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The Samurai Leader

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The Samurai Leader

Leading with the Courage, Integrity and Honor of the Samurai Code


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Why twenty-first century managers need seventeenth-century Samurai ethics and discipline.

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Editorial Rating



Author Bill Diffenderffer clearly and usefully applies the ideas and practices of Japanese Samurai warriors, and, more generally, of Zen Buddhism, to business. Some readers may be skeptical about mixing business with religion - especially with a religion that is unfamiliar to many Western readers. However, recommends this book to managers who want to sharpen their focus. Diffenderffer makes a convincing case that the Samurai mindset, conduct and ethical code can transform both your business practices and the practices of those around you. He alternates tales about Samurai principles with examples of contemporary managers who act upon them. The result is a very readable book - but that’s actually one of its weaknesses. As Diffenderffer applies - and popularizes - Zen and warrior concepts, he moves away from some of their more complex, but nevertheless valuable, elements and risks diluting their meaning. Still, you’ll find plenty left to ponder.


The Code of the Samurai

The Samurai warriors of seventeenth-century Japan lived during a time defined by complex political maneuvers and frequent combat. To stay focused, they needed guidance. Thus, they developed a code of behavior that served as their touchstone. It emphasized strict adherence to values, both those that might seem obvious for a warrior class, such as bravery, honor and loyalty, and those that marked the warriors as civilized human beings, such as politeness, respect, selflessness and appreciation of the arts.

As a manager, you face similarly complex challenges, so you also need a code to guide you. Being a good manager requires you to have good character and act upon your values. As a kind of character training mechanism, the Samurai code will help you develop your leadership qualities. As a management Samurai, you’ll be bolder. You’ll be clearer about moral choices in difficult situations, and you’ll exercise self-control in conflict or under pressure. As a result, as you’ll earn the respect of those who interact with you. Samurai warriors brought attitudes developed by Zen Buddhist practices into combat. Now, you can use their clear perspective...

About the Author

Bill Diffenderffer is CEO of Skybus Airlines, a former vice president at IBM and a former senior vice president at Continental Airlines.

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