The Randori Principles -
The Path of Effortless Leadership

by David Baum and Jim Hassinger
reviewed by Rick Sidorowicz

David Baum and Jim Hassinger have written a superb book applying the key principles of the martial art of aikido to business leadership. As with most martial arts the mastery of aikido builds on a repertoire of techniques, and the ability to be centered, calm and focused while 'under attack.'

The most central principle, and in my opinion the most useful in application, is that of "full powered presence." The words alone provide a crystal clear description of the state of the personal mastery of the warrior. Full powered presence "looks like" and requires the following attitude, behaviours and skills:

  • Physical relaxed readiness - a neutral stance, centered energy without tension;

  • Focused and deep breathing - longer and continuous breaths;

  • Mentally calm and alert;

  • Open to input and attentive - and unattached to outcomes;

  • Emotionally well balanced;

  • Taking personal responsibility for one's action, internalization;

  • Being 100% aware of and "in" the present situation.

"Full powered presence" resonates with me, incorporating all of my favorite notions and descriptions of self directed action, personal ownership, internalization, "being large," on a mission, centered, and being a warrior. For leaders - full powered presence truly is - being ready for the business of leadership, and is at the heart of Baum and Hassinger's Path of Effortless Leadership.

There are no offensive techniques in the martial art of aikido - and all skills are designed for defensive maneuvers. As the authors describe, "In the spirit of aikido, when you find yourself wanting to attack someone, it is an indication that you are out of balance with yourself, you are operating out of disrespect and mistrust, and you are out of sync with your team, organization, and the universe. Aikido defensive techniques are geared towards helping an attacker reconsider his intentions and return to balance." The authors describe the central balance at at this level of mastery - "the harder the attack, the more graceful the response." This reminds of the notion of the 'elegant' and effortless solution.

The four key Randori skills are:

  • Full powered presence - as described briefly above;

  • Tenkan - the tactic of getting out of the line of the strike (or fire) and moving closer to your attacker to dissipate the energy of his attack;

  • Irimi - the single sword strike, concentrated and focused;

  • Get off the mat - disengaging.

The authors discuss the application of each technique to specific situations and challenges in business - in a fast paced and very entertaining style. The connection between Aikido principles and business leadership flows very well from the authors' examples of specific maneuvers 'on the mat' to applications within organizations and interpersonal relations. The book concludes with a discussion of advanced Randori and mastering leadership - the path to effortless leadership.

The book is a very interesting and enjoyable read, and I highly recommend it. I'm diving in for my second reading and finding very many more hidden gems. I see The Randori Principles as one of the best books of 2002.

The Randori Principles

The Randori Principles -
The Path of Effortless Leadership

by David H. Baum and Jim Hassinger
Dearborn Financial Publishing, Inc.


The book cover links to

Rick Sidorowicz is the Publisher and Editor of The CEO Refresher and
the Minister of Culture of High Performance Retail.

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