What my Yoga Class Taught me about Leadership Styles

I go for yoga classes to a studio near home. There are two teachers who take the classes and it is interesting to note two very different styles of teaching for the same style of yoga.

One teacher has an approach where he does not allow you to move ahead until you get the postures totally correct. He believes in following the defined format without any sort of deviation. His view is that for one to be able to do the more intense postures, it is important to not default on any of the easier ones. I told him that I have an ankle issue and would like to avoid bending it too much – his response was ‘if you don’t do it then how will you progress ahead?’ He also added that he would ensure that I did not get injured but it was important to get the posture right. After some dialogue, he agreed to give me some slack. He seems almost fixated with the process and was unwilling to be flexible.

The second teacher, on the other hand, is someone who asks you to follow your body’s instructions. He is very focused on getting the right balance between breath and posture and is not afraid to progress people to the next posture if the person finds it tough to complete it. His perspective is that different body types have different strengths and it is important to move ahead in life and not get too caught in one posture and trying to perfect it.

Same form of yoga and two very different approaches. One seeking perfection and the other progress. In some ways, leadership and leaders are at various points asked to make a choice between the two.

In today’s dynamic world, one cannot get stuck. While perfection is needed (when building airplanes, safety equipment, medical procedures etc.) it should not stop things from moving ahead. Many a time, being good enough is sufficient; rather than seeking perfection. While there are many benefits when we take a progressive mindset, the three most important ones from my experience are:

  • Speed: It is one of the most important aspects of business. While one cannot be below par, time is of great essence. The concept of law of diminishing returns is important to understand. As leaders and workers, we should try and understand when adding more effort will stop giving a whole lot more.
  • Energy (Of self and team): The number of students in the second teacher’s class outnumbers the first teacher’s by a significant number. The students want to come back for more and are constantly energized. Energized because they are constantly learning new things and there is a sense of moving forward. The teacher himself seems to far more energized and wanting to teach and share
  • Happier clients: Agility means constant dialogues with your customer and the fact that they have you on their minds always. Always scores over someone who is stuck and not moving

Perfection is important especially in fields like medical care, aerospace etc. However, when progress gets impeded due to perfection, alternatives should be explored.  Like Franklin Roosevelt said, there are many ways of going forward but only one way of standing still…