Applying Zen Principles to Leadership
Successful leadership has many commonly understood principles. And Zen philosophy principles also lend some pearls of wisdom towards effectiveness as leaders:
Kanso—Simplicity or elimination of clutter
This aesthetic principle relates to leadership communication and reminds leaders to express in a simple and natural manner that is clear and articulate. Leaders who communicate simply and clearly, understand what they are expecting of their employees.
Fukinsei—Asymmetry or irregularity
Asymmetry is a design principle that strives to achieve balance and harmony despite differences in proportion between the parts of a thing. Leaders strive to solve problems and create harmony in the workplace—by improving our environment, developing and stretching our resources and ‘adding value’.
This Zen principle creates beauty by being direct and simple, without being flashy. The message here for leaders is to spend more time guiding and less time directing or micro-managing your people. This means delegating in a way that does not abdicate managerial responsibility.
Shizen is the absence of pretence or artificiality; full creative intent unforced but with purpose and intention. Leaders that demonstrate a lack of transparency in their decision-making processes can often foster cultures of mistrust. Therefore, this concept of naturalness is conducive to trust; when people behave honestly and openly.
Yugen—Profundity or suggestion rather than revelation—deep or mysterious
Yugen is said to mean ‘a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe… and the sad beauty of human suffering’. This principle provides insight into the development of organizational culture. The principle of ‘yugen’ reminds leaders to acknowledge and value the ‘mysterious sense of beauty’ in their distinctive organizational cultures and to tread carefully when managing change; by retaining the best while striving to adapt for the future.
Datsuzoku—Freedom from habit or formula
Every organization and every leader strives to be innovative; to transcend the conventional and achieve success. Innovation today is a much sought after tool for achieving a competitive edge and leaders must strive to excel with innovation.
Seijaku—Tranquility or an energized calm, stillness, solitude
When leaders are most effective, they are able to maintain order and bring a feeling of ‘active calm’ to their workplaces. They achieve harmony, not by asserting formal authority but by motivating others.
These principles will increase the abilities of a leader to be more creative and innovative with their peers and employees, and be an effective leader overall.