Parallels Between Martial Arts & Leadership – Part 2

Parallels Between Martial Arts & Leadership – Part 2


Summary of learning from my Taekwondo experience.

If we don’t exercise our bodies, minds and our spirit, we are vulnerable. We don’t see the creeping consequences coming until a crisis hits in the form of physical stress that leads to diseases and heart attacks. Outside appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes we appear to be fit, but the immune system is weak. We appear to be financially stable in business, but the foundation is too shaky to withstand even a minor setback. The mental and emotional stress in organizations translates into higher medical expenses, turnover and conflict. Individuals and organizations don’t build up the resiliency necessary to handle failure if all they have experienced is success. When faced with adversity, real muscles are needed or the whole person goes downhill quickly.

 What have I learned? How is Taekwondo like living into leadership?

They both take

  • Commitment
  • Consistency
  • Perseverance
  • Discipline

They are both

  • Tiring
  • Funny
  • Sometimes boring
  • Sometimes painful
  • Sometimes exhilarating

When taken seriously both result in

  • Greater connection of body, mind and spirit
  • Stronger parts of the whole – in the physical we mean arms, legs, abs, etc., and in life we mean stronger individuals and stronger connections among individuals
  • A healthier overall body (physical), family, organization or society

Exercising mental muscles – Awareness, attention, and intention.

When our mental and emotional muscles are out of shape, we can expect the same sort of outcome that we get from our physical muscles when we first start to exercise them:

  • Get winded quickly and want to stop. ”This is too hard”
  • Want to get to the outcome quickly- run the 10K in x minutes make the basketball team and become the star, wear the black belt, etc.” This takes too long- it’s is not worth it.”
  • Have sore muscles or become wounded in some way. “I don’t need this kind of punishment.”

The BIG application to executive leadership coaching is that, as we learn and grow, we are responsible to usher other leaders up through their tests and belt colors so that they are be best people and leaders they can be. That is a leader’s job.