The art of exercising Zen leadership

The art of exercising Zen leadership

The wabi-sabi concept of aesthetics comes to us from Japan, the cradle of spiritual life. This philosophy centres on accepting imperfection and transience while finding beauty in the everyday.

These aesthetic principles can also carry over into human behaviour and personality.

If you put the 6 wabi-sabi aesthetic principles into practice, you will increase efficiency and, above all, decrease your stress:

  • Fukinsei (imperfection)
  • Kanso (simplicity)
  • Shizen (without pretense)
  • Yugen (natural beauty)
  • Datsuzoku (innovation)
  • Seijaku (serenity and calm)

1. Fukinsei

This principle aims to achieve balance and harmony through the realization that there is beauty in asymmetry, despite its irregularities.

If we embrace this concept in the world of management, it means that clear-cut perfection is boring, if not outright impossible to achieve.

Human beings are much more stimulated by looking for ways to improve their surroundings.

It serves no purpose to moan and groan and focus on the negative when confronted by challenges. Accept imperfection, roll up your sleeves and use creativity to find ways to improve what does not work.

2. Kanso

Simplicity lies at the heart of this Japanese principle.

Its goal is uncomplicated communication. A manager earns respect when they clearly and simply express their expectations to staff.

In contrast, an ambiguous and incoherent communication style breeds chaos. Even worse, it can stop productivity in its tracks.

3. Shizen

Shizen refers to that which is natural and without pretense.

You have to put the brakes on pretention and lack of transparency in order to put this principle into practice.

If a boss manages with a closed-leadership style, employee morale has a tendency to plummet and this, in turn, affects organizational productivity.

It is in your best interest to trust your employees. This winning tactic encourages employees to get involved, mobilize and actively contribute to your company’s success.

4. Yugen

Yugen describes an appreciation of the universe’s mysterious beauty.

In a management context, this principle provides insight into corporate culture and organizational development.

A manager’s objective is to navigate between organizational traditions, changes and transitions. They need to know when the current way of doing things negatively affects productivity and when it is time for change.

5. Datsuzoku

Datsuzoku leads to a break from convention and experiencing the freedom to venture out of your comfort zone. A manager who puts this into practice will contribute to innovation within an organization.

6. Seijaku

According to Japanese aesthetic principles, Seijaku denotes calm and tranquility.

In order to improve efficiency, a work environment needs to be peaceful and shielded from endless storms.

By motivating colleagues in your leadership role, you can significantly contribute to maintaining a pleasant and harmonious work environment. Celebrate their successes. Delegate responsibilities to them. Be open to their suggestions. Set objectives they can achieve and that contribute to their development.