Black Belt Leader As Martial Artist: Part Five

“The truest form of love is how you behave toward someone, not how you feel about them.” 

? Steve Hall

In Aikido, the term “ma-ai” refers to the distance or “spacing” between two or more people. This can be a physical, psychological, or psychic distance. One of the first things I notice when I work with a company or an organization is how they practice “ma-ai.” Do they respect each other’s personal space? During meetings do they allow each other to speak without interruption? 

These days interrupting people while they are speaking is common practice. We see this behavior routinely on television talk shows. One guest will intrude upon the other as if they were involved in a verbal wrestling match.

When this competitive pattern manifests in the workplace, our tendency as leaders may be to jump in and try to remedy the situation by focusing on the individuals involved. Of course, we can direct our people to listen more respectfully when others speak. That is a start. But our role as leader doesn’t end there. Instead, why not inquire into what the deeper or root causes might be? You could ask yourself, for instance: why is this happening now? What’s going on that people are acting out in this way?


As “Black Belt Leaders in the Making,” it’s crucial that the people we lead feel they are valued and appreciated ? not only for what they do for us and/or our company, but simply for who they are as human beings. And one of the ways we can accomplish this is by making sure they have the space they need to safely express themselves.