“Wu-Wei” – From original Chinese, meaning effortless effort
From my childhood I was literally fascinated by the seemingly effortless performances of individuals who have mastered their craft. Images of Luciano Pavorotti hitting high C notes with simplified grace, Chris Cornell’s raw rock voice hitting gravel and then reaching for the heavens, Lang Langs’ majestic hands creating unimaginable sounds on the ivory whites of a piano, Tony Robbins’ flaming and scorching energy, Churchills’ effortless and eloquent speeches, Bransons’ unrelenting passion for business and people, Jona Lomus’ awesome power, and Bolts’ graceful running leaves me in a state of inspired awe.
When the state of amazement enthused by great individuals dissipate we are left with a burning question:
How does one become a leader in any field and how does one reach a state where optimal performance virtually becomes a natural state?
A vast amount of experiential learning and volumes of information would empower an individual to attempt an answer to this question. This writing is not an attempt at a solution to this complex question but instead only serves as a guide to those individuals whom has a burning desire to earnestly start on their search to find the truth for themselves.
Are leaders and top performers simply born with a great talent and therefore naturally will outperform others? Not necessarily so. Some modern Leaders such as Gary Vaynerchuck are totally unimpressed by talent yet very impressed by a knack for people skills.
The Legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi used to say: “Talent simply means you have not done it yet.”
The aforesaid implies that talent might be a bonus yet has to be combined with hard and effective work, as well as toughened mental capacity, to be moulded into skills required for performance at the highest level.
“We shall not melt in the fire but instead be tempered by it” – The great Winston Churchill was alluding to the British nations willingness to endure great hardships and be transformed into one unified front and a patriotic nation during the carnage of the second world war. Most great Leaders ultimately learnt that hardships were not something to resist but rather something to invite in when it knocks at your door as it is the very hardships that teach and shape us, that is if we allow it to.
Those who fear their own inner greatness will run from the hardships and thereby neglect the wonderful yet very uncomfortable opportunity to grow as a leader and a human being. The daring few who would embrace their inner greatness, foster their own commitment and willingly be’ tempered by fire’ have started their journey towards greatness.
When embarking on this journey reflect on the fact that never was a great leader made without help. A high level of self -awareness which is a basic requirement of effective Leadership dictates that we must get rid of the small voice of the ego that tempts us into daring to think that we could know it all and do all by ourselves. Be open to advice, seek help from the wise, and more importantly act on good advice.
When you earnestly seek mentorship the one that turns you down in general was not the right one in the first place. Alternatively, he or she turned you down because you were not ready to be mentored and must first earnestly seek your own heart for the truth about your intentions.
Your intent is the crucial factor and on the path to greatness everyone would do well to introspectively seek every corner of their hearts and minds and ask:
- What do I honestly seek?
- Is it fame or to help others or both?
- Do I have pure selfish intent, or do I want to give back and coach other Leaders?
Without sacrifice, without a burning desire to succeed, without help, and without ethical intent this journey is ‘a bridge too far’. A Leadership journey based on a hunger for power over others and greed for money might take you to great heights initially but the fall from those dizzying heights is far and excruciatingly painful.
What follows is an attempt to answer the very general questions facing most of us when we decide on whether we should embark on a personal Leadership journey or not:
Can anyone lead?
Yes, it is a matter of intent, effective work, mentorship, sacrifice, people skills and continuous learning amongst other factors.
Does a title such as CEO, shareholder, president, professor imply that I am a leader?
No, a title is merely a name allocated to a position, the behaviours that led me to that title and the behaviours displayed for as long as I am in that position determines whether I was a leader or not, while I had or claimed to have that title. Leadership is not a title it consists out of behaviours that gives a title deep meaning and validity.
Do I have to have a formal qualification to be recognised as a leader?
No. Your behaviour determines whether you are a leader or not. Continuous learning is a basic Leadership behaviour. Whether that means you obtain a formal qualification or learn through a mentor which learning does not result in a formal qualification has no bearing on your Leadership capacity or capabilities.
Contemplation of the above answers to the general questions that a lot of people consider might lead the reader to think that the state of “Wu-Wei”- “Effortless-effort “can only be achieved through a lot of effort. In thinking that you are correct, yet it is not only a matter of effort.
To get to the ultimate state of performance as a leader each one of us must be so committed to a cause higher than ourselves that we are willing to be ‘tempered by fire’. We must cast our egos aside and remain “teachable”, and most importantly give back by coaching other leaders.