Back to Blog
June 01, 2024

Wax On, Wax Off: Leadership Fundamentals to Master

Remember the iconic scene from The Karate Kid where Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel the basics of “wax on, wax off”? 

At first, it seems like pointless labor, but soon Daniel realizes these repetitive motions are the foundation of his martial arts training. Leadership is much the same. To be effective, you need to master leadership fundamentals and do them consistently. 

Let’s review some leadership fundamentals that are essential behaviors for building a strong foundation.

10 Leadership Fundamentals

1. Communicate Expectations

Ever felt like your team’s goals are lost in translation? Clear communication is the key. Just like Mr. Miyagi’s concise instructions, you need to ensure your team knows exactly what’s expected of them. Set clear goals, outline priorities, and make sure everyone is on the same page. A clear path leads to a well-coordinated team.

2. Create Rapport

Mr. Miyagi didn’t just teach karate; he built a strong bond with Daniel. Similarly, building rapport with your team creates trust and loyalty. Take time each week to get to know your team members. Understand their strengths, challenges, and motivations. A team that feels connected will go the extra mile.

3. Offer Feedback

Feedback is like the “paint the fence” exercise—repetitive but essential. Regular feedback helps your team improve and grow. Whether it’s positive reinforcement or constructive criticism, make sure your feedback is timely, specific, and aimed at helping them develop their skills.

4. Show Appreciation

Everyone loves a good pat on the back. Regularly showing appreciation for your team’s hard work boosts morale and motivation. A simple “great job” or “thank you” can go a long way in making your team feel valued and appreciated.

5. Listen Actively

Just as Daniel had to listen carefully to Mr. Miyagi’s lessons, active listening is crucial for leaders. Pay attention to what your team members are saying, show empathy, and respond thoughtfully (easier said than done these days, but it’s possible with practice!). This not only builds trust but also helps you understand their perspectives and needs.

6. Build Self-Awareness

Leaders work continually to better understand their own emotions and behaviors and how they impact others. By regularly seeking feedback and reflecting on your actions, you can enhance your emotional intelligence. Being attuned to both your feelings and those of others helps you respond with empathy and thoughtfulness, making you a better leader.

"The answer is only important if you ask the right question." - Mr. Miyagi

7. Ask Good Questions

Mr. Miyagi often taught Daniel by asking questions, guiding him to discover the answers himself. Use this technique with your team. Instead of giving direct solutions, ask open-ended questions that encourage them to think critically and come up with their own solutions. This empowers them and fosters independent thinking.

8. Delegate Often

Even the best senseis know they can’t do everything alone. Delegation is an important practice of the best leaders. Assign tasks based on your team’s strengths and provide them with the autonomy to complete them. This not only distributes the workload but also develops your team’s skills and confidence.

9. Engage in Decision-Making

As a leader, there are times when you need to make the final call. However, effective leadership also means guiding your team through the decision-making process. Encourage collaboration, gather diverse perspectives, and work towards consensus if possible. This not only improves decisions but fosters a sense of ownership and accountability.

10. Hold Regular 1-on-1s

Holding regular 1-on-1 check-ins with your employees ensures that you’re aligned and any issues are addressed promptly. These meetings can be formal or informal but should focus on progress, challenges, goals, and support needed.

Closing Thoughts

Mastering leadership basics is like perfecting the “wax on, wax off” routine. It may seem simple, but these fundamentals are the building blocks of great leadership. By consistently practicing these skills and behaviors, you’ll develop a strong, cohesive team ready to tackle any challenge.

So, channel your inner Mr. Miyagi, repeat these basics, and watch your leadership skills—and your team—thrive. Remember, it’s all about the fundamentals. Wax on, wax off!

Interested in coaching or team workshops? Let's chat!

Contact Us