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Executive martial arts Featured

8:00pm EDT July 21, 2002

Unconditional acceptance is dead.

Just because the word president or CEO follows your name on the company letterhead doesn't mean your employees look at you as a leader. Leadership is not a trait that should be assumed or taken for granted.

Gone are the days when staff members follow your instructions simply because you say so. The trend today is to lead by example or build a consensus to get every employee on the same page. Whatever your style, learning to work within the flow of the organization instead of against it to affect change is a concept many business owners fail to grasp.

"People tend to make the same mistakes over and over again in managing stress, motivating others and dealing with conflict and change," explains Robert Pater, author of "Leading From Within: Martial Arts Skills for Dynamic Business and Management."

They tend to fight the employees rather than convince them to work together as a team.

The role of executives has changed. Pater claims leaders can't simply issue memos and expect to succeed. In his book, he compares mastery of the ancient martial arts to effective leadership.

"For centuries, these skills have made world leaders," he says. "Martial artists focus on developing the power of control, maintaining inner calmness under attack and using concentration to attain goals."

Pater offers four ways to earn black belt leader status.

Understand proximity

Proximity provides power.

"In a business situation, deal with your staff face-to-face," he says. "Develop leadership by reducing distance wherever you can -- position your office close to staff members, bridge emotional barriers by reaching out and stand at a comfortably close distance when talking to your employees."

Establish contact

Contact is the beginning of a successful encounter. The proper use of contact allows a leader to direct another person toward a desired goal.

"Seek out co-workers to help make decisions," suggests Pater. "Solicit their views and let them know as soon as possible about new programs or other changes you implement within your business. Reach out in every way you can and don't wait for them to come to you."

Maximize impact

Martial artists know they waste energy when they attack an opponent's strength and maximize their resources when they respond to an opponent's weakness.

"Time your responses," Pater says. "When it's time to listen, listen. When it's time to talk, talk. Pick your battles wisely, identifying when and where you can make the strongest impact."

Keep your center

To move or unbalance an opponent, martial artists focus on the centerline -- the point of balance that runs from the head to the feet. Strength applied to the centerline will move even the largest attacker.

"To move an organization where you want it to go, focus on the centerline that runs through the head (upper management), heart (middle management), abdomen (staff) and legs (support staff)," Pater says. "Concentrate your efforts there and the rest of the organization will move as well." How to reach: Robert Pater, (503) 977-2094

Dustin Klein (dsklein@sbnnet.com) is editor of SBN.