Leadership Skills – The Samurai Leader

June 5, 2013
Good leaders are made, not born.

The Samurai were considered the ultimate warriors for over 700 years in Japan. Their code, Bushido, which means “to serve”, was a value system that defined their core values and how they lived. The Samurai became known for their rigid adherence to the Samurai code, in fact, their lives depended on it. The characteristics that made a good Samurai warrior in the 17th century can be applied to good leaders in the 21st century. Here are just a few:

Good Warriors are made, not born
Good Leaders are made, not born –
Just as the Samurai learned their code day in and day out, so must good leaders. Leaders learn by observing other leaders, by training in management training programs, by experiences on the job, by trial and error. It takes a lot of time to learn to be a good leader. It is also like a steady drumbeat. Learning must be practiced every day.

Good Warriors Lead by Example
Good Leaders Lead by Example
- Whether someone is leading a small flight department, a large division, or an entire multi-national company, it is important that they mirror the behavior that they desire their employees to follow. Wise leaders know that everything they do is observed. Leaders who will not listen to a customer’s complaint will have customer service people who also will not listen. Leaders who are abrupt and superior acting to their employees set the tone for everyone else. The reverse is also true. Leaders who care for their customers and employees will have employees who care for their customers and each other. The leader’s whole character sets the standard of behavior for everyone else. Employees can be ruthless imitators.

Good Warriors Act Honorably and Earn Trust
Good Leaders Act Honorably and Earn Trust –
One of the biggest challenges in business is that everyone starts with the assumption that no one can be trusted. Hence, the reason contracts are so important in business---so that all possibilities can be covered in case business dealings do not go well. Ultimately, there are few contracts that can cover parties who do not trust each other. A good leader realizes that the best business relationships exist based upon building a good personal relationship. A good leader is never afraid to be the first one to trust and

stand by his/her word. Everyday behavior is an important measure of a man (or woman!). The Samurai were always conscious of and immaculate in their appearance. A Samurai would be shamed if they were caught spreading gossip about others. The discipline of always acting correctly and building trust brought honor to the Samurai. These attributes all apply to leaders as well and a wise leader understands that honor and trust is earned or lost every single day. It is a matter of “walking the talk” and standing up to the challenge every day.

These are but a few of the attributes of Samurai warriors as they apply to modern day leaders. Remember, we are all leaders. As mentioned in a previous article, the average person influences 10,000 others in their lifetime. The Samurai warriors and their bushido (code of honor) provide many examples of ways we, as modern leaders, can influence in a positive way.

*(Source: from the book The Samurai Leader by Bill Diffenderffer)

About the Author

Christine Hill

Christine Hill, executive vice president and co-founder of ServiceElements, has been in teaching, facilitating, and coaching for 30+ years. She has a Master’s in psychology/education from Northern Arizona University and is passionate about helping organizations, teams, and individuals with development of human interaction skills.