Centered Leader Series: A Centered Leader

Centered Leader Series:
A Centered Leader

Centered is one of those onion words—it means several different things, depending on the context. In the context of leadership, it is an ongoing process with five different actionable layers: centering, focusing, entering, blending and extending. In this series, I will attempt to explain them individually, as well as give you exercises to help you practice them. But first, I’ll explain what is a centered leader.

3 leadership styles

Centered is Not a Single Position

Centered leadership is about combining all three leadership styles, along with some unique elements. It differs because it exists on an emotional, physical and spiritual plane. Centered leadership is a fluid, constantly adaptable position. It can best be explained using martial arts, specifically Aikido.

Nage and Uke

In Aikido, two Aikido practitioners partner up to practice together. One serves the role of Nage, who practices the technique, and the other Uke, the teacher, who practices ukemi, or the art of falling. This plays out by the Uke attacking the Nage, and the Nage ultimately immobilizing the Uke. The Uke leads the practice by attaching a specific energy to each attack, allowing the Nage to navigate through the proper steps to master the technique.

Watch Morihei Ueshiba (O-sensei) and founder of Aikido in this rare Aikido Demonstration, skipping to about 5:30 to see Nage/Uke practice:

 

In a corporate setting, this looks like feedback. A centered leader (Uke) presents the team with a challenge, or task, and lends that team his or her energy by giving direction and encouragement, so that they all may master the skill. If the Nage fails, the Uke gives feedback as to why the Nage failed and they try again.

This leadership position is constantly fluid, as a centered leader moves to the head, to lead the charge, to the rear, to allow for innovation, or to the middle, to be mindful of the team and operate as one with the team.

Why Be a Centered Leader?

Life, especially in the corporate world, is full of varied points of view, (a euphemism for conflict.) The only way to avoid conflict is to live on an island, alone. Anytime you engage with another living being, you’ll naturally have differing points of view.

Most people, based on the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, manage conflict in five ways: they fight, they run, they give in, they give up a little, or they dig in to fix it. The University of Arizona has come up with a short 25-question conflict management style quiz you can take to determine your default conflict management style.

A centered leader leads through love—a radically different way of dealing with conflict. Conflict isn’t a negative thing—it’s the starting point for harmony. Nor are aggressors the enemy—they’re individuals who offer us opportunities for learning and growth.

A centered leader deftly moves with his or her team in the spirit of oneness, or true collaboration. This fluid position is in, among, before and behind—wherever the energy flows. Not everyone responds to the same leadership style. If we take one rigid position, we will always alienate certain team members. Not only that, we miss the value of multiple viewpoints.

In this five part series, I will lead you through that five-layered process, (centering, focusing, entering, blending and extending) giving you actionable exercises in your practice of becoming a centered leader. The process, like centered leadership, is fluid. You may be practicing one step, or all of them at any given time as you lead your team. The first part of this series is about Centering, specifically, how to physically center yourself.

More About Aikido:

The Aikikai Foundation website: http://www.aikikai.or.jp/eng/index.html

Or the Aikido FAQ website: http://www.aikidofaq.com/

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