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Ignoring the Rules

January 18, 2015

With each year new models of leadership bubble up to the surface of the ever-increasing ocean of leadership know-how.

The more models that we look at, the more rules and ideas we take on, but how productive is our tendency to apply new rules or follow someone else’s research? Does this help us to be more authentic and natural leaders?

Leadership models serve the same purpose as the frameworks used in our educational establishments. They are tools that develop our understanding of the subject to a point at which it becomes embedded into our subconscious. So when it comes to leadership development, what can we do to accelerate this process? How can we embody these lessons and become more authentic and effective leaders quickly and easily?

Leadership development is not a new concept; a brief look through Laozi’s Dao De Jing (4th Century BC) show that the development of leaders has been considered and documented for millennia. There’s also not a single definitive answer to the question of how to develop leadership skills quickly and effectively. It’s clear that some approaches are more appropriate to today’s busy world than others, so what is there to gain from the ancient Chinese moving meditation of Qigong in this regard?


Qigong practice combines movement with breath and ideas. In the medical practices, these ideas focus on physical and mental health. The ‘iron shirt’ practices focus on martial applications whilst the spiritual practices develop self-awareness. These areas may seem diverse but there are certain common threads that run through them and two of these are particularly relevant to our busy modern world, these are:


Building Awareness

Whether Qigong is being studied from a medical, martial or spiritual perspective, the ideas and theories that are embedded within the practice are explored with a relaxed state of awareness. This state is not analytical, it’s more experiential; our mindset is more focused on the observation than the rule and this in turn helps to embed the underlying information more deeply.

Within the exploration of leadership the use of Qigong based learning methods helps us to experience our chosen models of leadership in a less analytical way. It helps us to embed the useful ideas without holding on too tightly to the processes and frameworks that are ultimately dropped.


Developing Trusted Habits

The second benefit that exists with this approach to learning is the development of trusted habits. A physical movement, or even the memory of physical movement, that has a beneficial idea related to it can significantly alter our responses. When we have applied this practice and found a positive outcome we are more likely to repeat it. With each iteration our trust in the ‘habit’ grows, as does our tendency to change our patterns of response.

All this might sound similar to the anchoring techniques found within NLP, and it certainly appears to be a fair comparison, but within the Qigong practice the habit has the added advantage of physical relevance within the body.

Of course, for these techniques to be truly effective in a business environment they must be easily integrated. If we need to get dressed up in silk pyjamas and wave our arms and legs around in order to become more courageous or less critical the technique only has limited potential.

For this reason the practices that are most relevant within a business environment are those that become habitual behaviours. These unseen, highly effective strategies that embed into our working lives can help support the models and theories that have the most resonance for us as leaders.

As with all types of learning, the models that are used to explore leadership are always highly relevant. Combining these with the habits drawn from the practices such as Qigong only serves to quicken our learning and develop authentic leadership practices more efficiently.