Issue 25: In This Issue

  • "The Leadership Dojo" by Richard Strozzi-Heckler
  • "Emotions Revealed" by Paul Ekman

The Leadership Dojo

By Richard Strozzi-Heckler 

Richard Strozzi-Heckler offers a uniquely different path to the development of leaders. He also has some high profile advocates singing his praises, including:

  • Nancy Hutson, Senior Vice-President Pfizer Research & Development
  • James Baron, William S. Beinecke Professor of Management, Yale School of Management
  • Tim Bullock, Group Vice President, Europe, Africa & Eastern Hemisphere, BP Oil International Ltd
Mind/Body/Spirit Integration

The author’s approach has its roots in a classified six month experimental training program developed for the Army Special Forces in 1985. The program focused on the newest methods of mind/body/spirit integration but was not specifically developed to address issues of leadership. However, when the 25 Green Berets who were involved in the program returned to their units their commanding officers began reporting that the leadership skills of these men had dramatically improved. Subsequent programs with the Navy Seals and the Marine Corps produced similar results.

Soon Strozzi-Heckler began to look more closely at the foundation of exemplary leadership and how it can be developed. When the project was declassified, he published a book, ‘In Search of the Warrior Spirit’ which led to more projects in both the military and corporate fields. This became a rich laboratory for exploring the relationship between leadership and mind/body/spirit training.

Over the years he asked three questions of each team and organization he worked with.

1. “What does a leader do?” 

To this question, he received as many different answers as people he asked - with the activities ranging from motivating others, executing plans, and managing meetings to designing strategies, building alliances and hiring the right people as well as everything in between.

2. “What are the characteristics most essential to exemplary leadership?”

In this case, no matter the organization or the country, the answers fell into a consistent and predictable pattern and the same virtues unfailingly appeared – honesty, accountability, integrity, vision, commitment, empathy, courage, trustworthiness, and self-control.

3. “How do you teach these virtues?”

However, most managers and leaders were able to say very little about how the character values of leadership are learned, often descending into clichés as they struggled for answers.

Strozzi-Heckler sums this up by saying that it is as if we know what we’re aiming for, and we know when it is present, but we don’t know how to get there. Over the years, the author has found that an approach centred on mind/body/spirit integration is an effective path for “getting there” and the Leadership Dojo is the culmination of this work.

Becoming an Exemplary Leader

Neither a manual nor a recipe book, The Leadership Dojo presents the practices and the underlying structures necessary for one to fully embody the qualities of an exemplary leader. And when the author speaks of an exemplary leader, he means the ability to organize and mobilize the talents and skills of others (or yourself) toward an observable result.

The focus of The Leadership Dojo is the development of the virtues, character and ethical and moral values that make up the exemplary leader. Strozzi-Heckler calls this the “Cultivation of the Self” and the premise of the book is that the “self” is the leader’s primary source of power. However, the path of self-cultivation is not concerned with “getting better”, fixing oneself or indulging one’s ego. It is a path of self-mastery that is designed to serve the greater good and to be able to mobilize and motivate others, coordinate effectively with them, build trust and generate positive moods.

‘Place of Training’

The author uses the term ‘dojo’ because in the traditional Japanese arts it means the “place of training” and the Sanskrit it originates from translates to the “place of awakening”. Although there are many kinds of dojos, including flower-arranging and sumi painting dojos, the author leverages the concepts, approaches and practices from his years of experience in the Aikido dojo.

Two of the most important points of this book are factors that are often overlooked in considerations of what is required to become a better leader:

  1. The mind/body  relationship
  2. You are what you practice
Mind-Body Link

In recent years, studies have demonstrated that there is a very strong link between the mind and the body. (For example, see “Emotions Revealed” in this newsletter.)  However, in the western world we have been conditioned in the rationalistic tradition, where we are predisposed to think of learning as something that happens in the mind.  The idea that we learn through our bodies can be somewhat startling at first.

In the rationalistic model we say someone has learned something if they can understand, analyze and report back data – leaving aside learning in the field of sports, of course. However, organizing and mobilizing the talents and skills of others requires physical interface to other humans in order to manage mood, coordinate and communicate with others to achieve a desired goal or to ignite passion and purpose. In these activities our bodies play a pivotal role –whether in tone of voice, facial expressions or body postures.

Embodied Behaviours

Strozzi-Heckler describes the range of embodied behaviours including reflexes, habits, routines, practices and generative practices. A reflex is an involuntary response as a result of the nervous system’s reaction to a stimulus. A habit is a behaviour that is regular, repetitive and unconscious. And a routine is the way a set of tasks is arranged that is typically repetitive and unvarying.

The author provides a number of case studies throughout the book that demonstrate how these embodied behaviours create results counter to those desired. Strozzi-Heckler then describes how incorporating both the mind and the body in the learning process achieved a state of being and behaviour that achieved the required objectives.

Practice …

A practice is a conscious choice we make to train ourselves so we will behave and act in a particular way so that it becomes embodied or part of who we are. A generative practice is a conscious choice to embody a behaviour that can be used in whatever situation we find ourselves in – it is a commitment to a way of being in the world.

Five Domains

The idea of the bodily life being the locus of leadership and mastery is based in the philosophical and psychological discourse called ‘'somatics'’ – that is mind/body/spirit unity. The Leadership Dojo defines the ‘body of a leader’ as consisting of five domains:

  1. Action
  2. Mood
  3. Coordination
  4. Learning
  5. Dignity

It is these five domains that are trained in The Leadership Dojo.

Most readers are aware of the research that found that the believability of a message was influenced 7 percent by content, 38 percent by voice tone and tempo, and 55 percent by body language.  In other words, how we are, is far more influential and expressive than what we are saying.

Leadership Presence

The author concludes from this that when we are our message, when we embody our values, we are at the height of our power and influence; that our presence, our way of being is the foundation for building trust, intimacy and connection with others. He then goes on to describe the five principles that are the ground for a Leadership Presence.

Strozzi-Heckler provides suggestions, examples and guidance throughout the book for the three different types of practices that are important for developing a Leadership Presence:

  1. Partner practices
  2. Daily personal practices
  3. Practices in the workplace or home
Insightful and Thought Provoking

In The Leadership Dojo, Richard Strozzi-Heckler blends his martial arts mastery in Aikido with time tested techniques and strategies to provide an insightful and thought provoking approach to leadership development.

To purchase 'The Leadership Dojo' click this link to get it from: 


Emotions Revealed

by Paul Ekman 

In the Leadership Dojo (see article this newsletter), Richard Strozzi-Heckler speaks of a leader’s intended communication being betrayed by messages sent through his embedded or unconscious body behaviours.

Innate and Universal

Paul Ekman is a pioneer in this field with his research into reading and measuring facial expressions of emotions. After 25 years of research that started in the late 1950s, Ekman had developed a tool for measuring facial movement. Through his research Ekman validated Darwin’s claim that facial expressions were innate and universal to our species.

However, when he first started his work, the prominent thinkers of the day claimed that expression and gesture were socially learned and culturally variable. Only one researcher at that time, Silvan Tomkins, claimed that they were innate. One prominent anthropologist of the time, Ray Birdwhistell (a protégé of Margaret Mead) specialized in the study of expression and gesture and had written that he had abandoned Darwin’s ideas when he found that in many cultures people smiled when they were unhappy.

Display Rules

Ekman reconciled his findings that expressions are universal with Birdwhistell’s observations of how they differ from one culture to another by coming up with the idea of ‘display rules’. Ekman's’s display rules are socially learned, often culturally different, rules about the management of expression, about who can show which emotion to whom and when they can do so. These rules may dictate that we diminish, exaggerate, hide completely or mask the expression of emotion we are feeling.

Facial Action Coding System

In 1978 Ekman published his tool for measure the face – the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) – and it is now used by hundreds of scientists around the world to measure facial movements. In the last twenty years he as has collaborated with other investigators to learn what is happening inside the body and in the brain when an emotional expression occurs on the face. Just as there are different expressions for anger, fear, disgust and sadness, there are appear to be different profiles of physiological changes in the bodily organs that generate unique feelings for each emotion.

Micro Expressions

Using the Facial Action Coding system, Ekman and his collaborators have identified the facial signs that betray a lie. What he has termed ‘micro expressions’, very fast facial movements lasting less than one-fifth of a second, are one important source of leakage, revealing an emotion a person is trying to conceal. He can even teach people to consciously recognize these micro expressions for what they are – something that most people do to one degree or another unconsciously and which drives the ’gut reaction’ you get when interacting with someone.

Learned Triggers

Ekman discusses the concept of ‘learned triggers’ that can set off emotional reactions and even if we are aware that we need not be emotional, the emotion continues to persist. There is also another more serious way in which emotions override what we know. Emotions can prevent us from having access to all that we know, to information that would be at our fingertips if we were not emotional but that during the emotion is inaccessible to us. When we are gripped by an inappropriate emotion, we interpret what is happening in a way that fits with how we are feeling and ignore our knowledge that doesn’t fit.

‘Appropriate’ Emotions

It is hard not to behave emotionally when the stakes are high, which is when we are likely to feel strong emotions. Although our emotions are often our best guides, there are times when we wish we had not acted or spoken under the influence of our emotions. Sometimes we are not even aware when we are broadcasting our emotions. We think we have them hidden but in fact people are picking up on them and the messages that we are sending are being changed by the emotional context in which they are delivered. And then there are some people who have just the opposite problem: they feel the emotions, they care, but they do not express them the way others expect or at all and people think they are over-controlled.

Four Essential Skills

Ekman’s goal in writing Emotions Revealed was to help people improve four essential skills:

  1. Become more consciously aware of when you are becoming emotional, even before you speak or act. This is the hardest skill to acquire and the book explains why this is so difficult and provides exercises designed to help you increase awareness of your emotions. Developing this skill allows you to have some choice about when your are emotional.
  2. Choose how you behave when you are emotional, so you achieve your goals without damaging other people. The best emotional episodes do no harm to and cause no problems for those with whom we are engaged. This is also not an easy skill to develop but with practice it can become part of your life.kman provides 4 chapters with information and exercises on this topic.
  3. Become more sensitive to how others are feeling. Since emotions are at the core of every important relationship we have, we must be sensitive to how others are feeling. To go beyond the instruction provided in the book, Ekman has created two new CDs that can help to rapidly develop this skill and are now available at his web site .
  4. Carefully use the information you acquire about how others are feeling. Sometimes that means asking the person about the emotion you have spotted, acknowledging how he or she is feeling, or re-calibrating your own reactions in light of what you have recognized.
Valuable Insights for Any Leader

Whether as a companion program to the Leadership Dojo or as a stand-alone exercise in self-development, Emotions Revealed offers valuable insights for any leader plus exercises to help you be a better one.

To purchase 'Emotions Revealed' click this link to get it from: 

Can You Spot The Fake Smile?

Go to: surveys/smiles/ to take test that measures your ability to spot a fake smile. The test is based on Dr. Paul Ekman's research and takes about 10 minutes to do.