Leadership: The Battle or the Dance? - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Leadership: The Battle or the Dance?
Good leaders need a streak of paranoia. Or do they? A father and son debate.


Pharmaceutical Executive


My thought is to approach competition itself differently; seeing it as an interconnected dance rather than as a dog-eat-dog brawl. The latter view makes us tense and ready to fight while the former challenges us to simply be aware of our surroundings. I take my cue from the ancient Chinese martial art of tai chi chuan. Besides learning the choreographed forms, training in tai chi involves a technique called pushing hands. The technique pairs individuals in close contact so each partner can assess where the other is off-balance, where her strengths and weaknesses are, and how the energy is moving. The key is to use the other person's energy against them. For example, if someone is trying to strike you, move out of the way and allow the force of the attack to carry the attacker off-balance, giving you the upper hand.

Doing this practice with a partner requires complete relaxation of the body and respect for your partner's abilities. It also necessitates a subtle awareness of your own position in relation to theirs. Transferring this art form to business, there is the potential to achieve mastery over the competition by being intimate with them, respecting them, understanding them, and even feeling grateful to them for making you better.

Will practicing this way hurt your bottom line in business? No, because it requires your undivided attention to your competitors and to the entire field of play. But this practice is about more than the bottom line, which while never to be ignored, can no longer be worshiped at the expense of the life outside the lines that never shows up on a company graph.

Sander A. Flaum is managing partner of Flaum Partners. He can be reached at

Jonathon Flaum is president of WriteMind Communications. He can be reached at


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