Dead Man Running: The Paradox of Death and Growth

My previous blog discussed leadership power through the use of the Samurai death concept. 

But how can we apply this in organizations?

Taking a number of organizations on an accelerated growth rate of 2 to 10 times, we found a number of useful techniques. They all focus on the matter that in order to rid your organization of the ego, which is the root of your company’s challenges, you must follow a proven process. 

Use the following guidelines to get your company back on track. 

1. Decide what must die.

To implement this process in a company, the executives of a team must first look at what needs to die in the organization. The organization’s leaders must be willing to bring all of the bad stuff up to the surface and put all that dysfunction up on the wall. 

The team needs to be willing to self-expose: 

What haven’t they been saying to each other, though they’re thinking it? 

What have they been saying to only a select people in a power clique? 

What information is being withheld? 

What individual agendas must everyone admit to? 

At this phase, the CEO and the team take the journey through the valley of the shadow of death and expose all of the ugliness that has held the organization back.

Looking at dysfunction can be tough, and it requires the strength of a true warrior. But only when the team has flushed from its hiding place the biological beast that has held the organization back can it then slay it and begin plans for what is truly possible. Only when the beast is exposed can you focus on the future—when you have turned the lens on the realities of the present.

2. Look to the future.

Once the management team is able to voice the things they think but don’t say, then possibilities arise and true goal setting can begin. Together, they then look at a new destination—the leadership environment and style they want to aspire to and represent in the future. They create a new future that’s more powerful than the bleak one the organization is headed toward.

3. Get everyone to commit to endure the pain.

The CEO must ask the management team to be willing to “die”; to commit enough to endure whatever suffering and pain they must long enough in order to reach the new future they created. However, sometimes the gap is so large between here and there that unless the group is willing to be uncomfortable it is better to stay where they are. 

If they are unwilling to commit, it is best to find this out earlier rather than later, otherwise the process ends up on the pile of other failed programs. 

This is a dramatic reversal from the typical “touchy-feely” approaches used in training and consulting. The team must be challenged to face the truth and be uncomfortable, to suppress their egos in the service of a greater cause. A good leader can inspire that. 

4. Prepare for rebirth.

Commitment to conquering the ego and enduring the necessary suffering then prepares the team to move the organization through death to rebirth. After the acceptance of death, the team can ask one another, “What are the critical success factors for getting where we truly want to be?” 

With the freedom to be brave, they can now create viable strategies to do what is critically necessary to achieve success. You can’t execute the greatest of new plans until you slay the beast that’s been stopping the organization from moving forward. Here the team is able to identify those few key areas that will ensure a successful transformation. 

5. Prevent sabotage.

 Contrary to what the training industry teaches, the problems of the past are not in the past; they are in our genes. No matter how great the commitment and the planning, the beast will always seek to reassert itself. The group should list how they can sabotage this process in the future—what they should be sensitive to in order to help pick each other up and continue on the path. Eternal vigilance is necessary.

Radical Methods Deliver Radical Results

Realize that not everyone is strong enough or brave enough to go through this process. Some will seek to hide out, wait for it all to blow over, and hope they won’t be found out. But they will be exposed, ultimately, by their behavior. They may try to backstab someone, for example, and that person will say, “Wait a minute, you’re violating our code of honor.” They must either join the team of warriors or find somewhere else to peddle their agenda. 

Though radical, these methods have been proven to work for centuries. And in fact, most people who tackle this process are simply too disgusted or ashamed to revert back to the status quo. They grow increasingly willing to take risks and speak the truth.

The point of death can be the point of inspiration. Are you prepared to follow the way of the samurai and face death to achieve greatness?