2023 Leadership Learns from Musashi

The relationship between leadership and turnover

Visier recently released a survey highlighting how employees distrust their employers and how good leadership builds that trust.

Additionally, trust appears to impact employee retention and turnover. In fact, approximately half of employees who trust their employers (46%) see themselves in their current roles for five years or longer, compared to only 29% of respondents who distrust their employers. Only 17% of employees who said they trust their employers see themselves leaving their jobs in the next 12 months, while over one-third (35%) of distrustful employees said they believe they will not be in their current roles in a year.

Miyamoto Musashi was one of the most legendary samurai who ever lived. His Book of the Five Rings is one of the classics of military strategy and the way of the warrior. It was the culmination of a lifetime of study and battle. Musashi, who was as much a philosopher as he was a warrior, intended that the teachings in his book would apply not only to warriors but also artists, merchants, and bureaucrats. His advice on strategy and personal development is studied by business leaders worldwide.

Anemone123 / Pixabay

See What The Competition Doesn’t See – And Use It!

Musashi’s approach to strategy is best represented in the story of his most famous duel. His opponent, Ganryu, was an expert with the sword, but Musashi studied the man’s psychology before their fight.

Visier asked the 90% of respondents who said they trust their employers why they held this belief. The top reasons these employees gave for trusting their employers were:

  1. They generally tell me the truth: 65%

  2. They’re transparent about company policies and practices: 52%

  3. TIED:They don’t allow toxic behavior and They pay fair market rates: 39%

  4. They encourage employees to speak up: 38%

He realized that Ganryu was quick to anger and possessed the pride of being an expert in an ancient tradition. So he showed up late for the duel and fought with a wooden pole instead of a sword as if he were not taking the contest or his opponent seriously. Ganryu lost his temper and, with it, lost his control and finesse. Musashi bested him easily. Ganryu thought only of the duel. Musashi thought not just of the fight but also his opponent. He noticed a detail his opponent was unaware of and figured out how to use it to his advantage. This combination of dueling skill and psychological manipulation became his particular style as a strategist. Modern business leaders would be wise to take this same approach. Study everything, notice something your competition has not, and use it against them.

Samueles / Pixabay

Make Sure You Can Tell Gain from Loss

Musashi repeatedly stressed that it was essential to be able to tell the difference between gain and loss in worldly matters. He made a good point in doing so. A lot of people often can’t tell the difference. Something that looks like a good deal on its face can end up being a money pit, unable to turn a profit without too much investment.

Something else might look like it has no value, but in the hands of the right person, it can be profitably sold in a different context. It is vitally important that a business leader be able to distinguish between genuine gain and loss.

Never Stop Learning

According to Musashi, the way to master strategy was to know as much as possible about as many different things as possible. This is how you can effectively use Musashi’s approach of seeing what the competition does not. It is how you can genuinely tell gain from loss. As Musashi said, “Know the ways of all professions.”

Do Nothing Which Is of No Use

Musashi believed that everything you do should be done with purpose and that you should never waste your resources. He admonished his readers never to do anything that was of no use. A good business leader should think carefully before every action and only make a move if there is a clear benefit.

The Takeaway

Musashi realized that his best weapon was his mind. With a sharp, attentive, educated mind, Musashi went undefeated through dozens of duels. Any business leader who follows the same way as Musashi should have similar success.



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