Kung Fu Leadership Lessons
Its no secret that leaders need a clear understanding of the universal principles of success.
Most people, however, are completely clueless when it comes to the universal of success. Even if they experienced great success in the past, they may be unable to clearly identify what it was that got them there and therefore unclear on how to replicate those actions, behaviors, or choices. As a result, they struggle to be clear of the universal principles that made them so successful.
The good news is, this struggle is unnecessary.
The universal principles of success are much easier to identify, and much easier to achieve, than most of us make them. They’re very specific and very constant. Most importantly, they aren’t as distant as we often imagine them to be.
They also aren’t new!
These universal principles have existed since the beginning of time—fragmented and scattered, you can find evidence of these principles in literature and philosophy going back centuries.
But they can also be found in unexpected places. In fact, we found them being taught in a surprisingly complete package. Not in a business management or a self-help leadership book, but at a Kung Fu school!
The school teaches the same Kung Fu system Bruce Lee learned growing up in Hong Kong. Maybe the best way to understand more is through Bruce Lee’s own words:
Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later the man who wins, is the man who thinks he can.
Bring the mind into sharp focus and make it alert so that it can immediately intuit truth, which is everywhere. The mind must be emancipated from old habits, prejudices, restrictive thought processes and even ordinary thought itself.
Bruce Lee is a shining example of leadership, success, and what it means to be your best. He was all about making the most of what you’ve got, seeking truth, knowledge, and applying what you know.
Born in the Year of the Dragon, Bruce Lee took up the study of Kung Fu as a teenager. At the age of 16, Bruce was introduced to Yip Man (aka Ip Man), a Kung Fu master who taught an art called Wing Chun, a form of Kung Fu known for, among other things, its close-quarters fighting efficiency. For the next two years, until he moved to America at the age of eighteen, Bruce studied under Yip Man as both a student of Kung Fu and a student of life. In fact, Yip Man was largely responsible for shaping Bruce’s personal philosophy at an early age.
Kung Fu Leadership: The 6 Universal Principles
So, what do great leaders like Bruce Lee do differently? And what are the core principles taught to him by Yip Man?
Simply put, it is the understanding and ability to apply specific universal principles.
Below are the six universal principles as taught at The Dragon Institute…
1 – Relaxation: Calm within the Storm
Every day, business leaders are faced with competing decisions and challenges, which can cause considerable frustration and anxiety. Relaxation is the first step toward achieving clarity. Through proper breathing techniques, postural control, and an awareness of being in the moment, you can achieve a state of calm in the center of a storm.
Deep down, you already have all the answers. The key is to stop resisting and overthinking so that you can allow yourself to feel. When you relax and find your center, you find yourself. You find what feels right, not what you’re forced to do by others.
If you can’t maintain your center under pressure, you’ll never reach higher levels of leadership and authority. You have to allow yourself to tap into your potential (which is unlimited!). This takes patience and trust: patience with yourself, and trust in your own abilities. Bruce often said,” Don’t think, feel!” When it comes to highly effective leadership, feeling is everything.
2 – Move Forward: Find Small Ways to Progress
When faced with difficult decisions or challenges, most people retreat or immediately go on the defensive. This is only natural; our instinct as humans is to resist or back away from things we perceive as challenges. However, resisting or going on the defensive takes us away from our goals. Resisting actually locks us into fighting the challenge and takes our mind completely away from the possibilities and opportunities in each situation.
As leaders, we must to look at every single situation as an opportunity to get closer to our goals. This is what is meant by moving forward.
If you spend most of your time wrapped up in fighting the same challenges you’ve fought time and time again, you won’t make progress. You’ll be focused on the challenges, not the opportunities. By channeling your energy toward your goals and maintaining your focus, you’ll keep moving forward.
3 – Act Upon Stimuli: Be in the Moment
Leaders must learn to stay in the moment and focus on the task at hand. When the leader is in the now, being mindful of the current moment. He can’t afford to let the future problems or past mistakes blur his focus from the now. Being in the now makes you fluid and ready to act. This allows you to take the necessary steps to position yourself for success, and you need to be ready to act when opportunities arise. Effective leaders must keep their mind in the present so as changes happen they can flow with them. This leadership principle sets them up to react immediately upon the changing environment. As pressure is placed upon them they take action and use obstacles as guidance towards their goals.
4 – Respond Simply (with Clarity and Honesty)
Leaders focus upon being a simple as possible. They respond to the challenges they confront simply and directly. This allows leaders to make better decisions much more quickly than those who overanalyze, overcomplicate or over-react. By simplifying your response, you can also communicate your goals more clearly to others. When your response is simple, both your communications and decisions will be direct, on-point, and respected.
5 – Focus – Remain Mindful Of Your Goal
As you focus, you channel your energy toward your goals. This allows leaders to remain clear, purposeful and confident. Many things, people and tasks will attempt to come between you and your goals. However, it’s imperative that you keep your mind focused on the end game. This will help you establish boundaries and align your priorities. Focusing upon your goal will allow irrelevant things and distractions to fade away as you pay them no mind. Your power will become much more concentrated.
6 – Be Grounded – Remain Emotionally Settled
Being grounded is confidence. It allows a leader to deal from a position of strength. Never allow your self to deal from a place of desperation. Leaders aren’t in a hurried frenzy. They remain settled, are examples to others and they work to calm others down.
Let’s say someone comes at you with a problem. They are agitated, yelling and being confrontational. First things first, make sure you are emotionally grounded. Relax, breathe from your lower abdomen through your nose, and listen to what the person needs without getting distracted by their delivery. Seek first to understand and get to the bottom of their needs. Then lead them to a solution with a simple, direct, and emotionally settled response. You’ll be amazed at how your response to this confrontation will transform the interaction and lead to a solution.
By properly applying these concepts, you’ll develop and/or improve the quick decision-making reflexes that are vital for successful leadership. You’ll learn to maintain your sense of self by preventing outside influences from breaking your focus. You’ll develop successful habits for avoiding the trap of procrastination. You’ll become more centered, allowing you to deal from a position of strength. You’ll harness the power of simplicity. You’ll come to see efficiency as the key to effectiveness. In sum, you’ll be better prepared to be a successful leader.
These universal principles, when applied to leadership, will help you create balance, set a clear vision, and guide the entire team toward greater performance and profit. By having a leadership style that can adapt to individuals and situations, you will be in a strong position to create winning strategies, gain a competitive edge, and achieve your goals.
I’ll leave you with some of Bruce Lee’s quotes (in his words)…
Note: These universal principles are taught at The Dragon Institute. They may be presented in different ways in our Kung Fu schools or perhaps not at all. This article is adapted from an original article titled Be Like Water: Lessons on Leadership from Wing Chun Gung Fu by Sifu Adam Williss and Alex Hernandez.