martial arts boosts leadership

In my previous article How To Improve Your Executive Presence And Command A Room I discussed this topic in great detail and presented some ways to begin applying yourself in the workplace to boost your presence. I recently re-read the book Bruce Lee: Artist of Lifeand was reminded of how many of the principles within martial arts can be applied to the workplace. Today we are going to look at how practicing martial arts can also boost your Executive Presence in the workplace.

To say I am a fan of Martial Arts is probably an understatement. My toddler to teenage years, was filled with Karate and Tae Kwon Do; in my twenties, it was Aikido and more recently it’s been Ju-Jitsu. Growing up as a kid, when I was asked what I wanted to be when I got older, I always said a Ninja. When I was told if I had a second choice, it was Bruce Lee. Yes, you heard correctly. To say that my parents were shocked would be an understatement. I digress…

A quick recap on Executive Presence; according to a recent HBR Article:

  • Executive Presence is your ability to project mature self-confidence, a sense that you can take control of difficult, unpredictable situations; make tough decisions in a timely way and hold your own with other talented and strong-willed members of the executive team.

If you’ve done martial arts at some point in your life, then you know that many of the qualities needed to learn and be successful are directly correlated to the definition above. Here are10 beneficial aspects of martial arts that can potentially boost your Executive Presence:


  • A Martial art requires one to adhere to rules, follow repetitive step-by-step movements and increased awareness for their surroundings.

Leadership roles require a keen level of focus to ensure they are staying on task and message. The greater the role and responsibility, the greater the mission – all of which requires the ability to focus on the goal and to not get distracted along the way.


  • Martial arts involve mastering difficult and complex moves.

It’s inevitable that leaders will feel the impact of mistakes or challenges because they bear the burden of responsibility. But when things get tough, good leaders choose to persevere, not only to maintain their role, but also to motivate and support their people.


  • Martial arts encourages one to develop discipline by following specific codes of conduct.

Successful leaders have a steady amount of discipline; which in return allows them to set a vision and see it through to fruition. Discipline provides many benefits from all facets of life, from helping one navigate complex situations with care to managing your time and resources wisely.

Self Confidence

  • Martial arts builds one’s confidence by empowering them to learn how to defend themselves.

Everyone knows that building confidence is a lifelong journey and a road paved with unknowns. Because people look to leaders for guidance, possessing confidence is critical for success. Confidence allows you the space to make and own your decisions. Confidence also gives you the courage to say “No” to negative pressure and outside forces that they may encounter in the workplace.


  • Martial arts requires one to understands and know their limitations.

Leaders that demonstrate and embody self-control are able to not just focus and persevere but recognize their limitations of power and use that to their influence. Self-control also means respecting themselves and the ones around them.

Goal Achievement

  • Most forms of martial arts (if not all) are based on various systems of belt ranking.

Individuals who hold leadership roles understand how to set and achieve goals in their careers. This in return allows them to understand what’s ahead and aspire to reach the next level.


  • Martial arts requires individuals to understand both the power of silence and knowing when, what and how to communicate.

All effective leaders understand that motivating others requires great communication skills. These skills stretch far beyond the verbal and include but are not limited too the physical and written. Being able to communicate is the foundation for successful any successful leadership role.


  • All forms of martial arts require you to wear a specific uniform in a specific way.

Executive presence is without question largely predicated on how you look. Since people will ultimately judge you by not just what you say but what you are wearing when you say it, it’s important to ensure you look the part of the role. Just like in martial arts, make sure you are clean, presentable and put your best face forward.


  • Any form of martial arts will require you to fall seven times and stand up eight.

Great leaders are humble and take their lumps on their chin and keep moving forward. They understand that it’s more important to set the stage then to act on it. As such, they can admit their shortcomings and poor decisions and see it as a sign of strength versus weakness.

Follow The Leader

  • Martial arts requires you to follow your sensei’s instructions.

You cannot lead others without first being a good follower. All leaders pay their dues by being loyal and respecting their mentors, instructors and teachers; which is how they were able to succeed. You learn as a follower and that allows you to better relate to your audience, build your credibility and earn their trust when you become a leader.

Final thoughts: Becoming a great leader takes time, practice and a myriad of skills. There are numerous ways to develop your leadership skills outside of martial arts so don’t worry if becoming a black belt isn’t on your resume or bucket list. The key is to keep bettering yourself and learning new and different ways to expand your leadership skills.

The floor is yours: How do you increase your leadership skills?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,

Joshua /

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