On Leadership, Difficulties and Samurai Swords


Difficulties don’t have to beat you down. They can give you flexibility, strength, perfected skills and sharpness.

But many time, difficulties do get the best of us and impact our mood, performance, and disposition.

In fact, you might have found that a week’s vacation doesn’t even seem to help.

  • What is the purpose of all the difficult frustrations?
  • Are they here to break us, or make us better?
  • How can we get a handle on this?

Let’s face it. We all have bad days. Sometimes it literally feels like we are jumping from the proverbial frying pan into the fire.

So What To Do?

Consider the katana, or Samurai sword.

The katana is the king of swords.

It is said to have the perfect balance of form and function, becoming one with its owner. As we look at how the katana is made, you might just discover that there is a silver lining to all this stress.

Making the Katana & You

Here is how the katana is made:


The artisan first gets the finest iron ore – two types of metal, a soft and hard metal. He then molded together by putting them in a charcoal furnace with temperatures up to 2500 degrees.

The charcoal used to fuel the fire is as much an ingredient in making this premium steel as it is a fuel. The fuel source used to strengthen the metal becomes part of its actual DNA. If the sword was made of just one metal, it would become brittle.

Do you ever feel like you are in a hot oven? That heat will add just the right ingredients to your personality to make you tough, strong, and bendable.


Then three men work together beating this piece of metal, putting it in the fire, beating it, folding it, putting it back in the fire until it is many, many layers thick. This process flushes out all the impurities so that only iron and carbon remain.

Do you have people and deadlines constantly hammering you? They are helping kick out your impurities.

Perfected Skills – Just Right for the Job

Once the sword is shaped, they slather the sword with a special mud made from clay and charcoal. This mud not only serves to protect the blade, but it also gives it design and beauty – this part is different for each sword. (Yes, all that mud-slinging can work out for your good.)

Once the mud is applied, the room is totally darkened and the sword is put back into the fire this time only up to 1500 degrees.  The room is dark so that the artisan can exactly determine the color of the metal and pull it out of the fire at exactly the right moment.

Then, the sword is quickly thrust into a cooling tank where it forms its curved shape. The cold water works on the two different types of metal in the sword, one contracting quicker than the other, causing the curve. This stage is very delicate, and as many as one in three swords is lost at this stage of the process.

Do you feel like you have been doused in frigid waters? The Artisan is keeping close watch.


After the blade has been shaped, it is taken to the polishing stage. Here, the artisan uses grinding and polishing stones to hone the blade to its perfect sharpness.

When you’ve been through the grinder, it will make you sharper and perfectly honed for use. 

Last, the sword blade meets its hilt, a thing of exquisite beauty.

A katana is priceless, and so are you!

Those rough days are your leadership development. Whether you feel like you are being plunged into icy waters or heated to temperatures that boil your blood, the Artisan is watching every moment, careful to make sure that your strength is purified, your focus is perfected, and your sharpness is perfectly honed.

You were made for this, and you are being perfected every day.

  • What are some of the things that feel like a burning hot oven to you?
  • How could mud actually help you look better?
  • What are some of your keys to surviving the plunge into icy water?
I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Kim Martinez
 is the Lead Writer and Innovator at Deep Imprints

She teaches leaders to lead with influence in a world that distrusts leaders
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Skype: kimkmartinez

Image Sources: features.cgsociety.org

Leaders: Breaking Down Silos and Engaging the Unengaged


How do you get the right volunteers on the bus and in the right seats without losing the whole team?

In the book “Good to Great”, Jim Collins talks about getting the right people on the bus, in the right seats.

Setting Goals

The goal is to first start with a great group of people, then determine what you are going to do with them. This is never easy, but it feels next-to-impossible when you work with a volunteer workforce.

Jim juxtaposes this with the “Genius with a Thousand Helpers” scenario, where the leader determines where he or she wants to go, then finds people who can implement the vision.

Many leaders, when faced with an organization of mediocrity, think it is their job to bring the energy, vision, and focus so the organization can move forward.

This is especially true when they are leading in a volunteer-focused situation.

Your Magic Bus in 7 Steps

If you are working with a volunteer force, here are some simple ways you can help people find their right seat on the bus without abandoning the journey.

1) Take Inventory

The most important thing you can do in a volunteer organization is to get to know your people.

  • Who is just holding down the fort?
  • Who has been marginalized?
  • Who has energy and focus?
  • Who doesn’t?
  • Who is hanging around, waiting for someone to ask for their help?

Take time to get to know the people in your sphere of influence individually.

Discover their passions, their dreams, their time and energy availability.

2) Who is Already in the Right Seat?

Some people are already in the right seat.


  • Love what they are doing
  • Aren’t bringing negative energy
  • Are ready for something new

Affirm these people. Let them know they are valued, and find ways to thank them regularly.

When you are ready to move forward, this group might be the first to sense the new direction you should take.

(Note that once you finish getting everyone in the right seats, you will have to circle back to this group to make sure they are still in the right places.)

3) Look for Sticky Seats

Look for the people who have created silos of power within the organization. Most power silos exist because someone was very passionate, had a great vision, and created a great program (or ministry).

Every program or ministry has a life-cycle, but without redirection, leaders of success can tend to build walls around their project so no one else would break it down.

4) Educate

The best way to help people in power silos find new direction is NOT to tell them you have a great idea for them to follow (Genius with a Thousand Helpers).

Instead, imagine you are sitting next to them in a car

  • They are in the driver’s seat.
  • Instead of driving for them, point out the road signs.

People who have created a successful program (ministry) in the past can do so again if they understand the new climate.

Show them the world as it is today.

5) Look for Slippery Seats

The people on slippery seats keep passing into your view and out of it. They are definitely on the bus, but they feel like they have no place to sit.

You might find them volunteering in multiple areas, being generous contributors without any real responsibilities, or they might be showing up at most functions and just criticizing.

6) Listen

The people in the slippery seats are on the bus for a reason. They get value from being part of your group. Take time to get to know them as individuals –

  • What keeps them coming back?
  • What is their character like?
  • What is their energy like (do they have time and energy to give)?
  • Are they introverts or extroverts?
  • What is their love language (gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, service, touch)?
  • How do they learn (audio, visual, kinesthetic)?

These are details that will help you identify what seat on your bus this person should be on.

You will find leaders, excellent managers, and individual contributors in these seats.

Help them identify what level of leadership they are ready for, and then find a place for them.

7) Keep the Door Open

Once you have moved leadership, broken down the power silos, and helped the people in the slippery seats settle down, you will discover you have some empty seats. And you will find some people who don’t want to be on your bus anymore.

Live a life of grace. Help the people who want to leave find a great place to use their energy.

The door isn’t just open so people can leave. Also keep the door open so that new people can come in. Take time to get to know them, similarly to how you got to know the sticky and slippery seat people, and help them find their place.

Once you have people settled onto the bus in the seats they were designed to be in, a vision will begin to materialize. It won’t be just your vision. You have fantastic people in your organization, and you have positioned them to use their gifts to the best of their abilities.

As they move together, they will sense the bus is supposed to take, and everyone will be headed in the same direction.

Are you in an organization that needs new direction? Have you done an inventory to discover who is on your bus and why? How have you dealt with power silos in your organization? What ways to you engage the people on the “slippery seats?”


Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Kim Martinez
is the Lead Writer and Innovator at Deep Imprints

She teaches leaders to lead with influence in a world that distrusts leaders
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Skype: kimkmartinez

Image Sources:  physical-therapy.advanceweb.com