Leadership Lessons from Mr. Kenshin Himura and Little Yahiko
Who would agree that sometimes it feels good to be nostalgic and browse some of the good times from your childhood and glare at it for a few minutes? And I happened to do that by squeezing my all-time favorite anime series, Samurai X, into my personal play jar.
Samurai X is a story about a manslayer who vowed not to kill again and help other people to atone for the sins he committed in the past. He is Kenshin Himura, popularly known as Battousai the Slasher. For a more detailed synopsis of the anime series, you can google it. 🙂
Kenshin meets new friends on his journey as a wanderer. They are Kaoru (his love team), Yahiko, Sanosuke, and Megumi. This is really a classic series for me. Epic I must say. As a young boy watching this anime sure gave me fondest of memories as I imitate his moves back then, and a fresh feel good feeling every time I see Kenshin defeat his enemies. But as a grown-up, trying to watch it again in his spare time, it just gives me a new perspective about life, and also in the area of leadership.
After dinner, I watched some few episodes and then I stopped at episode 18, entitled:“Run Yahiko! Get the Reversed-Edge Sword Back”. This story tells us of young Yahiko putting the life of Kenshin in danger because of his ego and immaturity.
After Yahiko played hero’s part in a town restaurant, he quickly gained overconfidence about his sword skills. Yahiko uses a wooden sword and now that he thinks he’s a hero, the young lad feels it’s now time to use a real sword. But Kenshin thinks otherwise and told Yahiko to stay humble, not feed his ego, and still continue to learn and master the Kamiya Kashin Style with a wooden sword. But Yahiko didn’t agree with Kenshin and still believes that he is more than ready to use a real sword. This became a window of opportunity for Gohei Hiruma, an old foe, to finally find a way to defeat and get rid of Kenshin. Gohei tricked Yahiko into a real sword fight leading the young, impulsive lad to get the reverse-edge sword of Kenshin as his weapon. Then after bringing Kenshin’s sword, Yahiko was tied up by the stronger Gohei. Now Kenshin is left to save Yahiko without his sword and now facing a disadvantage. Gohei hired the Onizaki brothers to ensure Kenshin’s defeat. But Yahiko, realizing that he committed a big mistake, found a way to escape and bring the sword back to Kenshin immediately, allowing the protagonist to win. In the end, Yahiko apologizes to Kenshin, reflects on his mistakes and vowed to correct them and never again commit them.
Typical story right? Good guys always win at the end. It’s a relief in this world having that as a fact. But looking at the story and how Kenshin and Yahiko responded at the situation, I believe we can pick up some valuable lessons from both of them.
Yahiko showed immaturity, overconfidence, ego and impulsiveness in the story. Not to mention stubbornness as well. Not to take anything from him, Yahiko is a very talented, passionate and strong-willed young lad. He is in the making of a great swordsman like Kenshin, or in a sense, an up and coming leader. We can learn from the mistakes of Yahiko. Immaturity, overconfidence, ego, stubbornness, impulsiveness, we are all guilty of that once in a while. And I believe looking at the consequences of someone who made this kind of mistake, we can now prevent it from happening in our own personal lives. Yahiko showed us how severe this petty mistakes bring. We can definitely avoid it from happening. Lesson here is to always remain humble. Never let compliments get inside your head. Compliments should be like a perfume. It is meant only for smelling not drinking. I remember a good friend once told me that when someone gives you compliments or praise, receive it like a flower being given to you and say thank you. Every compliment, every praise, just receive it like a piece of flower and collect each and every one of them. Then once you have a bouquet of flowers, offer it to God and give Him back all the glory, honor and praise. Because the starting point of humility is your personal relationship with God and an awareness that every good thing that is happening in our lives is orchestrated by Him. I believe humility can be the solution to the shortcomings of Yahiko, to our shortcomings as well. Humility dissolves our ego, stubbornness, impulsiveness, immaturity and overconfidence. With humility, we will have no problem listening to the advice of others. With humility, we can always come before God and ask for His guidance. With humility, we will not feel good about what great things we have done, rather we will feel good about what great things our God has done.
Kenshin, as always, is a library of life lessons. He exemplifies the meaning of second chance. But right now I’d just like to highlight how he responded to the mistake of Yahiko. Clearly his life was jeopardized by Yahiko’s mistake. But how he responded and treated the young boy after the mistake, is just worth the blog. It’s human tendency to bark at other people when they commit a mistake. Yelling would sometimes be an understatement. Some go to the point of humiliating the owner of the mistake. Believe me I’ve seen a lot of it in many people in real life. Kenshin may be just a cartoon series but his response can still be realistic, and possible. Kenshin didn’t yell at Yahiko, or scolded him or even mentioned ” Hey boy I told you so”. He didn’t even use the silent treatment. What Kenshin did was he listened carefully to Yahiko, allowed him to assess his mistake and realize it on his own, encouraged him, smiled at him, and of course, gave him a hug. In other words, he showed Yahiko that he is more valuable to him than his actions and performance, and his forgiveness and understanding will always be available.
I know it’s easy to get disappointed and look at other people’s mistakes. I guess it’s an innate talent of human beings. But I also think it is something we can overcome. Kenshin, being the leader of Yahiko, or role model, or big brother, as we can say, showed us how we can respond to other people’s mistakes, especially to those who are close to us. Here are some points that I got from him:
1. Willingness to forgive.
He has forgiven Yahiko even before the young boy asked for it. I believe it’s important for us to always forgive. I’m not saying to forget because in forgetting we forget the lesson, but to forgive. Always be willing to forgive. Forgiveness is a key in keeping relationships intact. Forgiveness allows the second, third, fourth and nth chance at everything.
2. The individual over his/her performance.
This is very important for me. Mistakes are inevitable. Disappointments are part of life. And our common mistake is that we dwell too much on these things that we forget the individual who is more important. People should be valued. We are designed to be valued. No amount of mistakes should depreciate the value of a person. Never ever choose his or her performance over the individual. That’s why I would always say, that’s the reason I love Jesus Christ so much. Despite of my mistakes and shortcomings, he still values me so much and I know it would never change. That’s what He says in His word and that’s how he makes me feel. He never lets me lose sight of my identity even if I have shortcomings. He reminds me through the cross that I am the one valuable, not my performance. I believe that’s what we should do. Choose the individual rather than his performance. Because he or she will surely come to terms with his or her mistakes. He or she will surely realize it. Consequences will surely come. An individual will definitely know his or her mistake.
3. Listen. Listen. Listen.
Listening is what we need more rather than advise. With listening, we can assess if we still need to give an advise or if the person really learned the lesson. Through listening, we can also let the individual know that he or she is valued and cared for. By just listening also and letting the person explain everything, it is a chance for the individual to reflect on his or her mistakes. Thus, the individual determines his or her mistakes without us mentioning it.
4. Mistake gives us room to grow.
In the earlier episodes I heard Kenshin say a similar line like this. And the mistake Yahiko made, in Kenshin’s point of view, can be a building block for the boy rather than a stumbling block. I strongly believe that this should be our mindset when someone makes a msitake. It is an opprotunity for us to grow, a window for us to improve, a new lesson being earned and a chance for us to become better persons.
5. End with a hug.
Well this is optional. But there is really something in a hug that soothes all the pain, bad experience and awkwardness. Hug is a proof of love.
Samurai X gives me not just entertainment but life and leadership lessons as well. It’s just a matter of looking into perspectives. With the help of my favorite cartoon series, I vow to make myself a more sensitive, caring and loving leader, and as a whole, a better person than before.
I guess it’s time to finish the series again and pick up some new life lessons on the process.