Being an aspirational leader not an ass of a leader
To be a good leader to your SDCs, they must want to be like you, and you must have influence. You must embody something that they want. After all, you have sold them on the dream of doing your job, and having what you have. If you don’t embody anything good, then why would they want it?
Over the years, I have seen a few managers who were really nice people, but who were not successful as managers. Why? Because SDCs do not aspire to be nice. Like most people, they probably perceive personality as an intrinsic part of each person’s nature, and even though they may like a person’s "niceness", it does not motivate them to try harder, to stick at the job, or join the team in the first place.
By far the best motivation that you can provide is to do your job effectively, and enjoy doing it. If you moan about the administration, or you never answer your phone because you’re too busy, or you talk about going to class as a duty, rather than a pleasure, you are providing a wealth of negative signals that SDCs will feed upon in their doubting moments.
Think about anything painful but worthwhile that you have to do; be it spring-cleaning the house, running a marathon, or getting to black belt. There is a cost of effort and inconvenience involved in accomplishing your goal, and there will be times when you question that cost. What keeps you going is the vision of how it will be and how it will feel to have accomplished your goal. Now imagine if others around who had already accomplished that goal, bitched and moaned about how it was to achieve that goal - “Yeah the trouble is, now I have to keep tidying the house” or “I was so exhausted after the race that I needed a week off work and no-one even cared about my achievement anyway” or “Well of course, black belt just means that they force you into helping out at class”. In times of doubt, your psyche feeds upon the negatives (which your brain thoughtfully remember FOREVER!) and it makes things seem worse than they really are.
So the number one thing you must do, to be a good leader of SDCs, is live the life that they want to live the life you tempted them with in the first place. Not flashy cars, expensive suits and loads of money they’ll see through that quickly enough, but being financially comfortable, professional, and loving the karate WITH A PASSION!
Be good at karate
Now it really, really helps with the respect if you are great at karate. It REALLY helps! It’s simple: you’re in a karate business, and moreover, a physical, testosterone rich environment. Evolved though we may be (or not!) males still respect physical power and prowess, both consciously and subconsciously. So it makes sense to train often and take your training seriously. I strongly recommend that you train at least three times a week for yourself. Statistically, 3.5 times per week yields the optimum rate of growth. So even if you only train on your own for half an hour a time, regularly and often is good. I don’t care how busy you are; this just should not be optional.
Now I know that many of you will not find time to train regularly for whatever reason, or even if you do, your karate is just not that inspirational yet, especially if you’re in your 40s or older. Don’t worry all is not lost, there are other ways that you can earn the respect and loyalty of your team.
People are drawn to confidence. If you are confident and genuine, that will go a long way. Develop a powerful personality. Be articulate. It surprises me whenever I meet a relatively illiterate manager. It’s not essential, but we are in a communication business, and it’s hard to communicate if you can’t express yourself. Learn to talk clearly with your chin up. Don’t mumble. When talking to groups don't whisper - project. Make eye contact. You know all the stuff.
Be compassionate and empathetic
As the saying goes, “If you help others to get what they want, you’ll get what you want.” It’s hard to dislike someone who really likes you. Your SDCs have plenty of optimism (or they’d never start the job) but they’re also full of mistrust and scepticism. If you show by your genuine actions that you are focussed on helping them to be successful, they are more likely to put in the effort, and develop the belief in their own success.
Martin Luther King said “Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."
The older I get, the more I come to appreciate the value of his words, not just in terms of personal enrichment, but also in terms of the positive growth it produces in all areas it touches.
Be good at the business
Most SDCs and managers find the administration of a region arduous and unpleasant. The more you show that you feel that way, the less they will want a job that involves doing what you do. If you are disciplined, and you have a system and routine for handling stock, reports, and sensei management, then you can set a positive example that says that a professional manager can run the business and still enjoy himself. The honest truth is, I have never yet personally known a GKR manager who was a good, or a happy administrator, and most seem to spend their time feeling guilty about unfinished paperwork, or futilely trying to avoid it.
The other aspect of good business leadership, is making good money. If your karate is poor, but you are a fantastic recruiter or SDC leader, then your income alone will appeal to a certain type of person. I personally believe that this type of person is rarely any good as a GKR manager because they lack the passion for karate (and subsequently move on to easier ways of making an income), but an SDC who is determined to bring home £500 a week no matter what, is a good person to build a team around.
Know a lot
Last but perhaps most importantly... You will need a base level of business competence to inspire your team, but after that, even if your karate is aesthetically poor, you can greatly motivate people with the breadth and depth of your knowledge. People understand that as you get older your grace, strength and athleticism may diminish (if you ever them!), but they will respect knowledge. Learn about our art. Study the DVDs, read books, watch DVDs from other styles. The more knowledgeable you are, the more people will believe in you.
Here are some titles that every manager should own:
Ancient Okinawan Martial Arts Volume 2 Patrick McCarthy
An overview of the history of modern karate, including the minutes of meetings, and letters and essays by people such as Chojun Miyagi and Funakoshi.
Gichin Funakoshi Karate Do My way of life
A superb autobiography that gives a personal view of the events and philosophy that brought karate from a private form of defence, to the globally practiced art that it has become.
Gichin Funakoshi - 20 Guiding Principles of Karate
An attempt to lay down philosophical precepts to accompany the practice and use of karate by the so-called father of modern karate himself a studious and deeply moral man.
GKR Karate Basics DVD
Because you have to be teaching the GKR style!
Applied Karate Volume 3 Dave Hazard and Aidan Trimble
My favourite DVD on performance of the basics in drill formats. Simple drills performed superbly.
Bassai Dai Kata and Applications John Burke
Not only an insightful analysis of the deeper meaning of kata Bassai Dai, but an eye-opening revelation about the true nature of all kata.
Karate Competition Winning Techniques Alexandre Biamonti
Many students love to do competition, and this DVD shows (along with actual competition footage) many simple, yet devastatingly effective fighting combinations and strategies.