martial arts, we often emphasize the details of technique. Whether that’s making sure to pivot your foot during a powerful punch or chambering a kick, a student is constantly being told to focus on those details. While this detail-oriented mindset teaches our students how to focus, it’s possible to evolve into tunnel vision. By focusing too much on small details, a leader can lose sight of the bigger picture.
Imagine you’re working on a project at school or at work. If you focus too much on one element, like the pictures in a presentation, you might forget other elements like research or speaking skills. That’s why it’s important to keep the big picture in mind. When making decisions, ask yourself questions like, “How will this affect the overall mission?” This keeps your focus on your goals.
Even as a follower, you can use this skill. If your boss gives you a task, think about the bigger picture as you complete it. Say your boss wants you to get higher sales numbers. You could achieve this through pressuring your clients into rushing decisions, but this will hurt the company in the long run. Instead, it’s better to boost sales by building relationships, which helps the company achieve its long-term goals.
Throughout life, whether we mean to or not, we are constantly building relationships. As a leader, it’s important that those relationships be developed in a positive manner. The foundation of any relationship is trust. How does a leader build trust?
As a leader, one of the most important things you can do to build trust is to truly listen to your followers. When they come to you with concerns, listen to them respectfully. Respond appropriately. Don’t just say you’re going to do something about their concerns; do it. And if you can’t address those concerns right now, make sure your follower knows why.
In a follower role, the most reliable way to build trust is to perform well. Whether your boss asks you to contact a client, clean up the break room, or do a presentation, always get the job done well. If a teacher asks you to write an essay, make sure it not only meets the requirements, but excels. This will build trust and make you the go-to person.
Honesty is another important element in building trust. However, this does not mean you need to be blunt with your honesty. Always use tact, especially when you are in a follower role. If a plan sounds like a bad idea, make that known respectfully. Say, “I want to achieve this goal. Will you please explain this a bit more for me?” This puts your ego in check and may make the leader reevaluate their decision. It also phrases the discussion as a conversation rather than an attack. In the end, you may also discover other elements you were not aware of which change the effectiveness of the plan.
Keep Your Ego in Check
As a leader and as a follower, it’s important to maintain a balance between confidence and humility. Many of our programs at Basche’s Martial Arts build confidence, and you need to have this confidence as a leader and a follower. A lack of confidence will also translate to a lack of respect, which strains any relationship. However, too much confidence becomes arrogance, and this builds resentment. That’s why it’s important to keep your ego in check.
“All streams flow to the ocean because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it its power.”-Lao Tzu
One of the ways you can keep your ego in check is by allowing other people to take the credit. If your supervisor is praised by her boss for successful completion of a project, let her accept that praise. Your ego might yell at you to try to take the credit, but it’s up to you to ignore that. This keeps you humble while building your supervisor’s confidence, and that will lead to better work with her in the future.
Even if you aren’t in a leadership position now, you can still use your leadership skills. You can (and should) use the same “big picture” mindset to help in your role as a follower. Your skills at building and maintaining relationships are also important as a follower, and those relationships will be even more important when you become a leader. Finally, it’s important to stay humble and keep your ego in check. Don’t denigrate your own achievements, but allow others to receive credit and praise.
June 9, 2023