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putting your life in someone else’s hands

December 18, 2015
Daimyo Armour from Seki, Japan c. 1600 AD

Daimyo Armour, Seki c.1600 AD

Life was not cheap then, but lives were often given and easily spent.

Samurai were required to publicly pledge their lives into the service of their Daimyo Lords. The Samurai understood that such a pledge gave the Daimyo control over their days and the authority to command them: to charge into battle, to stay behind while others charged or to stand by and do nothing. It wasn’t a pledge to be made lightly nor was it a pledge that was received lightly. With the authority to lead others comes the responsibility to lead them well and the power to change lives in an instant. The power to create lives and to end lives.

Putting your life into someone else’s hands sounds like an archaic sort of thing to do. Something best left in the 16th and 17th centuries perhaps and surely not something we need in more enlightened times?

Think for a moment though of the last time you first met the person who would be your “boss”. The person who has control over much of your days. What sort of conversation did you have with them? You probably signed an employment contract with someone from HR that outlined your commitments and theirs. But did you have a conversation with your boss?

Did they explicitly request that you give them the authority to lead? Did you explicitly give them the authority to lead you, acknowledging that even though you might not agree with their decisions you commit yourself to executing them to the best of your ability?

While I have made that pledge before as a participant in a Samurai Game, I have just done just it for the first time in my corporate life. It is not that I have never granted anyone that authority, it is just the first time I have told them that I am. When you do it explicitly it makes you think carefully about who you are making that commitment to and what you are prepared to give. You are putting a large part of your life in their hands after all.

I know from my experiences with the Samurai Game that receiving that commitment also changes people. Many are reluctant and many cannot initially understand what their team see in them that allows others to pledge their life into their service.

Good leaders know that with the responsibility comes accountability and that can feel like a heavy weight to bear. Without it I don’t think there can be real leadership. With it, so much more is possible.

Think about it the next time you put your life in someone else’s hands…


If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

Here is what some participants have said about their experience with me:

After reading the testimonials about the Samurai Game, I hadn’t fully understood what they meant about how it could be a challenging experience (even confronting) yet it was held in a safe and supportive environment. Having done it I can confirm it is all of that and more. What I particularly liked was the way […]

Steve Williams (Civil Engineer)

A week out from participating in the Samurai Game with Paul Marshall as facilitator, I am now convinced of what I had merely suspected, minutes out from completion – the Samurai Game has changed my life. Having recounted the ‘story’ of the day to a number of people close to me, from the introduction, to […]

Sara (Solicitor)

For more on the Samurai Game you should start here and here.

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