When you think of a successful business leader, some attributes that usually come to mind are resilient, collaborative, resourceful, patient, controlled, innovative and a host of other positive characteristics. However, most people would not associate Aikido as having anything to do with these leadership qualities. That’s where they are wrong.
Aikido, the art of the Samurai, is a Japanese martial art and has been recognized by top educators, business leadership groups and was even featured on Forbes, “Study Aikido to Become a Better Business Leader.” A  Samurai spends a lifetime devoted to his cause and is always practicing to improve his skill.
As an Aikidoka (one who practices Aikido) in life and in business. I have been fortunate enough to have studied under a great Aikido master, Gentil Pennewaert Shihan for the past twenty years at Newport Beach Aikido. Through the years, I have found myself applying the principles of Aikido as a business leader. I often tell my clients that I have graduated from the University of Aikido.
In Aikido, as in business, finding solutions in times of conflict is key. Through hand and weapon techniques, you learn to move gracefully with proper timing and feeling.  As many will agree, timing is important in introducing new services, products or even in business mergers. With practice, you develop this unique sense of timing.  Aikido relies heavily on feeling and blending with your partner’s attacks. If you are late, you get hit. If you move on time, you are in control of the situation and can redirect the attack. In business, this idea applies so perfectly in many scenarios. I have learned over the years that sometimes it is best to wait and not to be so hasty in planning an event or product launch.
Awareness also develops in Aikido which is useful when studying or analyzing a situation. Most people focus on the problems in business while an Aikidoka focuses on finding solutions. Taking a different perspective in business is important in considering the viewpoints of all parties involved. In Aikido, we don’t stare at the knife coming from just one direction. We look at the whole picture and take a holistic approach. Through practice, we develop a “sixth sense” of someone entering your M’ai (space). An attack can come from any direction and being aware can often help avoid deadly situations or, in business, costly contracts.
Taking a step back allows a business leader to remain calm and in control of the situation. You learn to recognize and follow your gut feeling.
Strong leaders also recognize the importance of evolving and improving their skills, especially those of cooperation, delegation and accepting responsibility. If you always think your way is the best, your company will never succeed. Successful CEOs today value the opinions of their employees and partners. They are grateful and always looking for ways to innovate and improve their company. As my Sensei often reminds his students, “Put the ego in the trunk before you step onto the mat.” 
As we move through this global crisis of Covid, understanding the principles of Aikido will help business leaders stay calm and focused on what needs to be done. An Aikidoka looks for openings when he/she is attacked just as a business leader should create and focus on opportunities in situations.
There are indeed great opportunities for CEOs to consider fractional work now more than ever. Take this opportunity to step out of the traditional full-time role and consider fractional independent contractor roles. As new companies are emerging during the Pandemic, they are now looking for seasoned “fractional” leadership in areas of marketing, finances or operations. In Aikido, we call this “blending” and learning to move with your partner, rather than against and taking the opportunity to adapt is crucial.
Side-gigs are the new norm even for C-suite executives. Why not enjoy the freedom and flexibility of being a fractional leader and take advantage of multiple contracts? In Aikido, we often refer to redirecting energies and pivoting your body to avoid an attack. In business, this concept applies to today’s norm. Successful business leaders are able to restrategize and pivot their game plan while paying close attention to the market’s needs. Listening to your audience is vital in determining direction and action.
As a member of the Holistic Chamber of Commerce, I have taken the opportunity to connect and work with several business leaders and holistically minded individuals. By joining in on the valuable monthly chapter meetings, I have been able to present my services and collaborate with other members. Some may wonder what’s the value in belonging to a community with similar holistic services? Unlike other organizations, the Holistic Chamber of Commerce is not competitive in nature. Rather, it’s a welcomed community that supports harmony, balance and the use of all the resources to support one another. Similarly to Aikido, the organization welcomes members to work collaboratively. Members can be invited as guest speakers, highlight their upcoming events or unique product. When you put aside the mindset of competition, you are much more open to receive and give. I encourage all businesses to take a look at the Holistic Chamber of Commerce as we head towards 2021 together.
Personally, I have taken this time to reflect on my business goals. Over the past few months, I have partnered, restructured, and aligned with top leaders to find solutions for small business owners. I have listened to the needs of business owners and have created affordable website and social media marketing packages to empower them. Of course, it’s a great opportunity to add value and connect through Zoom online webinars. People are seeking solutions. You just have to be innovative and open to new approaches. As a final note, here’s my company tag line and something to remember, “When the going gets tough, the tough get creative.”
About the Author:
Charn Pennewaert is the CEO and Founder of Media Stream, LLC and Wellnys.com. As a Fractional Marketing Officer at GigX, she works closely with her clients to offer organic marketing solutions for their business. She enjoys web design, social media marketing and SEO - Search Engine Optimization. She is a Fukushidoin, assistant instructor and 4th Dan with over 20 years of Aikido experience at Newport Beach Aikikai where she enjoys practicing and teaching children aikido. Feel free to reach her at Media Stream or Wellnys for consultative services and designs.