top of page

Business & Leadership Lessons from "The Book of Five Rings"

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

Today, I share some Business & Leadership Lessons from The Book of the Five Rings, by Miyamoto Musashi.

leadership lessons rom The Book of Five Rings

This book, though roughly 400 years old and focused on martial arts, provides readers with a number of valuable lessons that can be applied to business and leadership situations today.

Here are my key takeaways.

Clarity of Vision Guides Strategy Development:

Musashi uses the analogy of a master craftsman which for us could be a team leader, or even a company CEO. The master craftsman can visualize the finished product. A true master, a true leader, combines that vision with the knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of their team, and assigns and allocates tasks accordingly in order to produce the desired outcome.

The ability to do this comes from having a clear vision, which allows leaders to create an outcome-oriented strategy. Like building a house, there are blueprints you can use to build your business and those blueprints begin with your vision, and your strategy.

Ways this applies to your business:

  • Your vision and organizational chart are the foundation of your strategy, guiding every action your business takes

  • Clarity of vision allows you to effectively delegate elements of that strategy to the correct people, and effectively communicating what needs to be done

  • Vision and strategy will make promoting staff when they are ready, or need a new challenge or role, much simpler

  • A lack of vision will result in a disjointed strategy and great difficulty in communicating objectives to your team

Master the Fundamentals:

All pursuits have various fundamentals. Mastery of these – to the point they occur habitually – will set you apart from your competition, and allow you to keep you mind clear and focused.

Certain schools of thought may lean on flashy tools or methods that appear desirable but, in reality, are limited in their application precisely because they try and replace the need to master the fundamentals.

Ways this applies to your business:

  • Skipping over the vision and strategy portions. Don't try to build without the necessary foundations in place. Vision, business plan, strategy, organizational chart, and more. These are essential fundamentals for success

  • Over reliance on tools, shortcuts. For example apps and planners that attempt to replace good time management & organizational skills

  • Sometimes the best option is to keep it simple, and return to the fundamentals

Mastery of Mindset is Essential to Victory:

how to master the leadership mindset

A combination of clear vision, focus, objectivity, and broad perspective will bring victory.

The key is to remain in an objective, outcome-oriented mindset. Musashi counsels that we should have no preferences, no biases. Our focus should be on the outcome. It should be objective. And it should work to keep the entire team in the “rhythm of success” that will deliver that outcome.

To do this, Mushashi advises us to observe so that we can understand, rather than simply seeing. This means expanding, rather than limiting, your perspective. Success is borne out of visualizing each step of your strategy, and critically evaluating whether it is the best option for you. You cannot do this if you are only seeing part of the picture.

Musahsi's comments on the "rhythm" of success ask us to look at our habits and routine behaviors. These will be either a great resource, or a great obstacle. Again, this is all about creating that overall formula for success: Vision, strategy, fundamentals, and now mindset.

Ways this applies to your business:

  • Subjectivity, rather than objectivity, clouds judgment and allows ego to hijack your strategy. You see this when companies double-down on bad strategies, for example

  • Being outcome-oriented will help you avoid micromanagement. Remember, as a leader, you need to stay focused on the vision and the strategy. Let your managers manage and your staff perform.

  • Check on your personal and professional habits and routines. How are they helping or hindering your progress?

  • How does each individual's mindset contribute to, or take away from, the culture you are working to build?

A Victorious Warrior is Balanced and Agile:

Movement should be intentional and fluid, allowing you to always retain your balance and agility for the next step or movement.

Like a fighter, the leader must know and understand how to quickly adapt to a changing situation in order to still produce the desired outcome (or perhaps avoid a critical error).

Ways this applies to your business:

  • Reactionary action or following the crowd without fully investigating your strategic options.

  • Doubling down on failing initiatives

  • Taking on excessive debt

  • Getting locked into too few suppliers and customers

  • Failing to evaluate the marketplace or industry for important signals

Take the Initiative, Maintain Forward Momentum:

When you move first, you force your opponent to react. When you wait, your mind can become clouded and your focus may falter.

If you have followed the other 4 lessons of this book, you should be prepared for action. You will have your clear vision, your strategy, the necessary fundamentals, and more. All that will be left will be to take that first step.

Ways this applies to your business:

  • First mover advantage!

  • It is unlikely you'll ever be 100% ready. Act anyway.

  • Contemplate. First, fight the battle in your mind, and then take action to deliver that victory. Anticipate your own moves, your opponents responses, and create the path to victory

As always for more reading material, check out the Ascent Reading List for great business, and personal & professional development titles.


About the Author:

Matt Beckmann - Management Consultant - Executive Coach

Matt Beckmann is the Founder & Managing Director of Ascent Consultants. In addition to experience as a former Chief of Staff to the Missouri Auditor and as a Corporate Vice President and General Counsel, he has advanced training and certifications in law, business, coaching, athletics, and leadership. His blog content, inspired by his deep passion for unlocking his reader's best potential, consistently equips business owners and individuals with the knowledge and resources to overcome obstacles that may be hindering growth.

Ascent Consultants - Management Consultants to Enable Your Business Growth

Ascent Consultants provides business and strategy consulting, executive and leadership coaching, and leadership assessments. By converting client growth goals into an actionable "game plan," we help companies and individuals unlock their full potential.

Recent Posts

See All


Casual Business Meeting

Insights For Today's Corporations and Executives

bottom of page