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The Samurai Leader by Bill Diffenderffer

This article was inspired by Bill Diffenderffer's The Samurai Leader . If you enjoy this article then consider purchasing or borrowing the book.

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Leading like a Samurai

“The characteristics that made someone a very good Samurai in the seventeenth century are the same characteristics that will make someone a very good manager in the twenty-first century.”

Living during a period of intense warfare and political maneuvering, the Samurai adopted a strict code to keep them focused. They stressed the right values for a soldier to cling to both during war and peace. Just as the Samurai used principles of Zen Buddhism to maintain self-control and stay devoted to morality during battle, you can use their code to become a successful manager in the tumultuous world of business.

Just as the Samurai risked their lives for what they believed was right, you may have to risk your job for the sake of personal values. Keeping your word and creating fair contracts will garner you the reputation of a manager with honor. Customers, employees and allies will respect a businessperson with honor.

The Samurai fought with courage against the most impossible of odds. When faced with a conflict, fight hard and within the boundaries of your values. Like the Samurai, fight wisely by ensuring you have every detail in place before engaging your opponent. Don’t set yourself up as a victim or make victims of others.

Just as the Samurai expressed the “Bushi no Nasake” (“the tenderness of a warrior”), you should express kindness and self-control during your daily life. Compassion is necessary in Samurai warriors and managers. Care about subordinates and realize that all our lives are interconnected.

When conflict arises, you should be polite and respectful to others. Just as the Samurai treated their superiors and subordinates with respect, you should do the same. Practice self-control and don’t show anger unless it is in an appropriate situation. Pick your battles and avoid conflict whenever it is possible.

You don’t have to practice Zen Buddhism to lead like a Samurai, though this perspective on life can teach you a great deal. As more of a philosophy than religion, Zen Buddhism teaches its practitioners to aim for a state of nonattachment. Your possessions and accomplishments do not define you, and by realizing that you can’t control your own fate, only your actions, your life will be far less stressful and more productive.

Your actions will be changed for the better when you take the “eightfold path”:

  1. “Right view”
  2. “Right intention”
  3. “Right speech”
  4. “Right action”
  5. “Right livelihood”
  6. “Right effort”
  7. “Right mindfulness”
  8. “Right concentration”

Zen allows its practitioners to be courageous, so the Samurai used their belief in Zen Buddhism’s principles to face the fear of death. In the same way, you can overcome your fear of “death” – being fired. Remember the state of non-attachment and keep in mind that you are not your job. Worrying about future events is unproductive. Even if these events occur, your anxiety obviously didn’t prevent them and won’t answer them. Like the Samurai, achieve non-attachment and free yourself from clouded thinking and worries.


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