Shibumi: a way to greater diversity in Rotary leadership

Editor’s note: This reflection on Shibumi was originally written as a post at the Linkedin thread It’s Time for a Woman President in 2014-15! What do you think? It has been edited to appeal to a wider audience.

By Emma Grace D. Rallos

Recently, incoming RI President for 2012-13 Sakuji Tanaka shared with a group of South East Asian District Governor’s the beautiful concept of Shibumi.

As a management concept, Shibumi has the following principles:

  • Modesty without shyness
  • Harmony in diversity
  • Elegant simplicity
  • Beauty in imperfection
  • Understated excellence
  • Honesty without pretension or artifice
  • Authority without domination

Shibumi is a tradition where people gather to celebrate a picnic around the well-manicured parks where sakura trees (cherry blossoms) grow. It is believed that to gaze at sakura in full bloom is to see that it has fulfilled its mission. And to celebrate that precise moment when, within minutes, the flowers slowly fall to the ground, is to celebrate living in natural synchronicity.

To view the ground become decorated with sakura is breathtaking.

The sakura follows the law of nature of growing and detachment in unison from the twigs and branches – to usher in another year of growth where new flowers will bloom after another cycle and detach and fall to the ground again. This provides for decorating the ground in the same awesome beauty as they were in the tree, a beautiful process of life.

Sakura can act as metaphor when Rotary grooms men and women for the annual cycle of leadership at every level of the organization.

The wisdom behind the Shibumi provides a new perspective to see how Rotarians and leaders can see that the glory of male RI Presidents during the past Century, has come to full bloom.  It also provides a way to usher in the emerging cycle of more female leaders. Women at all levels: club, district, zone, Council on Legislation, Board of Directors and RI President can now be viewed as an extension of the nature of life.

But Sakura also affords Rotary the opportunity to usher in more relevant changes beyond having more female leaders on the next Board and a woman as RI President. In Sakura we see the natural law of maturation at play.  It also provides a way to view the natural law of male leadership as having reached a stage of maturation.

Universally, we can see the wisdom in the law of maturation as one that can’t be defied. It naturally creates a process of being, detachment, and change.

Shibumi has also become a management concept used in Japan, and is now being slowly adopted by companies in the West as a change management process. If clubs & districts will use this inspiration of Shibumi, there would be less resistance to any change process, especially of those practices that have reached maturation.

These thoughts were inspired by the presentation of DGE Sue Santamaria (our first lady Governor, District 3830) during our club’s peace project on May 17, 2012. Santamaria introduced the concept of Shibumi to inspire club leadership in our district in Rotary so we would be aligned to President Tanaka’s vision for 2012-13.

There we learned that Shibumi is a continuous search for that moment of excellence and perfection.

To quote President Sakuji Tanaka,

“Peace is not something that can only be achieved through agreements, by governments, or through heroic struggles. It is something that we can find and that we can achieve, every day and in many simple ways.”

The discussion in this Linkedin thread is one of these simple ways. The ushering in of more female leaders is another as is the election of a female RI President.

As long as Rotary leaders continue to hope instead of do, or choose to believe without acting on the belief there will be few blooms on the sakura.  This means if we are to usher in a new decade of a vibrant Rotary all continents and leadership must work in unison with a consciousness to embrace, with firm resolve, the ushering in of more female leaders in the districts, zones and Board so as to groom a female RI President.

Being a century old organization, the mandate of life is imposed on all Rotary leaders by natural laws of evolution:

  • to nurture a new essence of growth and not merely to survive or exist;
  • to inspire more lofty goals, and not merely do things because they have always been done that way; and
  • to leave a legacy of creating new paths for all, where none used to be.

Then, and only then, will we have known that we as an organization and people will have made a difference within and without, in peace through Rotary service.

Grace Rallos is 3 term-president (2008-2011) & Charter President, Rotary Club of Makati Essensa, D3830. Author of WAVES For Peace advocacy & book “Cacophony of Violins”( Healing Children, Women & Men Who Chill Thru Violence) launched in 2010; awarded by D3830 as outstanding project on peace & conflict resolution, international, vocational, literacy & public image in 2010-2012. Her professional career of 29 years is on change management, people development & organization synergy.

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One Response to Shibumi: a way to greater diversity in Rotary leadership

  1. Grace D. Rallos says:

    Thank you John for the inspiration; and for awakening the consciousness of Rotarians in 360 comments within a month. Likewise, for this humble contribution that you lifted from the thread to this site. I dedicate this article to all the Rotarian leaders — especially the lady Rotarians who are emerging and current leaders and who serve well with dedication, love and constant vigor to have made Rotary what it is now with all our male counterparts.

    Most people especially in entrenched business or professional or socio-civic institutions would hold back on change especially that which will disturb a long-time tradition. But as we transcend the walls of resistance, people will realize that there is actually no right time to do something difficult; and no wrong time to do something easy. Thank you to all fellow Rotarians!

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